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    A Week In, Wildcats Still Learning as They Go

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    The basketball 'Cats ended the first week of their season Sunday with their third straight win, a 80-53 laugher over Fairleigh Dickinson. Special Contributor Skip Myslenski offers up some notes, quotes and observations culled along the way...



    * Drew Crawford, Reggie Hearn, Dave Sobolewski and Alex Marcotullio are the only names on the roster who have played for the 'Cats. It was by design, then, that the Knights were preceded on the schedule by Mississippi Valley State (last Thursday) and Texas Southern (last Tuesday). "We tried to get some games where we thought we could get some minutes for some guys," explained 'Cat coach Bill Carmody. He meant guys like Kale Abrahamson, a 6-foot-7 freshman forward who can shoot; and 7-foot freshman center Alex Olah, who starts; and 6-foot-9 junior forward Nikola Cerina, a transfer from TCU who limped off after twisting his right ankle on Sunday.


    "We knew we'd have to play them and it's sort of paid off a little bit," Carmody would go on. "The other night (against Mississippi Valley) I didn't do what I wanted to do with Kale (who played only two minutes against the Delta Devils). But I wanted to get Kale in there, I wanted to get Nico in there, I wanted to get big Al in there. Now Sanjay (Lumpkin, another freshman) hasn't played (because of illness), but he was playing the best of them all. This will set him back a little bit. But that's what you have to do. You have to look at your team and see if you can schedule the way you want to. You can't always. But it's working out pretty nicely."


    * Carmody did not mention the best newcomer to his program, the forward Jared Swopshire, and there was a reason for that. He is a grad student who transferred in after playing four years at Louisville and so he has plenty of experience, experience that he has manifested by slipping seamlessly into a starting role. "He's a basketball player," Carmody says of him by way of compliment, and here is what he means by that. Against Mississippi Valley, Swopshire had a steal, two assists, six rebounds and 22 points while going 7-of-11overall, 5-of-6 on his threes and 3-of-4 from the line.


    "He's a versatile guy," Carmody said of him that night. "I don't know the stats. But he did a lot in every category, in all the categories, including turnovers (he had five). No. He makes big plays. He made some nice passes. And there's a calmness about him that I like and I think is good for the team."


    * Speaking of passes: Through three games, the 'Cats have 89 field goals and 73 assists. This proves they are sharing the ball. They also have just 33 turnovers. This proves they are taking care of the ball.


    * Sobolewski, the point, has 21 assists and just two turnovers. This was expected. But, even before the year began, Carmody said, "He's not that little point guard from the '60s anymore who just passes the ball, cuts and isn't heard from again. He's shooting more. There's been development there." That development wasn't obvious as he went 0-for-8 through the first 71 minutes of the season. But then, with 8:54 remaining against Mississippi Valley, he hit a layup, and now he followed that with a three, a pair of free throws, another layup, another three, and another free throw.


    "That guy can shoot," Carmody later said and then, as proof, offered this. The 'Cats chart all shots during practice and, after a month, Sobolewski had the highest percentage of them all.



    * Crawford was brilliant in game one, saddled by foul trouble in game two and average in game three. But his great skills are obvious and, says Carmody, "I'm not worried about him."



    * Carmody references Malcolm Galdwell's "Outliers: The Story of Success" when discussing Hearn, the third of the returning 'Cats. In that book the author claims that the key to success in any field is practicing a specific act for 10,000 hours. "He's played that," the coach then says of his guard. "He's played a lot of basketball, you know. He's just played a lot. He's good. He's versatile. He's played a lot so he's used to different situations. And he's a competitor."


    * Look for either Hearn or Swopshire to be the 'Cats defensive stopper.


    * Marcotullio, the last of the returnees, has a balky back and so has gotten limited reps in practice. "But," Carmody said Sunday, "I'm going to get him in there a little more. I've just been putting him in with (the young) guys to teach them. But he can play with the good guys. He'll be Sobo's sub."


    * Still, after just three games and with so many new faces surrounding him, Carmody still does not have a set rotation.


    * Alex Olah, the second newcomer in the starting lineup, is from Romania, and so it is no surprise that he exhibits some of that versatility that characterizes European big men. He has hit a three. He has hit a turnaround jumper from the foul line. He has hit some short hooks down low. He has handed out eight assists. He has taken off after Sobolewski corralled a rebound, run the floor with his point and accepted a pass for a layup.  "He can run," Carmody says when asked about that last play. "He's not used to doing it consistently. But if he can run, he's going to get four points on layups. Then you don't worry so much. You come in at halftime, you've got four points, two foul shots, you feel OK. To steal a couple along the way, it relaxes him."


