UConn Alumna to Lead USA Field Hockey at Rio Olympics

Melissa Gonzalez playing with the U.S. Field Hockey Team. (Photo by Mark Palczewski)
Melissa Gonzalez, a 2011 UConn graduate, will compete in the Olympics for a second time, this time as a Team USA captain. (Photo by Mark Palczewski)

SHARELINES

Beginning Aug. 5, former UConn field hockey standout Melissa Gonzalez will venture into her second straight Olympic Games – this time as captain – and even deeper into the record books in Storrs.

After scoring the game-winning goal against Australia in the 2016 Hockey Champions Trophy on June 26 and helping Team USA to a bronze medal, Gonzalez will become just the second field hockey player in UConn history to make multiple Olympic appearances.

Gonzalez, a 2011 graduate in kinesiology, joins Tracey Fuchs (1988, 1996) as the only two former Huskies to accomplish the feat in their sport. Diane Madl rounds out UConn’s Olympic contributions in field hockey, making her appearance in 1996.

Not only is the stage set for Gonzalez, who is one of two U.S. National Team captains, but also for Team USA, which enters the Rio Olympics ranked fifth in the world, following its third-place finish in the Champions Trophy.

The U.S. National Team has not earned a medal at the Olympics since a bronze finish in 1984 in Los Angeles, Calif. The Rio Games are believed to provide a golden opportunity to end the 32-year drought.

Gonzalez and the U.S. will participate in Pool B of the women’s group, which includes Argentina, Australia, Great Britain, Japan, and India. Argentina is ranked second in the world, with Australia sitting in third place. The Netherlands, which plays in Pool A, is top ranked and the reigning Olympic championship team.

Melissa Gonzalez, a 2011 UConn graduate and former Husky standout. (Stephen Slade '89 (SFA) for UConn)
Melissa Gonzalez, a 2011 UConn graduate and former Husky standout. (Stephen Slade ’89 (SFA) for UConn)

At UConn, Gonzalez was a two-time NFHCA First Team All-American and four-time All-Region selection. The Huskies reached the NCAA Tournament in each year of her career, with a 2011 trip to the NCAA semifinals. She also won back-to-back titles as Big East Defensive Player of the Year, and was a Honda Sports Award finalist.

Interviewed for the USA Field Hockey Women’s National Team website, Gonzalez said, “I am grateful for anyone who has given me an opportunity. I’ve been fortunate that a lot of people have extended themselves for me, not even necessarily about field hockey but about life. UConn, the staff, and my teammates were integral in shaping me as a person and player, nurturing my never-give-up attitude.”

In addition to her 2012 Olympics appearance in London, Gonzalez’ international career highlights include gold medals in 2015 at the Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada; in 2014 at the Champions Challenge in Glasgow, Scotland; in 2013 at the World League Round 2 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and in 2011 at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. She holds a silver medal from the 2012 Champions Challenge I in Dublin, Ireland, and a bronze medal from the 2016 Champions Trophy in London, England.

She has also served as a volunteer assistant coach for the Huskies, as well as at UMass and Yale.

In the 2012 London Games, Team USA won just a single match against Argentina, dropping the other five and putting it out of medal contention.

With Gonzalez leading them, the U.S. National Team can hope for greater success in the Rio Olympics.

The Rio Olympics run Aug. 5 through Aug. 21, and can be watched on NBC/NBC Sports or followed on the NBC Olympics website. The opening ceremony will take place on Friday at 7 p.m. (EST).

Check back to uconnhuskies.com for updates on Gonzalez and Team USA, as the global phenomenon begins later this week.