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June 27, 2009

The Blague from Prague: 2009 FIL World Cup

LMO's Clare Lochary blogs live from Prague, Czech Republic and the 2009 FIL Women's World Cup. Check back here for updates, or leave a comment below.

Related Links

Team USA Schedule/Results

* Official Event Web Site U.S. 17, England 8 - Boxscore | Recap
* Live Game Video Feed U.S. 11, Canada 4 - Boxscore | Recap
* Team USA Home Page U.S. 26, Japan 12 - Boxscore | Recap
* Photo Gallery: USA in Pool Play
U.S. 10, Australia 9 - Boxscore | Recap
* Czech Star Bound for GMU
QF: U.S. 22, Ireland 5 - Boxscore | Recap
* Charlotte's Ville: English Star to UVA SF: U.S. 20, England 3 - Boxscore | Recap
* Seoul Patrol: Koreans Like Lax Final: U.S. 8, Australia 7 - Boxscore | Recap

 

 

     


All-World Team; Closing Remarks

posted 9:30 am Prague time (GMT +2, EST +6)

I'm wrapping things up here in Prague -- the rest of Team USA has scattered, either headed homeward or off on some well-deserved vacation time. Here's the All-World team, which was announced at the post-final banquet.

Jen Adams AUS
Hannah Nielsen AUS
Lindsay Munday USA
Kristen Kjellman USA
Sarah Albrecht USA
Stacey Morlang AUS
Laura Warren WAL
Dana Dobbie CAN
Gina Oliver USA
Sarah Forbes AUS
Amber Falcone USA
Sue McSolvin AUS

Falcone was also named Best Defender.

The afterparty was pretty amazing -- four floors of people drinking and dancing and teams singing and celebrating and wearing their team colors with pride. The American girls were treated like rock stars -- a few members of the South Korean delegation took a moment to stop and bow to Sarah Albrecht. Golden girls, indeed. There was lots of goodwill. A few very nice and slightly confused people even congratulated me on how well I played in the final. Heh.

I've got one more story to post -- about some NCAA players who've gone on to coach in Germany -- but it may not come until I'm back home. But for now, I'l let defender Regina Oliver (who was cut from the 2005 World Cup team) have the last word on Team USA and what the 2009 World Cup meant to her:

"A lot of things in my life were never easy. Athletically, I was gifted so I did get a lot of awards, and no one ever told me I wasn’t good enough. But there was a lot of things in my life where things could have went my way but didn’t. Just growing up in a little rinky dink town outside of Philadelphia. My father died when I was in sixth grade and I just had my mom, and my mom was on drugs. There were just a lot of different things. For me, it wasn’t an easy life. It [the World Cup] was just one of these moments that was like, ‘Oh my god.’

You hear about the lacrosse world being for white girls with money and all these other things. I’m like, ‘I broke the mold. I’m not that girl that was just given everything.’ So it was just another reason for me to be excited for my team and myself, because a lot of it was because of them that I got here. Because I could have been like, ‘Whatever. This sucks. They cut me.’ But it was like they cut me for a reason.

It’s really weird, because in 2005 when I got cut, Sue Heether was trying out as well and she sent me an e-mail that was like, ‘That’s crap. I can’t believe they cut you. Just keep going.’ She sent me this really inspirational e-mail that was just like, 'Keep going. Keep trying out. I’m behind you 100%.'"

Postgame on 2009 FIL World Cup

posted 8pm Prague time (GMT +2, EST +6)

The medals have been handed out, and the party is getting started. I'll leave you with some final quotes and analysis.  I'm out for the night, and headed to the banquet, where everyone can let competition slide away in favor of celebration and comraderie. It's shaping up to be an awesome party, based on the people I've seen in the elevator. Team USA cleans up pretty well, but the Japanese team is wearing kimonos. Check back tomorrow for more insight and analysis -- right now, all the players are just saying "Wooooooo!" and "I don't know -- it feels really, really awesome. Really awesome."

