Field hockey star gets hometown recognition


Staff Writer

OLD BRIDGE — As Northeastern University senior and Old Bridge native Diana Nelson took her proclamation from Mayor Jim Phillips’ hand, a roar of applause filled the municipal courtroom Monday night.

Those in the room were cheering and on their feet for the accomplishments of a potential Olympian.

“It was unreal,” Nelson said of the standing ovation at the start of Monday’s Township Council meeting. “I wasn’t expecting that many people to be there. Even my high school coach came.”

Nelson, 22, earned a place as a goaltender on the U.S. Olympic field hockey team following a tryout held in Virginia Beach in January.

Out of 116 women who tried out, 25 were chosen. Nelson and five other goalies vied for two spots.

“I thought I had a good chance to compete with them,” she told the Suburban in January. “I knew it would be a very intense training session, and it was, but I thought I had a chance.”

Nelson’s record speaks for itself. A 2000 graduate of Old Bridge High School, she was a goalie for the high school team for four years, earning three varsity letters and a slew of awards along the way. In college, Nelson was instrumental in getting the Northeastern Huskies to four America East Conference championships, and to helping the team to the second round of the NCAA championships twice. She also won the title of Division I First Team All-American, among other honors.

The national team will represent the United States in international play, including the World Cup competition in Madrid, the Pan-American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

On Monday, Phillips handed Nelson a tote bag full of T-shirts with township logos on them.

“And as you go through your international campaign, wear, always, Old Bridge Township,” Phillips told Nelson.

“It’s taken a lot to get here,” Nelson said.

She noted that she started off playing soccer, and played that for 11 years, but a high school coach convinced her to try field hockey instead.

“Thank God she did,” Nelson said.

“I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without my family, my parents,” she continued.

The human services major is set to graduate April 30. After that, Nelson faces a big change.

“Memorial Day weekend, I’m moving to Virginia Beach,” she said, noting that the U.S.A. Field Hockey National Training Center is in the same location.

But after five years of school in Boston, Nelson said she is excited to get out of the city, no matter how nerve-wracking the process.

“I’m ready to move,” she said.

It seems that she’s also ready to play.

“We have a big tournament coming up in July, so we practice twice a day,” Nelson said.

She and her teammates spend hours on each session.

“It’s intense,” she said.