    "He's going to make some layups we haven't had the last few years. Guys missed them," he says of Olah's work down low. "He's capable of doing some things right now, but I'm hoping it grows and gets better. But it's going to be two steps up, one back, like that."


    * Cerina, the transfer from TCU, saw his first action on Sunday and got in only 10 minutes before turning his ankle. But in that short span he dropped two of his three shots, went one-of-two from the line, collected seven rebounds and displayed a ruggedness inside that will serve the 'Cats well in the rugged Big Ten. "He likes it down there," Carmody says of him. "Some guys don't like touching skin-on-skin down there, it's sweaty and all. But he likes that. A hard worker. He was getting very good position, really deep. So I hope it's not a severe sprain. He needs some minutes to get back in the swing."


    * Abrahamson, the last of the newcomers to get significant minutes, made his splash in the opener against Texas Southern, whom he scorched for 15 points in just 19 minutes. But two nights later he was on the court for just those two minutes. "I probably had a quick hook with him," Carmody later said. "But a couple things on offense, he just didn't do. Then he had a bad defensive possession, so I decided to go with the veterans."


    He was back in the rotation on Sunday, getting 19 minutes against the Knights, but here he looked more like a freshman, missing four of his five three-point attempts and putting up just nine points. "He's just got to get experience doing stuff," Carmody said of him later. "He can't wait to get the ball and shoot the ball. I like him to shoot the ball too. But let it come to you a little bit more...He just has to have time. But he's going to help us."


    * It should be noted that Abrahamson's funky jumper calls up memories of John Shurna's. "I've heard a few things like that," Abrahamson said when asked about that. "I try to stay away from comparisons like that at this point. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill. But, yeah. They say my shot looks like his and I tend to disagree. But it's an honor to be compared to him in any way."


    * The 'Cats played strictly man-to-man defense through their first three games. But when asked about the gnarly zone they often employ, Carmody smiled and said: "When we need it."


    * And finally, Carmody, on what he has learned this week: "We're sort of like a team in progress. I told the team that. Even though we have some veteran guys, we bring in some other guys. First half there, we had three freshmen in there at one time. So there's going to be ups-and-downs, obstacles along the way like the other night. What can you learn from them? Can you get better the next game? But I like the energy level and I think they're all determined to contribute. You can see. It's not a five-or-six man rotation. So if a guy's not feeling it that day, you can get him out for a few minutes. Then he can sit, catch his wind, look at it differently. I think that's going to help us down the road."

    Michigan State Friday Primer

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    "WE'RE CLOSE:" Pat Fitzgerald has offered this assurance often this season. He did it again last Monday, some 46 hours after his team's enervating loss at Michigan, and he did it once more on Tuesday, just after his 'Cats completed their morning practice. It was then that we asked, "To what?"

    "Being a championship team. That's what we're close to," he said with no hesitation. "We're going to win football games. I'm not worried about that. But we're close to being a championship team, and that's our expectation. I'll keep saying it until we get there. And then, when we get there, I'll say we've got to start back over. That's what our expectations are. That's what we aspire to be. Gone are the days of maybe-we'll-win, gone are the days of maybe-we'll-play-in-the-post-season. Our internal expectations are to be champions.

    "That's not necessarily going to happen for us this year in the Big Ten. But when I say that, that's what I mean. We're close. Do you get tired of saying it? Yeah, you do. But it's a journey, it's a grind, and I think we're building it. We appreciate the support of the administration giving us the time to build it. We appreciate the effort and the fight our young men are giving to get us there. Got to coach them better. We've got to get over the hump and break that door down. You know. I think there's 12 teams that have the same kind of goal set. If it was just about us, it'd be a lot easier. But it's not."

    Through the Eyes of the 'Cats

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    Checking in with. . .

    . . .DANIEL JONES, the young corner who was all over Michigan receiver Roy Roundtree last Saturday as the 'Cats' game with the Wolverines rushed toward its conclusion. Now here came the Hail Mary pass from Devin Gardner and, Jones would recall, "I was just trying to knock the ball down. After that play, I think there would have been six seconds left on the clock. So I was just trying to knock the ball down and live to play another play and end the game."


