Women's dek hockey teams train in Murrysville for international competition – TribLIVE

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Michelle Cook hasn’t even been playing club ball hockey for two years, so the prospect of traveling to the Czech Republic for an international competition this fall is still a little surreal.
“I’m so excited and I can’t wait to go,” said Cook, 38, of Pittsburgh’s Highland Park neighborhood.
Cook was a member of two women’s ball hockey teams that spent last weekend training at Murrysville SportZone in preparation for the International Street & Ball Hockey Federation’s Masters World Championship.
“This year, the women’s masters teams are competing Sept. 7-11, just outside Prague in the Czech Republic,” said Jennifer Free of Murrysville, general manager for the 2022 U.S. teams, organized under the umbrella of USA Ball Hockey. “We held an open tryout camp near Philly last November. About 75-80 women came and tried out, and between the two teams have 47 players we’re taking.”
Cook will play center for Team USA and has been playing hockey in one form or another since she was 5 years old.
“I played at the local Boys & Girls Club,” Cook said. “It was me, one other girl and everyone else was boys.”
Being one of the only females was a common theme for Cook through her teenage years and into early adulthood, when she played intramural roller hockey at Slippery Rock University, on a team where she was the only woman.
“I feel like that’s where some of my skills came into play,” she said. “I always had to be better, and I’ve always enjoyed that challenge.”
Over the years, Cook has played ice hockey, roller hockey and dek hockey, and currently plays in ball hockey leagues in both Murrysville and Pittsburgh.
“In the ice hockey realm, there was always just beginner-level and men’s beer leagues,” she said. “There wasn’t anything in the middle. But with ball hockey, it’s amazing how much opportunity there is.”
That includes the ISBFH Masters World Championships, where six countries compete in the women’s division. The U.S. is the only country bringing two teams.
“Honestly, there’s so much interest that we could probably take three, but that’s a lot of work,” Free said.
Roughly 20% of the team hails from the greater Pittsburgh area, which made the SportZone an ideal location for the final training session before the competition.
“It’s a hot seat for the sport,” Free said. “We’re super excited to have such good representation.”
Participants came to Murrysville from across the U.S., and one Team USA member even flew in from Germany.
Teams from the U.S. have prepared fairly well in the past: American teams have come home with a silver or bronze medal in every Masters World Championship since the competition began in 2014.
“They’re looking to get gold medals, so they had a pretty rigorous itinerary,” Free said. “Some of them have not played together yet. It was a very short amount of time to really generate that they need to be able to compete at this level.”
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick by email at pvarine@triblive.com or via Twitter .
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