Here you go:

Team USA began their journey to Prague as an untested group of World Cup rookies. They ended it as champions.

With emotions running high, the U.S. staved off a furious late rally from Australia to preserve an 8-7 victory in the championship game of the 2009 FIL World Cup tournament. Australia scored three straight goals in the last five minutes of the game, but goalie Devon Wills (7 saves) made a final save on Melissa Williams’ (2g) shot and the U.S. held on to reclaim the gold from the Australians, who won it all in 2005. The U.S. has now won six World Cups, three of which came with victories over Australia.

“The best part of this team is that they know for a fact – not believe, know for a fact – that they are the best team in the world. If they’re nervous or feeling bad, you just look into your teammates’ eyes, and know that they are the best in the world,” said head coach Sue Heether.

Australia struck first on Williams’ goal on an assist from Jen Adams (1g, 2a) at 25:49, kicking off a back-and-forth period with three ties and two lead changes, ending in a 3-3 tie. The U.S. was struggling to adjust to a new ride scheme, which Heether and her staff scrapped at halftime.

“We were tight today. This team is very young and nerves are the one thing that could hurt us at the end,” said Heether.

In the second half, the Americans broke out with four straight goals, capped by scoring leader Caroline Cryer’s (3g) bounce shot past Australian goalie Sue McSolvin (8 saves).

With a 7-3 lead with 15:58 to play, Team USA seemed to have the game well in hand, despite 22 turnovers. Then Wills drew a yellow card in the final five minutes for a push on Australian attacker Marlee Paton (2g).

“It was dumb of me, especially since I hardly ever come out to play the attacker,” said Wills. “I kind of couldn’t watch for a little until they told me I could go back in.”

Against substitute keeper Megan Huether (1 save), the Australians scored two goals in 35 seconds, and then added another against Wills when Williams tipped a high feed from Adams past Wills at 1:59. With 22 turnovers and shrinking lead, the Americans seemed thoroughly rattled when Australia won the final draw. But Wills saved Australia’s final shot and the U.S. held on against a tough Australian ride to preserve the win.

“We had them against the ropes, and we came up short. But that’s sport,” said Australian head coach Sue Sofarnos.

“Australians pride themselves on never giving up. We’re proud of our spirit.”

This was the fifth World Cup final decided by one goal, but the narrow margin was cold comfort for the Australians. Their final attempt to take the lead was hampered when defender Megan Barnet picked up two green cards for stepping into the crease in the final minutes of the game.

“We were getting into trouble at the crease, which was happening at both ends, and we couldn’t risk playing man down, so we had to adjust defensively. We wanted to shoot high to low, and we needed to get possessions,” said Sofarnos.

Australia also lost to the U.S., 10-9, in the round robin round of the tournament, and the championship game added another chapter in what is already a storied rivalry.

“It’s a certain belief that Australians have in themselves that we’re not down until the end. Maybe the U.S. is the same way,” said Australian team captain Stacey Morlang (1g.)

In contrast to Australia's disappointments, Team USA has erased the memory of their silver finish in 2005 and faces a bright future with a class of relatively young World Cup veterans.

“It’s amazing. I’ve never felt like this,” said Wills after the game.

“The adrenaline is just pumping. I could play another game right now.”


FINAL: USA 8 Australia 7

USA wins!!! Despite a three-goal run by the Aussies, the U.S. held out to preserve the lead and win the 2009 FIL World Cup. Wills came back in and made a good save on an Australian shot that would have equalized the game, and the U.S. held on to it for the last 90 seconds under really heavy pressure from the Aussies. Kjellman, who got roughed up all game long, was holding the ball at the end, and got knocked to the ground for her troubles. But I'm sure she's feeling no pain now as she and her teammates run and scream and shout and dance to the inevitable Kool and the Gang and Queen selections on the loud speakers. Celebrate good times, come on!We ARE the champions, my friend!