    "It was another of those luck-of-the-bounce type plays. I thought I was in great position. I was the first guy up. I actually hit the ball and, in my mind, I'd just made the play that ended the game. But it happened to fall into his arms. It was just an unfortunate bounce for us."

    And when he saw the ball in Roundtree's arms?

    "I couldn't believe he caught it. Like I said, I thought I did everything right. I was on top of the route, the first guy up in the air and hit the ball. I just thought, 'That's the way the ball bounces sometimes.' Lucky bounce for them, and we just have to play and finish from there."

    That bounce, of course, set up the Wolverines field goal that sent the game into overtime, where they would close out the 'Cats. So, Jones was finally asked, would he do something differently if he had a chance for a Mulligan?

    "I would be more aggressive and try to catch the ball as opposed to trying to knock it down," he said. "I would just be more aggressive to the ball, and just get the ball back, and assure the game's over."


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    Editor's Note: Northwestern women's swimmers Jackie Powell and Megan Goss spearheaded the inaugural "Breaststroke4BreastCancer" relay to raise funds for local cancer research. In an incredible display of support and organizational prowess, the first-time event filled 17 lanes at NU's Norris Aquatics Center with more than 150 swimmers who combined to tally 70,000 yards (or 39 miles) of swimming in just one hour. NU's Beta Fraternity won a trophy with the most total yards: 5,350. In addition, special guest Joan Zielinski, a Northwestern professor and invitee of Wildcats' junior swimmer Becca Soderholm, shared her experience with breast cancer with the crowd during a fun, education and powerful evening. Read on for Kristin Scharkey's perspective on how much the event meant to her team and one softball Wildcat in particular.

    On October 24, dozens of Northwestern student-athletes swam in Northwestern Women's Swimming and Diving's fundraiser "Breaststroke4BreastCancer." Our own team swam over 4,000 yards in one hour, raising money for breast cancer research and contributing to the university's final total in which the swimming program more than doubled their target goal. 

    Marching On To Michigan State

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    * Flush it. That is one of Pat Fitzgerald's standing orders. Exult for a day or grieve for a day following a game, and then put that one behind you and look ahead to the next. That is what he constantly tells his 'Cats. But how do you do that, just how do you do that after suffering a defeat as wrenching as the one they absorbed Saturday in Ann Arbor? "It's rough," center Brandon Vitabile admitted early Monday afternoon. "You just trust. You know the guys are out there battling. It's a war. You see it in everyone's face, how down everyone is afterward. You don't even want to talk about it afterward. You listen to coach right after the game and hear what he has to say. But the bus ride home is just silence. There's no one talking, there's no one joking around. That's what it should be. You should really hurt from it.

    "Yesterday, you come in, watch film with everyone, there's some positivity going on. We were right there. We played a lot of good football on Saturday. We did a lot of things well. We did some things not so well. But it's good to see that. That the work we do put in pays off and maybe we're a step away, a block away, a catch away. So just keep working as hard as possible. People understood we fought hard and we just weren't able to come out with it. So we've got to keep fighting and hopefully we'll come out with one this week."

    The Time For Talk Has Passed

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    The dozen players on the 'Cats' Leadership Council settled around the table for their weekly Monday meeting with Pat Fitzgerald. These are normally 20-minute sessions and, during them, those involved discuss what's good with their program, what's bad with their program, what things could be done differently, what's important in the days ahead, even what uniform they wish to wear the following Saturday. But on this Monday, the first Monday of November, Fitzgerald simply walked into the room and said, "How's everybody doing? Any questions? Anything that I need to know that I don't know? Great. See ya tomorrow."

    "I don't think I need to tell them a whole lot," he would later explain. "I think they get it."

    "That's exactly what happened," quarterback Kain Colter, one of the Council members, soon avowed. "We all realize the opportunity that we have in front of us with these last three games and a chance of maybe even going to a BSC bowl if we win out and some things go our way. So we realize how big of a moment we're in right now and we're all going to try and make the best of our opportunity and keep going."

    A Brief Respite, Now Back To Work

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    * The 'Cats, after a bye, return to the arena Saturday at Michigan, and so Monday Pat Fitzgerald held his regular, weekly press conference. "The week off was one that was needed by us," he would say in his opening statement. "We needed to get healthy, needed to work on some things in areas where we've not been consistent enough in. And then, at the same time, continue to accentuate the areas where we've been playing very well."

