Monday, February 15, 2010

Meet Jacki Kintzer - The First Capper


Jacki Kintzer stood in the elevator with USA National team mate Katelyn Falgowski after the team’s pre-match meeting. As the elevator doors closed, Kintzer turned to Falgo and said nervously, “Lee (headcoach) told me I was in green. I don’t have a green jersey; I only have a yellow one.” Falgo smiled, and reassured her teammate not to worry.

Falgo, a young veteran on the national team, knew her University of North Carolina teammate Kintzer would be formally presented with her Green #31 jersey in due course.

On February 14, Jacki had earned her stripes with the National Team, getting the call as starting goalkeeper in the team’s match against Argentina. Accordingly, she would be officially presented her USA uniform shirt prior to field departure.

The first international cap (first match) is a celebratory moment in the career of a hockey player. It is both a triumph and a reward for the talent and hardwork of years dedicated to the sport – it also marks the start of a new journey representing your nation.

In a perfect world, the first cap would go off without a hitch, but that often is not the way in the sporting world. Imagine the nervous, anxious, excitement of the unknown awaiting a first capper in her first match.

Kintzer heard the loud, rowdy, enthused South American crowd. She was enthralled by the environment – unfortunately the Argentine spectators had reason to celebrate early in the game, as Argentina scored in the first minute of the match.

This didn’t rattle, the focused and confident Kintzer. She maintained her composure despite a rocky team performance in the first half and in the second half, Kintzer was determined to keep a clean slate. With two minutes left in the game, the Argentines earned a penalty corner – the resolute voice of Kintzer rang proud in the goal cage, “They haven’t scored yet this half; they aren’t scoring now.”

Her words proved true; the Argies did not score. Unfortunately, the USA was unable to convert on their opportunities at the other end of the field.

So, in Kinzter’s first cap, the States fell to Argentina 3-0, in what otherwise would be considered a dominating USA performance. Unlucky is the most unfortunate and pathetic word in sport.

But for Kinzter the experience of her first cap was invaluable and memorable. “It was the most fun I have ever had while playing. I feel connected now with my teammates at a different level – a level of being in battle with and for one another. It was a natural high, despite the result.” Kintzer reflected.

Her first cap culminates a year of incredible success and achievement for the modest, artsy Kintzer. Two years ago, she was a back up GK at the university of North Carolina. This summer, she got her first taste of international competition as the starting GK for the USA at the Junior World Cup. This fall she led her Tar Heels to a National Championship and caught the eye of USA coach Lee Bodimeade, who asked Kintzer to join the squad in California for the World Cup build up. The eager Kintzer seized the opportunity, dropped all of her Spring semester classes, re-enrolled online, and moved out to California in January.

Kinzter, an art major at UNC, enrolled in a Digital Photography class this spring – so when she is not playing hockey, she is capturing the memories of her first tour with the national team. If it isn’t her stick extending from her arm, you can be sure that it is her camera. Kintzer is intrigued by the relationship between art and sport.

Yesterday, Kintzer earned her first cap. Who knows what the future will hold for the talented hockeyer who is inspired by the artistic beauty of the game she loves.

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