4:18 U.S. 8 Australia 6

Ok, I totally jinxed the defense by saying "shut out" too soon. Sorry guys. The U.S. still has this game firmly in had, but goalie Wills came out of the crease and put a huge hit on Marlee Paton. Megan Huether had to come in for her after the yellow card. Paton made the FP shot on an empty cage and then Australia got a fast break goal just 35 seconds later. U.S. controlled the next draw, and there's still a ways to go but this just got a lot more interesting. One notable detail is that Australia is doubling a LOT faster than they did in the round robin tournament, a mistake that ultimately spelled their doom.

17:17 U.S. 6 Australia 3

Three in a row for the U.S. – the tide is definitely shifting in favor of the Americans. They’re winning some DCs and turning them into goals. McFadden fed Bullard on a speedy cut to open things up in the second half. Later Adams tried to railroad past defender Michi Ellers but was saved by Wills and drew a charge call. The possession resulted in a great goal from Sarah Albrecht, who dodged three defenders to put a bounce shot past McSolvin. (She definitely brings to mind the “float like a butterfly/sting like a bee” simile.) Kjellman capped the U.S. run on a bounce shot. Aussie defender Megan Barnet has been given two green cards, the second of which resulted in a Kjellman goal to cap the US run at three before Australia called a TO. U.S. won the next draw. Draws are now US 5, AUS 6. Don’t know that the time out worked...could the U.S. be on its way to another shut-out second half? It would be the third of the tournament for Team USA.

Halftime: U.S. 3 Australia 3

posted at 3:50 pm Prague time (GMT +2, eST +6)


Overall this game looks like the second half of the round robin game between these two teams – long U.S. possessions in which the Americans wait for a good shot. Still, by my extremely unofficial count, The U.S. has 15 shots to Australia’s eight. This game would look a lot different if not for the play of Aussie keeper Sue McSolvin, who has 6 saves already and picked off a nice pass in the final seconds of the half to send us to the break with a 3-3 tie.

On the U.S. defensive end, Gina Oliver has her knee and hamstring taped a lot, but she seems to be moving fine and even beat Sarah Forbes on a clear. Australia's Jen Adams was favoring her right foot a bit when walking during warm-ups but it looks like she can still turn on the wheels when she wants to. (She left the semifinal game against England in terrible pain.)

Speak of the devil: Oliver and Adams collided on the far left side of the circle and Adams got a free position. She dished it to a teammate and Australia struck first. But the U.S. answered with goals from Cryer and Munday (on a free position). That prompted a TO from Team Australia at 17:00.


Oliver and Falcone are both following their marks behind the cage, which I guess you have to do when you have feeders like Nielsen and Adams hanging out back there. However, given that the last two Aussie goals have come on the exact same crease roll by two different players (Adams and Inge), this might need a tweak. Those goals were just 26 second apart too. The pace is starting to favor Australia, which incidentally has won five of seven draw controls. Cryer leads the U.S. with two goals. We've had three ties and two lead changes thus far. Exciting lax!


Incidentally, American goalie Devon Wills (3 saves) spent the first half in the scrubby, Depeche Mode end of the field. I don't think it made a difference, though.

Starting lineup

U3 Wills

U1 Falcone
U4 Ellers
U14 Oliver

U13 Walker
U28 LaGrow
U33 Kjellman

U9 Munday
U21 Rowan
U17 Cryer
U2 Albrecht
U7 McGarvie


Maple Leaves Turn Bronze; US-Australia to Come

Posted Saturday at 2:10 pm Prague time (GMT +2, EST +1)

Maple Leaves Turn Bronze; US-Australia to Come

Greetings from inside Slavia Praha Stadium! We’re in the main part of the very nice little stadium (the previous fields were outside) they have here, and I just watched Canada run roughshod over England, 14-9, in the bronze medal match. There are some details below.

The weather here in Praha is overcast but not rainy, and the field looks great. It's grass, and lined only for women's lacrosse, which is always nice. My only complaint would be that you can definitely tell which end of the field supported the stage for the Depeche Mode concert -- the grass is scruffy and worn thin at one end of the field. We'll see if that makes any difference come game time.

