Dani Hemeon has already carved out a big name for herself in college field hockey, and playing for Team USA in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro has become a realistic goal.
The former Gilroy High star will take another step in that direction this week.
Hemeon, a sophomore midfielder at Iowa, plans to depart this weekend for New Zealand, where she will play for the U.S. Under-21 women’s national team in a series of matches against New Zealand from Saturday to Jan. 12. She’ll then travel with the U21 team to the Australia Youth Olympic Festival from Jan. 12 to 21 in Sydney, Australia.
“To have an experience like this is an experience not many 19-year-olds have,” Hemeon said. “I’m probably most looking forward to playing against international competition. I’m interested to see different styles of play.”
The U21 team is considered a feeder program for the U.S. Olympic team.
“Of course, that’d be my dream,” Hemeon said of playing in the 2016 Olympics. “It’s in the back of my mind. Hopefully I can make that happen.
“It’s a really big step. When they pick the national team, they kind of funnel from the U21 team. Getting more knowledge of the game is going to help me play at the highest level.”
Hemeon enjoyed a storied career at Gilroy High. She was named Mount Hamilton Most Valuable Player in 2010 and a first-team All-Central Coast Section honoree in 2009 and 2010. Hemeon also played basketball and softball for the Mustangs, and won a 4.0 Three-Sport Scholar Athlete honor.
Hemeon credited Mustangs coach Adam Gemar as a reason she began playing field hockey, a decision that resulted in a CCS finals berth.
“The reason why I’ve been able to play as long as I have is love of the sport,” she said.
Hemeon scored a team-high 11 goals this season for Iowa (14-7), including one during a 3-2 loss to Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Nov. 10.
Now, she’s ready to take her game to the international stage.
“It’s so rewarding,” said Hemeon, who is also a member of the U.S. National Team Development program. “Back four, five years ago, I never would have thought this was possible. It’s nice to know everything I’ve put into it has helped me get to this level.”