UCR Student Elisa Pogu to Compete for U.S.A. Women’s Inline Hockey Team

Corona resident, who just finished her first year at UCR, will compete at World Championships in Bucaramanga, Colombia beginning June 30

Hockey cards in front of a goal.

UC Riverside student Elisa Pogu will compete with the United States National Roller Hockey Team at the 2012 Championships in Colombia in July.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — While the attention of many hockey fans in North America has been focused on the Los Angeles Kings’ recent run to the Stanley Cup championship, University of California, Riverside undergraduate Elisa Pogu has been preparing for a different kind of hockey championship.

Elisa Pogu

Elisa Pogu

Pogu, a 19-year-old pre-business student from Corona who just concluded her first year at UCR, will be competing with the United States Women’s Inline Hockey World Team as they compete at the International Roller Sports Federation Inline Hockey World Championships in Bucaramanga, Colombia. A defenseman, she is one seven Californians on the team and one of two players from the Inland Empire – the other being forward Kayla DeMint of Riverside.

A total of 17 teams from around the world, including squads from across Europe as well as Australia, Canada, Nambia and Brazil, will compete in the tournament which runs from June 30 to July 14. The United States is the defending champion, having won the title in Roccaraso, Italy in 2011.

Pogu was born in Biarritz, France, but moved to Seattle, and later to Corona with her parents Jean-Marie and Nathalie. She grew up watching and cheering for her older brother, Nick, as he played hockey, then started playing herself at the age of seven.

“I played ice hockey for a little bit, but I enjoy roller (inline) hockey more,” she said. “I enjoy the strategy – it is more possession oriented, more control, and it is not as intense as ice hockey.”

Pogu described ice hockey and inline hockey as “similar sports, but with definite differences.” Each features two teams made up of three forwards, two defensemen and a goaltender, trying to shoot a rubber puck into the other team’s net. Players wear shin pads, elbow pads and helmets with metal cages for protection. The biggest differences are that body checking is not allowed and that there is no “offsides” rule, meaning players can skate freely around the rink regardless of the location of the puck.

She played on the United States 18-and-under junior’s team for two years, then decided to try out for the senior team in Philadelphia in March. Approximately 100 athletes tried out for the 16-player roster made up of 14 skaters and two goaltenders. She is one of six rookies named to the team.

Pogu leaves on June 27 to meet the team in Miami. They will hold their first full practices there, and then will head to Colombia for the tournament. While she has played with and against many of her teammates over the years, the Miami practices will be the first time the team will come together as a whole.

“It’s going to be a challenge,” she said. “We are going to have to push even harder to get that gold.”

Pogu practices and plays up to five times a week, primarily at The Rinks skating facility in Corona. She regularly skates with and against 18-and-under boys’ teams and men’s senior teams, which allows her to continually improve her skills. She said the men don’t cut her any slack.

“I have been playing at the rink for so long now that they know me and respect me as a hockey player,” she said. “They know I am playing to compete and they don’t take it easy on me.”

A member of the UCR Honors Program, Pogu has the same challenge as other UCR student-athletes – finding a balance in the time spent on the rink honing her game, serving as a volunteer coach, and keeping up with her studies. Time on the rink can be difficult to come by, with some workouts and games taking place as late as 10:30 p.m.

“It’s been challenging, but I have been keeping up with my grades,” she said. “My parents trust me, but if I start slacking and my grades start dropping, they will cut me off.”

Another challenge for Pogu and some of her teammates has been financing the trip to Colombia. Each player is responsible for paying for a portion of the cost of the trip, around $1,000.

“We all have to pay some out of pocket costs, and some players have gone out and gotten businesses to support them. I am fortunate that my parents can afford it,” she said. “I am very lucky.”

Elisa Pogu

UCR freshman Elisa Pogu skating with the United States junior team

In 2013 the costs to participate will be much less, as the championships are scheduled to be played at the Honda Center in Anaheim. “I am really excited for next year, to be playing right here in our back yard.”

But Colombia comes first, followed by the tough decision about possibly taking a quarter off from school to play professionally in France. The game is much bigger there, with some French venues seating as many as 6,000 fans and games shown live over the Web. Plus, the window of opportunity for Pogu is relatively short, as players in their mid-to-late 20’s are considered “old.”

“I have an offer to play in Biarritz, and I have people telling me to go because it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I am looking into that,” she said. “I am in no rush to graduate – I know what I want to do academically, I have a path. I plan on getting my master’s and would like to go into sports management. So why not take a quarter off and do it?”

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