PHILADELPHIA -- From one incredible city to another, one incredible field hockey career has gone back to school.
On Friday, Paige Selenski was back with the University of Virginia squad she had been a part of since graduating from Dallas High in 2008, traveling with the Cavaliers to their season-opener at Temple in Philadelphia. She had been away from her college program for more than a year in preparation to represent the United States at the London Olympics before rejoining Virginia.
‚??It was definitely the experience of a lifetime,‚?Ě Selenski said. ‚??It was a lot of work -- a lot. But at the same time the reward was more than I could have ever dreamed. It was hard to take time away from the team here, but it was for something that is a truly rare opportunity.
‚??The end result was just an amazing experience, one that will stay with me forever.‚?Ě
While the Americans didn‚??t reach the medal stand, Selenski was among the team‚??s top scoring threat, posting a goal in the final game of the tournament. But the Olympic experience was so much more than games, thanks to family and close friends joining her in London.
Her greatest memory, though, came from the first day of the event.
‚??I‚??d have to say the opening ceremony,‚?Ě Selenski said of her greatest memory from London. ‚??The size of it, what it represents ... it was breathtaking. There‚??s nothing exactly like that anywhere else. Seeing all the people, from all the countries, being there representing the United States, it was an incredible experience.
‚??I got teary-eyed just thinking about that you are there for your country.‚?Ě
After London, Selenski got to spend a few days in the Back Mountain area with family before getting back to Charlottesville and the No. 8 team in Division I.
‚??I didn‚??t have to get right back to college, so I got to spend some time with family and friends,‚?Ě Selenski said. ‚??I needed a little time off -- I needed it physically and I needed a mental break, too.‚?Ě
She has plenty of fond memories of her days at Dallas, and credits participation in other sports, like track and field, with helping her have the success in field hockey she is enjoying now. After playing to packed houses in England, Selenski smiles as she recalls her days with the Mountaineers.
‚??High school wise, everything is on such a smaller scale,‚?Ě she said. ‚??It feels so close and yet, now, it‚??s so far away. When you are on a stage such as the Olympics, playing in front of over 18,000 people like that, and you think back to playing in high school just four years ago. It‚??s wow, I was playing on grass and the game was so much slower.
‚??It all just seems crazy now looking back.‚?Ě
Her time away from the Virginia program saw the team slip below .500 without the All-American and her Olympic teammate, Michelle Vittese. But during her time away, Selenski ‚?? already one of the best in the country ‚?? got even better.
‚??She‚??s much more professional about what she does,‚?Ě Virginia coach Michele Madison said. ‚??She‚??s always been very committed, had exceptional ball skills and such. But it‚??s amazing how she‚??s taken it to yet another level.‚?Ě
All in all, Selenski has had an impressive career, even though there‚??s still a long way for it to go. She scored Sunday at Penn State, giving her 74 goals in 70 college games ‚?? placing her near the top 100 all-time Division I scorers. A season like her last at U.Va. would put her over the century mark in goals, and propel her well past 200 career points.
She also has one Olympics under her belt and another in her sights ‚?? she is frank about her desire to play in Rio in 2016.
All this success, welcomed by the three-time college All-American, seemed like nothing more than the wildest of dreams when she wore her trademark blue Dallas field hockey uniform.
‚??I wanted to be on the national team,‚?Ě Selenski said. ‚??But even when I was on the junior team, I just never thought I would be able to make the national team in my junior year of college.
‚??When you‚??re that young, you never think you can get to that level.‚?Ě
Yet Selenski did, her dedication paying off with a trip to the world‚??s biggest sporting stage. And likely another one in the future.
NEW COACH: Former Abington Heights standout Kaitie Notarianni moved from player to coach, joining the staff at William and Mary.
Notarainni played four years at Quinnipiac, where she was the fourth player in school history to record 20 goals and 10 assists in a career.
William and Mary is looking to rebound from some recent down seasons. Its head coach is Peel Hawthorne, who won her 300th career game during the season‚??s opening weekend.