Some people only need three weeks in order to achieve what most people would in three months. That is exactly what MSU field hockey sophomore midfielder Becky Stiles did as she played for the Spartans. She traveled to Mexico with Team USA for the Junior Pan American Games and went to school all within three weeks of time.
For anyone, that’s a packed schedule; but for Stiles, going to the Junior Pan American Games was a tournament of a lifetime that also has made her a better teammate for the Spartans.
Stiles came back from the Junior Pan American Games with a bronze medal, qualifying for the Junior World Cup for the summer of 2013. Not only did she bring back a piece of shiny hardware, but she also brought back new skills that she has openly shared with the Spartans.
“We learned from some of the things she did, and now we are more experienced as well,” sophomore forward Heather Howie said.
Howie mentioned that most of her tips are for penalty corners — something the team has been looking to improve on.
Stiles witnessed some of the greatest competition she has ever been exposed to, and playing against the best players from her age group and from different countries was one of her favorite parts of the experience.
USA, which outscored its opponents 35-3 before the semifinal match against Argentina, lost to the eventual gold medal winners, 6-0. Argentina, a team that practices with each other throughout the year, blew Stiles away with their speed and quick decision making.
“The Argentina game was just a fast game; we were kind of shocked by it,” Stiles said.
The drubbing by Argentina, however, did not sour the mood between the teams. Since both teams occupied the same hotel, communication between the teams was frequent, despite the language barrier. Stiles said the teams swapped jerseys and made their best effort at small talk on their occasional elevator run-ins.
After two weeks in Guadalajara, Mexico, Stiles came back to a welcoming Spartan team looking forward to her return after going 2-3 in her absence. After beating Indiana 3-0 in her first game back with the team, head coach Helen Knull noted how Stiles helped the team get its first Big Ten win.
“She likes getting the ball under pressure, she works well under pressure and we moved the ball very well between her and Heather Howie,” Knull said after defeating Indiana.
After playing on foreign ground, swapping jerseys with some of the best players in the world and securing a Junior World Cup bid, Stiles is happy to be back at home playing with her Spartan teammates.
“With the Spartans, we are always like a family; and (during) the two weeks in Mexico, (Team USA) really bonded and came together, too,” Stiles said.