    That led us to later ask if he would enumerate those areas in which his 'Cats had been inconsistent.

    "Do I have to? I'd really prefer not to," he said with both a smile and soft chuckle. "You know we self scout each week. But then, as you get to the bye week, last week, Monday, Tuesday, I went on the road (recruiting) along with the majority of our coaches. But our coordinators stayed back. I kinda gave them a couple of things that I wanted them to do, along with our support guys. We wanted to critically look at ourselves first. We then wanted to obviously look at our upcoming opponent. So. There's some things that, without -- quite frankly -- talking about them, that we need to improve on and hopefully we'll play better in those areas as we move forward."

    Checking In: On Bye Weeks and Big 'Cats

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    One day last offseason, offensive left guard Brian Mulroe dropped by the football offices to chat with Adam Cushing, his position coach. It was then, as they kicked around life, that the senior mentioned that his group wanted to be different from those that had preceded it, that it wanted an identity distinct from the past and unique to itself. "So we thought, 'Hey, let's come up with something new. Let's let this group be able to be its own group,'" Cushing remembered late Thursday morning.

    So he talked to superbacks coach Bob Heffner, himself a former O-line coach, and learned that years ago he had called one of his groups the Big Cats. Then he talked to Al Johnson, the football performance coach who works closely with the O line, and learned that he was already using that term in the weight room. Now center Brian Vitabile, as well as Mulroe, were talked to, and soon enough this season's group had its handle. No longer would the line play with Hog Pride, which had been its cry for so long. Now it would simply be the Big Cats.

    "Hogs go to slaughter," Cushing would also say on Thursday, further explaining the change. "But big cats rule the jungle, rule anywhere they are."


    NU's Hurricane Sandy Detour Leads to Hollywood Meeting

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    How did the Northwestern women's golf team get to meet famous actor Channing Tatum? Read on to find out.

    By Kalyn Kahler - Northwestern Athletic Communications

    For the Wildcat teams busy practicing in Evanston this weekend, Hurricane Sandy seemed miles away. It was a different story for the Wildcat women's golf team, who met Sandy firsthand this past Saturday.

    When the 'Cats traveled to Wilmington, N.C last Friday to compete in the Landfall Tradition tournament at the Jack Nicklaus Course at the Country Club of Landfall, they never expected to be playing directly into the torrential rain and winds of Hurricane Sandy.

    "Five days before we left the weather was 80 and sunny. Everything looked great in the forecast but the hurricane just popped out of nowhere," says assistant coach Beth Miller.

    The team played in winds of about 25 mph with gusts of 40 mph on Saturday. When the decision was made to stop play, the winds had escalated to 35 mph and gusts of 50 mph. The teams were pulled off the course as it flooded from the heavy rain of Hurricane Sandy.

    The Landfall Tradition marks the first time the women's golf team has ever played in hurricane conditions. The 'Cats persevered through the blistering wind, and "if the course could have taken more water we would have kept playing," says Miller.

    Each of the 17 teams competing in the Landfall Tradition made it out of Wilmington safely; though some chose to drive home instead of take the chance of flight cancellations.

    The 'Cats stayed calm through the hurricane weather, and Miller says it was their parents at home who were the most nervous.

    On Sunday the team ate lunch at a surf club on Wrightsville Beach so they could check out the massive 15-foot waves. Who ever said cats don't like water? The 'Cats were lucky that it was only the course that flooded in Wilmington. At the time, the threat of the hurricane wasn't severe, so many locals gathered at the beach with NU to watch the immense wall of waves caused by Sandy (see picture below).

    Sandy wasn't the only famous name the Wildcats encountered during their trip to N.C. On their flight from Wilmington to Atlanta, sophomore Hana Lee was the first to notice the man sitting alone directly behind her. That man was Channing Tatum, popular actor, well known for his role in movies such as She's The Man and Step Up.

    "Hana spotted him first and then they were all passing notes and whispering the rest of the flight," says Miller, who happened to be reading a magazine that featured Tatum.

    The team was glad that the Notre Dame team chose to take a later flight home, leaving many empty seats on the plane, allowing Tatum to sit down right behind them.

    The team spent the length of the flight brainstorming different plans to talk to Tatum, but nerves got in the way and in the end it was head coach Emily Fletcher who asked Tatum if he would take a picture with the team.

    "He was so gracious and nice. It made a long day of traveling worth it as the girls were ecstatic!" says Fletcher.

