Princeton University is home to world class scholars, students and athletes- and for the next two weeks, 28 members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.
The Olympic hopefuls arrived in Princeton on May 10 for a two-week intensive training camp before the team faces China on May 27 in Chester, Pa., U.S. Women’s Soccer spokesman Aaron Heifetz said.
He said the team was looking for a training location in or close to Philadelphia.
“Our men’s team had a good experience (at Princeton) before the World Cup in 2010 and look at this…” Heifetz said on Thursday morning, gesturing around Roberts Stadium where the team was practicing. “It’s fantastic.”
The team’s match May 27 will be its second to last domestic match before leaving for the 2012 London Olympics.
Last summer, the team made a run in the World Cup, but fell to Japan in the finals. In 2012, the team is 10-1-1.
Although there are 28 women training in Princeton, Head Coach Pia Sundhage will ultimately select just 18 players for the U.S. Olympic team.
Five of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team are from New Jersey, including Tobin Heath from Basking Ridge, Carli Lloyd from Delran, Jill Loyden from Vineland, Heather O'Reilly from East Brunswick and team captain Christie Rampone formerly of Point Pleasant and now living in Manasquan.
O’Reilly is upbeat about her own performance and the team’s potential.
“I’m healthy, I’m fit, I’m exactly where you want to be a couple of months out from the Olympics,” she said. “The team is looking sharp, we’re playing the best we have in the last few months.
“I’ve been part of the team for 11 years,” O’Reilly said. “It’s weird to be considered a veteran player because I’m only 27, but I think I bring a lot to the team.”
Team Captain Rampone said the team is working well together and now fine-tuning a collective defensive. She said she feels confident about making the Olympic team.
“I have to keep it up or my confidence will go down and I’ll never make the team,” she said.
Among those watching the team practice on Thursday morning was Hamilton Wildcats U-12 Coach Lisa Gmitter-Pittaro and members of her young team.
From 1985 to 1989, Gmitter-Pittaro was a member of the U.S. National Team. Her teammates included Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain before an injury sidelined her professional career.
Now she’s training a new crop of young players and enjoying the success of women’s professional soccer, success that she helped launch through the first tour of the U.S. National Team and four Olympic festivals. She remembers watching the pivotal moments of the team’s success, including the 1999 World Cup victory over China when Chastain scored and then took off her shirt and celebrated on the field in her sports bra.
“I got goosebumps up and down my arms thinking ‘This is what we built,’” Gmitter-Pittaro said.
For the young Hamilton players, watching the Olympic hopefuls was a treat.
“My favorite player is Abby Wambach,” said 12-year-old Arianna Durling of Hamilton. “She’s an amazing player, she has amazing head butts, she’s really very good; the team is very built and technical. It’s really fun and really interesting to see how they train.”
All of the team's training sessions are closed to the public except for two: May 18 and May 21 from 4:30-6 p.m.