Westfield State University rising junior Abby Chernick (Longmeadow, Mass.) has been named to the United States Open Field Hockey Team for the 15th European Maccabi Games which will take place July 28-August 7, 2019 in Budapest, Hungary.
The European Games are a high-level athletic competition for Jewish athletes all over the world aimed at connecting Jewish from the Diaspora. They are hosted by the European Maccabi Confederation and conducted in cooperation with Maccabi World Union. They are held every four years, two years after the Maccabiah is held.
Chernick is part of a 14-player squad that includes athletes from Division I, II, and III institutions, and will compete in the open (18-35 year-old) division.
"I'm hoping to learn more about Jewish heritage and excited to meet new people," said Chernick, who has been a member of the Westfield State field hockey team for two seasons as a defender. She played in 16 games in 2018 with one assist, and played in 34 games over two seasons for the Owls.
"Abby came in as a defender, but she played more and more in the midfield for us last season, and she's making strides in an attacking role and scored a bunch of goals on our spring play day," said Westfield State head coach Jessica Bergen. "She can really play anywhere and her field vision has really been improving."
Chernick said she was originally supposed to participate in a tryout for the US Maccabi team, but when the team's numbers came up short, she was added directly to the roster. She had learned about the opportunity to possibly play in the Maccabi games from her cousin, Molly Magerman, who had participated before.
Chernick met her new teammates at the Big Apple Tournament in Brooklyn this in late May, and will have another team training camp on Long Island before the team departs for Budapest.
"It will be my first time playing at the international level," said Chernick. "I expect to see really good competition – a different kind of level."
"We're really excited, it's a good opportunity for her," said Bergen. "We're excited to have her represent the USA and Westfield State, and her hometown of Longmeadow, and it will be a great chance to have a stick in her hands all summer as we head towards our season in the fall, and the chance to get playing time at that level should be a real confidence boost."
The games will feature teams from Germany, Argentina, Holland, Israel and the U.S. playing in a round-robin format before playoffs begin.
"I'm excited to play, to step out and play somewhere else, and to see what sort of tips I might be able to bring back to our team," said Chernick. "It definitely be a chance to improve my skills and see players from other cultures."
"It will be good for Abby to be out of her comfort zone a little bit," said Bergen. "It's good to hear from other coaches, different voices and different styles sometimes help reinforce skills and tactics, and there is always the chance to learn new tips from other players."
"Thank you to everyone in athletics at Westfield State and my coaches who have been very supportive and are cheering me on," said Chernick, who is believed to be the first Westfield State student-athlete to compete in the Maccabi games.
Maccabi USA will bring a team of 200+ athletes who will join the other 2,000 Jewish athletes from 29 countries, participating in 22 different sports. Maccabi USA builds Jewish pride through sports, generating the emotional intensity, high ideals, and powerful camaraderie of competition.