    The 'Cats experienced a memorable weekend beginning with an unlucky meeting with Hurricane Sandy and ended with fortuitous encounter with a celebrity.

    Tatum wished the 'Cats the very best of luck with the rest of their season. The 'Cats will hang on to Tatum's blessing all winter; it might be just the luck they need to complete a successful season.

    A view of Hurricane Sandy from assistant coach Beth Miller's camera.

    Armstrong Reflects on Brilliant Career

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    Watch a video feature on Chelsea Armstrong

    As she prepares to lead ninth-ranked Northwestern into the 2012 Big Ten Field Hockey Tournament, senior Chelesa Armstrong sat down with Special Contributor Skip Myslenski to look back on her stellar four-year run with the Wildcats while looking ahead at a potential NCAA tournament berth.

    You are Chelsea Armstrong, the centerpiece of the 'Cats nationally-ranked field hockey team. You are an All-American, your school's career scoring leader, just the ninth player in NCAA history to score over 100 goals, and you are something else as well. You are one of those who comprised the first recruiting class collected by Tracey Fuchs when she took over a program that had fallen on hard times, and so you and she are often acclaimed as the catalysts behind its refurbishment and resurrection. But you demur when this point is raised...

    "I've said it before. It makes me a little uncomfortable.

    "Well, not uncomfortable. But the recognition I get is based on a system that is all about statistics, right? It's all about shots and goals and things like that. There's never any credit given the people behind you who are setting you up for those shots and those goals.

    "Exactly. They miss out on all the credit. But they're the ones in there blocking and opening those lanes up for the running backs or keeping the quarterback out of trouble. So I guess you could call me the quarterback. But don't forget about the offensive line.

    "They have to do a bunch of work to get the ball down the field to you to get a shot.

    "There's no way of measuring that, I guess you could say. So I really don't like taking that kind of credit for it when it's come from a group of 25 girls every year working hard together and getting that chemistry we've needed to be successful.

    "I think if anything maybe I was a spark, perhaps, someone who could be up there and finish the goals. They might have been doing that the years before I got here, but didn't have that person back there who could finish for them.

    "So I really don't think you can lay it down to the work of two people. It's been the work of 25 girls, all the coaching staff working toward the goal of being Big Ten champions every year.

    "It can't be something that comes down to two people. If it was just me and Tracey, it wouldn't work too well.

    "Obviously it's a huge honor. It's something I'm proud of and I'm glad I'm going to leave here and leave them behind for people to chase after. But they were never something I focused on. It was never a goal of mine to break those records.

    "The goal was to be successful as a team and to get to be Big Ten Champions, things like that. It was a result of those goals, I guess, that those records fell, and obviously I'm proud of them. But it's not something I focused on as a personal goal."


    You are Chelsea Armstrong and you hail from the Western Australian city of Geraldton, which overlooks the Indian Ocean. It was settled in 1850 and named after Sir Charles Fitzgerald, who was then the governor of the area, and now it is known for its pristine beaches and its alluring climate and its abundance of Rock Lobster. Some folk simply refer to it as Sun City and others, as the Lobster Capital of Australia. But, no matter what it is called, this is where it all began for you. . .

    "My mom played field hockey in Australia.

    "It's a bit different in Australia. It's a club system and my mom was playing club field hockey. So I would go down there and watch the games and be around it.

    "I think I first started, I always forget, I think around seven. It's called Minkey field hockey. They play with a slightly bigger ball. It's just to get you started. (Ed. note: The name is derived from MINi-hocKEY and is also played on a smaller field.)

    "That's where it all started. From there you play for your primary school and then it's in to the club system.

    "As I said, it's different in Australia. There's less of an emphasis on high school sports and collegiate athletics. It's all club-based sports.

    "I played with my mom when I got old enough. I think I was 14. Then we moved to Perth basically to play field hockey.

    "I went to boarding school in Perth and was playing field hockey in Perth.

    "There's no collegiate sports. In Australia, it's really different. So I was at (the) University (of Western Australia) going to school, but I was playing field hockey for the club that was near my house. It's a different system. You don't go into a university to play sports. You go there to get your education.

    "I was going to school and playing club. Nothing crazy or exciting or anything like that.Then I got the phone call to come over here."