From my perch in the press box, I just saw some serious game face go by as Team USA passed underneath the window on a warm-up run in two columns led by Michele DeJuliis and Acacia Walker. They look very ready for a game against a defending world champion.

Actually, seeing Walker go by reminds me of a conversation I had with her earlier this week. I asked her about her a free position late in the round robin game against Australia. The score was 9-8, and she had the potential equalizer in her hands and the weight of four years worth of expectation on her shoulders.

So...was she nervous?

Walker looked at me like I had two heads, or as if I'd asked her if water was wet.

"No," she said, sounding truly confused as to why anyone would be nervous in such a situation. "I've practiced those situations a million times."

I should have known better than to ask the question, since I know from a previous interview that Walker is big on mental preparation. (See here.) It goes without saying that Walker landed that free position shot to tie the game, and three minutes later, Sarah Albrecht scored the game-winner.

I must have looked chastened, so Walker followed up with this: "As cliche as it sounds, I just rely on my teammates. As I walked to the spot, I heard my teamates talking to me, and that's all I needed."

Anyhoo, here's the scoop on Canada's first medal since 1982.


Team Canada wore number 3s drawn onto their legs for team captain Linsday Hart (on the bench with a broken collarbone) and big smiles on their faces defeated England, 14-9, in the bronze medal match at the 2009 FIL World Cup. Mandy Friend (5g, 1a) opened scoring with an unassisted goal, kicking off a 6-0 run that England never managed to erase. Canada last claimed a medal in 1982, when they defeated England for the bronze. Today’s win ended an often frustrating run for a country that officially designated lacrosse its national summer sport.

“We’ve made this game a million times but we could never quite beat England. But under our coaches, we’ve changed into a complete team. The heart and the drive behind our midfield was amazing,” said Player of the Match Dana Dobbie, who had two goals and 11 draw controls.

Canada head coach Lisa Miller was an assistant coach on Canada’s 2001 World Cup team, and got her first go-round as a head coach in international competition here in Prague. In the two lead-up years to the World Cup, she took a bunch of talented, athletic Canadians with box-influenced moves and ice hockey toughness and turned them into a cohesive unit.

“Systems beat people. Individual talent put into a team system is the most effective way to win. They bought into a team game. We changed our offense and defense a lot through the week, and they really absorbed it,” said Miller.

While box stick work makes individual players deadly on the crease, Miller tweaked the single-minded, go-to-goal tendencies of indoor lacrosse for the team-oriented flow of the women’s international game. The Canadians added some finesse to their physicality, and edged England for a medal.

Quick example of Canadian toughness: Hart sat out the game because she broke her collarbone chasing down a 50-50 ground ball* during a key moment in the Canadians’ 12-10 semifinal loss to Australia. Not a collision. Not a big check gone awry. Just a player going hard and putting her entire self into the game.

Dobbie and her teammates chuckle at their reputation as an extraordinarily physical team. They just don’t know any other way.

“We just have to laugh. We all grew up playing box and ice hockey. Really, we don’t have a choice about it,” said Dobbie.

Hart, head coach at the University of Albany, is one of seven NCAA coaches and assistants on the Canadian roster, so observers of the American college game may well see the tricky stick work and physical play of Team Canada turn up at Stanford, Columbia or MIT. Additionally, Dobbie, an assistant coach at Loyola, envisions a future where more and more NCAA rosters are dotted by her countrywomen, much like on the men’s side of the game.

“There’s a lot of girls who are playing, and I hope to see a flood of Canadian players, just like the Australians have been in the past,” said Dobbie.

* Pitch B has maybe five or six feet of turf beyond the sideline, then there’s a strip of brick pavement between the field and the stands. The ball was headed out of bounds, and Hart dove after it and went a little too far and landed on the brick.


