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Teammates Become Rivals At Junior Pan Am Championships
Courtesy: Stanford Athletics  
Release: 09/10/2012

STANFORD, Calif.- Sophomore Kelsey Harbin and freshman Maddie Secco were key factors in No. 16 Stanford's 3-2 victory over No. 10 Iowa on Friday, with Harbin notching the game-winner and Secco scoring the Cardinal's opening goal.

With both players scheduled to miss three straight games, it's nice they could leave campus on a positive note.

Stanford will be without the services of Harbin and Secco for two more games and a total of three overall. Included in that stretch is a Sept. 23 contest at No. 1 North Carolina.

But it's for good reason. Harbin and Secco have been selected to represent their respective countries at the Junior Pan American Championships, set for Sept. 10-23, in Guadalajara, Mexico. Harbin (Escondido, Calif.) is a member of the USA team while Secco (Victoria, British Columbia) joins Canada's roster.

Participating in the prestigious two-week event means head coach Tara Danielson will miss two of her squad's most talented players, but the decision is a no-brainer. The Junior Pan American Championships serve as the qualifier for the 2013 Junior World Cup.

"The timing is obviously difficult, but we are extremely supportive and excited for them to participate and represent their country," said Danielson. "It's something we embrace as a program, the willingness to pursue our sport at the highest level. As a staff, we have all played at that level. So we realize the benefits this tournament offers and how valuable this experience will be during their time at Stanford."

Being on the quarter system helps with scheduling, as Harbin and Secco will return in time for the start of classes on Sept. 24 and the first of two meetings against NorPac rival California on Sept. 28. Four years ago, Camille Gandhi was also forced to miss multiple games when she competed as a member of the USA squad at the event. The experience turned out well for Gandhi, who scored the game-winner against Chile in the gold medal match.

Danielson is looking forward to seeing how her club responds.

"We just beat No. 18 Drexel, which has some top wins. North Carolina is the top-ranked team right now. But it's also an opportunity for other players to step up and gain experience. This is a team game, so we're excited to see what depth we have. Our team will be better for it because we can try players at different positions. So while it's a challenge to lose them, we know that it's not where you are now, but rather at the end of the season."

Prior to their departure, was able to catch up with both players and get their thoughts on the tournament overall. Not to mention, a potential clash between the USA and Canada.

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First off, congratulations on being selected. That's an incredible honor and this tournament is sure to be a memorable experience.

HARBIN: "It's exciting because Junior Pan Ams only come around every four years. Usually when we do tours with the U.S. Team, we'll go to England and play their team four times in a series. So, just being in an environment where there are so many countries and cultures in one area, it's an amazing experience. Being able to play against everyone and exchange jerseys. I'm extremely excited and honored just to have made the team."

SECCO: "We have been training a lot for the past six months and our coach has been pushing us very aggressively. A lot of time has been spent working especially on our fitness. We were in Europe over the summer and really seemed to click well as a team. I think once we start playing as a team again, it will all come together. Hopefully we can pull out a few wins and qualify for the World Cup."

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Describe what it's like to be teammates with college players who you normally compete against. Other top-25 schools will also be missing their key players.

HARBIN: "I know most of the girls on the team, including some of my really close friends. College hockey is so big in the U.S., that representing not only your college, but your country, is truly special. So even though we challenge each other during NCAA competition, once it comes to a tournament like this, it's awesome that we get to be teammates and play against the best from other countries."

SECCO: "In Canada, a lot of our top players compete mainly at one school: the University of British Columbia. The national training center is also in Vancouver. Their league is still pretty high-level and very fast-paced. Other countries like Argentina and Chile have real strong hockey backgrounds, so it's definitely a different level from even college hockey."

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Obviously, the overall team finish for your country is important. That being said, what are you hoping to get out of this tournament on an individual level?

HARBIN: "Argentina is predominantly one of the top countries in the world for field hockey. Their forwards play a different style- they're very tall, fast and have a long reach. So I want to really work on my 1-v-1 defense against skilled forwards like that. That sticks out as something I'm really looking forward to."

SECCO: "I'm hoping that I can use my speed to gain a bit of an edge. A lot of teams in South America are known for their stick-skills but may not be as fleet of foot, so hopefully I can use that to my advantage. Also just linking up with other players on my team and being able to read each other's passes."

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It's a unique situation in that you will actually miss games during the regular season. Describe what that's going to be like.

HARBIN: "I think I'll be gone 15 days overall. With the tournament format, you might play one game and then you're off for two days. It's extremely hard to be away from the team because we work so hard together and I'm missing a big game. Plus, you can't text or anything like that, so Maddie and I will probably have to Skype into the team together."

SECCO: "It's unfortunate the tournament is scheduled at this time but at least it's not in November during NCAA's. It will also be nice to have Kelsey there. We probably won't get a chance to talk much, but it's nice to know I have that support system there if I need it. Especially as a freshman, it's hard because I just started and you want to really gel with the team."

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There's a possibility that the United States and Canada end up facing off immediately after pool play. An attacker against a defender: that's a nice recipe for some trash-talking.

HARBIN: "I think there's a very good chance we could play each other in the cross-over round. We know each others' strengths and weaknesses. Maddie is obviously an extremely talented attacker. Yes, we play on the same team. But when it comes to the U.S. and Canada, neither of us is going to take it easy on the other. We'll see how it turns out."

SECCO: "It's definitely an interesting thought. For Canada, I will play forward and since Kelsey plays in the back, there is a good chance we will be going 1-v-1 against each other. It might be a bit more difficult because we know each others' tendencies really well, since we've been playing together. It will bring out a fun level of competition."

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Stanford completed a sweep of this week's NorPac Player of the Week awards. Kelsey Harbin was named Co-Offensive Player of the Week along with California's Lara Kruggel while Becky Dru was tabbed the Defensive Player of the Week and Dulcie Davies earned the Rookie of the Week award.

- Brian Risso, Athletic Communications/Media Relations



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