    You are Chelsea Armstrong and, back in 2008, you know nothing of Tracey Fuchs or Carla Tagliente or universities called Michigan and Northwestern. But 'Cat athletic director Jim Phillips certainly knows of the legendary Fuchs, a renowned named in the sport of field hockey, and that is why he is now trying to lure her to Evanston. But she has been an assistant at Michigan since 1996 and so, with its head job open, she demurs, hoping to stay put and fill that vacancy. But eventually it goes to another and that is why, in January of 2009, she is introduced as the seventh head coach in the history of the Northwestern field hockey program. Coming with her to help is Tagliente, another Wolverine assistant and already your phone pal...

    "This is the backstory I've heard. Carla called my club coach (Kate Starre) one day asking if she knew of anyone who'd be interested in coming over. She called me and briefly described what was going on and asked whether I'd be interested. Basically, on the phone, I said, "No. No. I'm pretty happy right here."

    "A couple weeks went by and I was talking to some people and talking to my mom and everybody was, "This seems like a really good opportunity. Why don't you maybe think about it a little more?" After looking into it a little more, that's when I thought, "OK. Maybe I should talk to Carla."

    "She called me.

    "We're talking Michigan here. That was to go to Michigan.

    "We're in '08. Maybe September. Maybe it was earlier than that.

    "It wasn't until early January that Tracey and Carla moved here. By that stage, I'd started submitting my application documents to Michigan and things like that. Then they moved and gave me the opportunity to come with them or stay at Michigan. That's when I first really looked into both the schools.

    "It was a pretty easy decision for me, especially because of the contact I'd had with Carla and Tracey. That was my only contact over here, so I decided to follow them here.

    "Also, obviously, for the academics and the location.

    "That's when I first looked deeply into the whole collegiate athletic thing.

    I had no idea about collegiate athletics. I had no idea about college in America. The most I knew was from watching American Pie and those movies.

    "It wasn't until then that I compared the two schools. I looked at Northwestern and saw it was very prestigious, its location was Chicago, it was still in the Big Ten, it wasn't like I was taking a slip in conference standing. Like I said, it was pretty easy for me.

    "I'd never been to the States before. So I came over here for a 24-hour official visit and flew home again and I couldn't. I could have said, "Yeah, I'll stay here for four years" and then leave after two. But as a person I didn't feel comfortable doing that. After talking to some people, I just thought, "I'll verbally commit right now to two seasons. I don't want commit to four and then have to back out after two years because I'm feeling too far from home or something like that."

    "It was just an insurance policy for me, I guess. I didn't want to commit to something I wasn't sure I was going to be able to complete, I guess, never being that far away from home and things like that.

    "But, really, it didn't take me long to realize that I was going to be here longer than two years. It was pretty early on that I decided.

    "It was just an experience I'd never, ever had the chance to experience in Australia. Being part of a team like this, you don't have that experience in Australia. You're not around this one team for this amount of hours every week. You don't have these seasons where you travel around and play different colleges around America. There's just no avenue for it in Australia.

    "It was so much fun. You're with this team, you're traveling around, you're playing games. It's pretty much, I think, as close to being a professional athlete as you can get. It was just something I really enjoyed, I enjoyed being part of a team. So it didn't take long at all."


    You are Chelsea Armstrong and, when you join the 'Cats in 2009, their field hockey program is in deep distress. It has not won a Big Ten title since 1994 and has not had a winning season since 1995. It has, in the first nine years of the current century, gone a miserable 55-111 overall and an even-worse 8-46 in conference play. A reclamation program is needed, that is clear, but you know none of this...

    "I had no background in collegiate field hockey at all. I had no idea who the powerhouses were, I had no idea which conferences were better. It wasn't really something I thought about coming over at all. I didn't really look into winning records or anything like that.

    "But even when I came over, it wasn't like I'd come over to a terrible program or anything like that. Obviously the facilities and everything are great. Tracey and Carla are amazing coaches. So it never felt to me like I played for a program that was in the (dumps), as you said. It never felt like that to me.

    "Obviously I've seen some growth within the team since I've been here. The main thing is the winning mentality was missing when I first came. I'd come from successful clubs. I'd come, Western Australia is a very successful powerhouse I guess you'd say.

    "I'd won medals in Western Australia within the Australian national competition (on the U-15, U-18 and U-21 levels).

    "The only thing that was missing was that winning mentality. It wasn't that the program was in a bad place. It's just that the mentality was missing and that happens when you have losing seasons over and over and over.

    "You forget how to win.

    "You could see that. We'd get down in games and everyone would kind of give up. They'd be like, "We're down now. We probably can't win. Let's just not try as hard."

