When you have more than 220 caps for your country and have played at the top level for more than nine years, it must sometimes be difficult to stay motivated. The hours of training, the miles of travel, the reels of video analysis – doesn't it all become, well, just a little "samey"?

Captain of the USA women's team Lauren Crandall looks at me in amazement. "No," she says emphatically. "When you are playing alongside such talented athletes and such a committed coaching staff, it is impossible to be anything but motivated. We have a rejuvenated squad and a new coaching staff, so it is really exciting times in our squad."

For an ambitious and hardworking captain like Lauren, recent results for Team USA make for disappointing reading. Since her debut in 2005 she has played in two Olympics, 2008 and 2012, and one World Cup. These have not been the most successful years for the USA squad. They finished sixth in the 2006 World Cup but failed to qualify in 2010. They also finished a disappointing 12th in London in 2012. In between those times they enjoyed a gold medal at the Pan American Games in 2011, beating World Cup holders Argentina in the process, and then won a fourth consecutive second place behind Argentina in the 2013 Pan American Cup. 

But there are signs that Team USA is beginning to awaken and live up to its huge potential. Lauren is more than aware that there is an untapped pool of talent in the USA. "The issue is that there are so many sports for the girls to choose from, soccer is very big for example, and those sports are all trying to attract the most talented young athletes. We are working hard to raise the profile of hockey and demonstrate what an exciting sport it is, particularly in the colleges, because that is where so many sports players are nurtured."

When we spoke, Lauren had just captained her team to victory in the Champions Challenge 1 in Glasgow. USA beat Ireland 3-1 in the final and, throughout the tournament, the squad had clearly been developing a game plan based on strong, athletic play. "We want to be at a point where we play our game plan for the majority of the game. If things are not going the way we want it to, then we have to take responsibility and force the game back on track. While this tournament is incredibly important to us, our next focus is the World Cup and we are taking every opportunity to make sure we are in the best place possible for that."

"We have really worked hard over the past few months, not just on fitness and physicality, but on our hockey skills and game plan. We have a relatively new coaching set-up and we are super-excited about participating in The Netherlands. We are also really, really pleased with the way we have played in Glasgow, and it has been a great tournament for us to develop further as a squad."

 

Twitter: @laurencrandall