Following in her older sisters’ footsteps, junior midfielder Julia Reinprecht became the third daughter to proudly wear the uniform of Orange and Black back in 2009. The Tigers have been led for most of the last eight seasons by a combination of Sarah Reinprecht ’09, senior midfielder Katie Reinprecht and Julia, a family legacy of Princeton field hockey greats. The players have shined together on the field, but more importantly, they stand by each other through stressful situations off it.
“I have been fortunate to go to school with both of my sisters,” Katie said. “[Sarah] taught me the ropes a bit. Julia and I were always so close growing up; being only a year apart, we were always in school together. We are really best friends, I’d say. It’s nice having your best friend and sister here to confide in and talk to about school struggles and the demands of the team.”
Growing up in Pennsylvania, the country’s field hockey hotbed, the Reinprechts first started playing in middle school while also trying out soccer and lacrosse. By the time high school started, Julia had dropped her other sports to dedicate herself to field hockey.
“Our mom is really involved in field hockey and was our coach growing up, so it was a good sport to pursue with all of the family interest,” Julia said. “With Sarah already playing so much, our family really revolved around the sport, so it was a natural choice for me.”
Katie, on the other hand, held onto her passion for soccer for a long time, and even considered playing it instead of field hockey at the college level.
“I was pretty serious about soccer in high school for a while, and then it got to the point where I had to choose,” Katie said. “My dad always supported my passion for soccer, but in the end I picked field hockey because I had more experience with it at that point, so soccer sort of faded off.”
During those decision-making-heavy high school years, Katie and Julia would frequently come to New Jersey to visit their older sister. They fell in love with Princeton when they saw it, and after meeting the team it seemed like a great fit for them too.
“When Katie was deciding where to go to school, I provided my input because we knew we wanted to go together,” Julia said. “Sarah was always a good host, but she didn’t push us to come here if we didn’t want to.”
After playing two seasons together with the Tigers, Julia and Katie took the 2011-12 academic year off to train with the U.S. National Team. With several months of international competition and intensive training, the Reinprechts were constantly competing to try and earn a spot on the Olympic roster.
Throughout the mentally and physically tolling year, the sisters had each other to depend on.
“Last year put an interesting perspective on being teammates for each other,” Julia said. “The selection is riding so much on your performance over the course of the whole year. We are usually pretty calm, but when you commit so much time to something, it can be overwhelming. It was a new kind of role for each of us, for what we can do as teammates and sisters.”
“Missing last season was really tough. We would game-track and watch as many games as we could, but not being able to help the team was tough,” Katie said. “I also missed out on the social life at Princeton; with so many of my best friends still on campus, it was sad to look at pictures of Lawnparties and know I had missed out. But taking the year off was so rewarding — being able to travel all over the world was awesome.”
The year of hard work ultimately paid off, and both sisters were offered a spot on the 16-player U.S. Olympic roster to travel to London and take on the best international competition. Calling it a rewarding and memorable experience, the sisters said it was difficult to put into words.
“Field hockey isn’t that popular here, but when you go to Europe, it’s intense and there are so many fans,” Julia said. “There is nothing cooler than hearing ‘USA’ chants all around you. Walking in the opening ceremony and being part of something bigger than yourself or your sport is awesome.”
Julia and Katie are individually very skilled players, but when their talents are combined on the field, they become even harder to stop.
“I think Katie and Julia definitely have a special chemistry that can be seen on the field,” senior striker Kat Sharkey said. “They make great passes to each other and are always able to find each other on the field. They are very supportive of each other, and it is clear that they will be there for each other despite their individual play or the outcome on the field.”
With similar styles of play, both Reinprechts have a simple and consistent manner on the field. Their parents instilled a high level of work ethic in them from a young age, so they know what to expect from each other — and, Katie says, they’re not afraid to call each other out.
“It is hard to describe without being cliche, but on the field it is everything you would imagine from the best possible sister connection ... effortless synergy,” head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn said. “I definitely keep those two as close positionally as possible to take advantage of how well they work together.”
The contributions the sisters have made in their Princeton uniforms have not gone unnoticed. Katie has tallied two Ivy League Player of the Year awards and two first-team All-America selections. Julia upheld the family tradition of post-season honors with an Ivy League Rookie of the Year award, two first-team All-Ivy appearances and two second-team All-America selections.
These accolades are made possible by the intense discipline and concentration they bring to both practices and games.
“They compete at a high level every day in practice and really make the players around them better,” Sharkey said. “I think they continue to challenge and inspire each other to improve their game every time they step on the field.”
This season, the Reinprechts join Sharkey as the team’s captains, giving Princeton three talented and experienced leaders.
“As captain, you are supposed to be the voice of the team,” Katie said. “You’re the first to call everybody together and stand as a leader making the right decisions on and off the field. You have to be one of the hardest workers out there and make everyone feel valued, included and involved. Once you get the whole team dynamic going, that’s when we play our best.”
The captains hope this strong team dynamic will carry their squad to another Ivy League title and deep into the NCAA tournament. With a low volume of games right now, they continue to focus on improving and getting in top shape for the post-season.
The duo has reached an NCAA semifinal and made another quarterfinal appearance, but as this is the last season that two Reinprecht sisters will be leading the Tigers together, there may be no better time for the team to go even further.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/10/11/31473/