    "Leadership-wise, I'm not very vocal. That's still something I have to work on, being more vocal. But I'd like to think how I trained and how I played was something people noticed and tried to feed off of.

    "Maybe not consciously. But I think, looking back, people may have looked to me as a leader early on.

    "Right away we were pretty successful. The non-conference season was pretty good, we won some good games. Then there were some games people pretty much expected us to lose against some tough competition. We struggled in the Big Ten still, which is something that's taken my whole four years here to improve.

    "That's obviously something Tracey's worked really hard at, to instill that winning mentality. It's taken four years and we're still working at it.

    "But this year I've noticed we've got it. We get down in a game, no one panics, we just keep playing how we need to play and we've managed to come out of a few sticky situations, which is different from previous years. In previous years, once we were down we were pretty much out.

    "It was the big games that seemed to get to people a lot. Pressure situations weren't so good. It was that same thing. We'd get down and everyone would kind of, you know. So I think we had the tools there early on to be successful. But it was mainly that mentality thing that needed to change and has taken four years to change.

    "But it has changed. It definitely has."


    You are Chelsea Armstrong, the centerpiece of the 'Cats nationally-ranked field hockey team. You are an All-American, your school's career scoring leader, just the ninth player in NCAA history to score over 100 goals, and you are something else as well. You are preparing to lead your team, which stands an impressive 16-3, into his weekend's Big Ten tourney in Iowa, where any game could be your last. . .

    "It's like an added pressure. "This is it. It's the last time." I think it's something I need to feed on a little more as a motivational factor.

    "I kind of keep forgetting that this is my last time around and that we could be one-and-done this week and BE DONE. That's a scary thought, and I think I need to try and feed off that and try to motivate the people around me.

    "All the seniors feel the same way and I think the rest of the team really wants to send us out on a good note. So, yeah, it's just an extra pressure, I guess, to try and keep the season alive as long as possible, to keep my career going for a few more games.

    "It's going to be awful once I'm done. I don't know what I'm going to do. So I'm trying to not think about it too much. I get a little sad otherwise."


    You are Chelsea Armstrong and, though you will be sad when the end does come, you will still be well-prepared to carry on. You, after all, already have a degree in economics and are busy now in graduate school and have a solid boyfriend named Hunter Bates, who just happens to play safety for the football 'Cats...

    "I'm looking for a job right now, trying to decide. People have asked me about coaching and things like that. But I really haven't made up my mind where I want to go with my career. But as an economics major, I'm looking into some finance-y sort of stuff.

    "At this stage I'm trying to stay in the States. I like it over here.

    "Football's a scary sport. There's some scary moments. It's different. It's different. It's harder to watch knowing that you can't do anything, that everything's out of your control. It's hard in that aspect. It's a scary sport to watch especially when you care about the person out there getting hit.

    "Playing, you just go out there and play the game. You're in control. I feel in control. You lose that control watching. When you're just up there watching, you can't tell him, "Don't run this way. Someone's going to hit you."

    "We talk. I'm always pressing him for details about what's going on on the team, and what the team coming up looks like. Things like that. And he's turned into quite the field hockey fan. Field hockey's a very, I won't say an obscure sport. But not many fans watch it. So he's had a lot to learn the last couple years.

     "He tries to stream all my games.

    "It's good. He knows what to say after tough losses. We know how to treat each other after we come off a bad loss or a bad game or something like that. It's good to have someone with the experience of playing collegiate athletics and knowing what kind of pressure I'm under. So, yeah. He's been a real safety blanket for me, I guess you'd say.

    "Yeah, I definitely try to be. You know when to give him some space, know what not to say. So it's good. I'm glad we've had these similar experiences. It's real nice having somebody who knows what it's like.

    "I actually think I'm pretty normal.

    "He's much more into video games than I am. I'm kind of terrible at video games.

    "Have you ever heard of Australian football, the Australian Football League? I actually bought a TV package that let me watch some of those games this year. So he saw me watching some Australian football games and I was a little more vocal. I get a little bit more upset viewing those games than I do watching normal NFL games.

    "So he saw a different side of me that day, that's for sure.

    "My team's the Fremantle Dockers. They're purple also, which is a strange coincidence. They lost in a final game and I was not happy.

    "It was an elimination game, and they were down-and-out. It was tough, tough.

    "It took me a little while to get over it. But, no, I'm always pleasant to live with."