On Sunday, at Newark airport, seventeen women gathered with their coaches to leave for Israel and represent the United States playing field hockey at the 21st Maccabiah Games.
Eleven of the 17 girls met at The Big Apple Tournament in Brooklyn, NY, over the Memorial Day weekend for a two-day tournament to give the team a chance to meet and learn about each other. This marked the first time the whole team had gathered in one place non-virtually. Taking a team picture in the terminal was the first step in bonding them together, now they had a twelve hour plane flight followed by ten-days of training to meld into a team.
Known as the ‘’Jewish Olympics,’’ the Maccabiah Games begin July 14, 2022, with opening ceremonies at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem with President Biden in attendance. US athletes come from 43 states, ranging in age from 14 to 87. The US contingent of 1,069 athletes joins more than 10,000 athletes from 60 countries for the world’s second-largest sporting competition, after the Olympics.Medals will be awarded in 47 sports, including field hockey.
The US women’s field hockey team plays their first game on July 17, 2022, (5:30pm Israeli time) against Australia at Ramat Gan Field, a 41,583 seat stadium with a storied history. Until 2014, it was Israel’s premier venue hosting official FIFA World Cup Qualifiers and UEFA Champions League games, as well as the location for the opening ceremonies of the Maccabiah Games prior to 2013.
The US women next face the Israel national team on July 18, 2022 (5:30pm Israeli time). With no rest, they take on the Netherlands on July 19th (8:15pm Israeli time). Their final game is July 21st at 8:15pm versus Argentina.
I will be photographing and posting from the sidelines for each of the games. You can find game results @sbnbrooklyn on Instagram, and hopefully, fingers crossed, it will be streamed on Maccabi Media (https://maccabiusa.com/maccabimedia).
My daughter, Eliza Phillips (Liza), discovered field hockey at the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury, CT, under legendary Coach Mimi Duran, assistant athletic director and one of seven women inducted into the Connecticut Field Hockey Hall of Fame. Eliza was named the junior varsity field hockey team’s Most Valuable Player in 2015, and the next year won the Varsity Coaches’ Award, honored for “Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, guts.” She also competed in alpine skiing, racing for Blandford Ski Area’s team (Blandford, MA) and helping lead EWS to the NEPSAC championship in 2017.
Covid gave her a final season at Nichols as a graduate student and in the summer prior, her coach sent her the email about tryouts for the Maccabiah team in Baltimore. She decided to go for it. At tryouts, she met Kelsi McDevitt from Pennsylvania, a freshman at Westfield State in Massachusetts. They would meet again at a tournament at Smith College in September. There they both played against another Maccabiah teammate, Rachel Katzenburg, a goalie for Mount Holyoke College. Rebecca Munoz played at Hamilton College with one of Liza’s teammates from EWS. The rest of the team includes Gianna Duddy, Philadelphia, PA, DeSales University; Sarah Edelson, Blue Bell, PA, Amherst College; Paige Forester, Glencoe, IL, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Julia Freedman, Greenwich, CT, Yale University; Sophie Freedman, Greenwich, CT, University of Pennsylvania; Maya Geller, Yardley, PA, University of Pennsylvania; Rebecca Munoz; Briana Rubenstein, Blue Point, NY, Adelphi University; Bailey Schwab, Highland, MD, Johns Hopkins University; Zoe Shevitz, Montclair, NJ, Montclair High School; Eliana Swell, Rumson, NJ, Georgetown University; Rose Weseley, Kingston, NY, Wellesley College; Dylan Breier, Louisville, KY, University of Pennsylvania; Hannah Hicks, Newton, MA; and Sarah Weitzman, Fulton, MD.
Building a team with limited contact and practice is a challenge but the Maccabiah coaches are ready.
“We had a really nice turnout at tryouts,” said Coach Jess Foley. “We all have this Field Hockey passion, we also have that passion for Judaism and for Israel in common. I think that automatically makes you click with people you’ve never met before.”
For Phillips, the games are a chance to learn more about her family history, a goal of the Maccabiah is strengthening the connection to the State of Israel and the Jewish people through sports. Her grandparents met as soldiers during the War of Independence, immigrating to the US in 1952. She will meet Israeli relatives for the first time.
The first Maccabiah was held in in Ramat Gan in 1932 with 390 athletes from 18 countries taking part. The 21st version brings the world to Israel for the largest gathering of Jewish athletes in history. Let the games begin.