Sept. 26, 2012
EVANSTON, Ill. -
Perhaps one of the most amazing aspects of the Northwestern field hockey team's hot start to the 2012 season is the fact that the squad has done so without the services of one of its top players for most of the month of September.
Junior Nikki Parsley, a first-team All-Big Ten selection a year ago, returned to the Wildcats this week after missing the team's last five contests while competing for the United States at the Junior Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Parsley's efforts helped the U.S. earn a third-place finish in the tournament and a berth in the Junior World Cup.
"It was really amazing," Parsley said of the experience. "I've been with the same group of girls for a while now and it was awesome to qualify for the Junior World Cup. That's what we went out there to do, so it was good to get that accomplished."
Even though she has been a member of the U.S. program for a while now, she said it's still a tremendous reward to don the Red, White and Blue.
"I don't think it ever gets old," she said. "I've been to Chile with them and England last spring. This was honestly the coolest time just because we were trying to qualify for the Junior World Cup. It's amazing and it's never something to be taken for granted.
"Obviously, we would have liked to have won the whole tournament. Unfortunately, we lost to Chile in our pool game, so we had to play (eventual champion) Argentina before the finals. We certainly wanted to go there and qualify; that was one of our goals and we accomplished it."
Parsley played a huge role in the team's success as she led the United States and ranked second overall in the tournament, scoring eight goals. She tallied two goals in the team's opening game of the tournament against Venezuela and followed it up with a hat trick against Paraguay before posting both of the team's goals in a 2-1 victory over Chile in the bronze medal match. The victory avenged a 2-1 loss to the Chileans in pool play.
"Our coach, Nick Conway, was so amazing," Parsley said. "He tweaked a few things from a standpoint of my body positioning and a few other details that allowed me to be in the right place at the right time and I had really good teammates around me that were able to feed me the ball."
As for her return to Evanston, Parsley said she's excited to translate her international competition back to her time with the Wildcats.
"I'm so excited to be back and be with my team again," she said. "I missed them a lot. I just want to take everything that I learned and try to implement it into what we do and help my teammates out and keep doing everything that I learned."
Northwestern (9-2) is ranked No. 10 in this week's NFHCA coaches poll and hosts sixth-ranked Penn State at 2 p.m. Friday at the Leonard B. Thomas Athletic Complex.
Be the first to know what's going on with the 'Cats -- Follow @NU_Sports on Twitter, become a fan of Northwestern Athletics on Facebook, subscribe to the NU Sports Express e-newsletter and sign up to receive promotional text alerts for the latest news, schedule updates and video and to interact with NU. For more information on following specific Northwestern teams online, visit our Social Media page!