Sights and Sounds of the Semifinals

posted Friday at 3:11 p.m. Prague time (GMT +2, EST +6)

Sight: The strange and terrifying ball of fire that appeared in the sky after the conclusion of Team USA's dominating 20-3 win over England. (There has been a LOT of rain and generally weird weather in Prague over the past few days and some bad flooding in other parts of the Czech Republic.)

Sound: Sarah Albrecht singing the national anthem before the semifinal game. As readers of Lacrosse Magazine's June issue know, Albrecht is the team's unofficial, in-house American Idol. She also plays the guitar, in addition to scoring and assisting at will. She can probably divide by zero, too.

Sight: The U.S. defense. In a blowout game, it's easy to focus on the ever-increasing offensive score, but the Americans did a lock-down job on a big, fast English team, and they did it mostly without defender Regina Oliver, who spent most of the game icing a sore hamstring. (Oliver is expected to be fine in time for the final.)

Sound: Team USA's locker room sing-along during the semifinal rain delay, a terrific tactic for keeping energy high and nerves low. Unconfirmed reports indicate that Holly McGarvie covered Eddie Money's "Take Me Home Tonight," and assistant coach Jenny Ulehla dropped her rendition of "Jenny (867-5309)."

Sight: Canada's upset attempt on Australia. Dana Dobbie is awesome, recent GMU grad Alana Chan is a tough nut, and I'm definitely looking forward to little Abbey Friend's career at North Carolina. It was a tough, physical game that I'm so glad I got to see in person. Australia rode it out, though, and won 12-10. The Aussies definitely had a tougher road to the final than the Americans, so it will be interesting to see if they are worse for the wear. Notably, Jen Adams went limping off the field with less than two (very critical) minutes to play and seemed to be having lots of ankle pain.

In any case, it was a seriously great game so if you didn't watch it in real time (understandable, given the Dickensian length of the USA-England game), take a peek: http://videosport.tn.nova.cz/672-Australia-vs-canada-sf-full-game

Sound: The thunderous noise of Depeche Mode performing at field-adjacent Slavia Praha stadium (where the final will be) during the waning minutes of the Australia-Canada match. It added an additional hint of drama to the proceedings.

Sight: Christopher Merrifield and Paul Mollison chatting after Germany's 14-4 win over New Zealand. Mollison is the Kiwis' coach, in addition to being the proud dad of Australian midfielder Sarah Mollison; Merrifield is the father of English middie Laura Merrifield. We chatted a bit about LM's June issue, which features their daughters as our cover girls, along with their University of Maryland teammate and Team USA opponent Caitlyn McFadden. I mentioned that the LM staff had carefully chosen pictures of Merrifield and Mollison without their eye goggles, which are required by the NCAA but not the FIL. (McFadden, and the rest of Team USA, all wear protective goggles, and she is pictured as such on the cover.)

Both dads rolled their (ungoggled) eyes and said they'd told their daughters they should wear their goggles for safety reasons. As is a proud, longstanding tradition among college-age daughters, Merrifield and Mollison have completely ignored their fathers' advice about safety and how to dress and are going goggle-less here at the World Cup. (Hi Dad! Hope you're enjoying the blog!)

Sound: Freddie Mercury, and teen angst about global health issues. Sort of. Mollison pointed me toward this goofy YouTube video, made by the Aussie Roos, the Australian team that was quarantined for in South Korea after one player contracted H1N1, commonly known as swine flu. (The team is coached by Greg Mollison, Paul's brother.) It looks like the Roos were going a little stir-crazy but still having fun. Mattress forts for the win!

 


Semifinal #1 Final Score: USA 20 England 3

According to Player of the Match Sarah Bullard, today was D-Day.

The US blasted England, 20-3, in the semifinal round at the 2009 FIL World Cup, and will advance to the gold medal game on June 27 against the winner of this afternoon's Australia-Canada semifinal.

"Our focus has just been building up in each game. We have little goals, and today was D-Day. We wanted to get everything right defensively -- double teams and controled turnovers -- and I think we did it," said Bullard (2g).

The Americans burst out of the gate with seven fast goals before a lightning delay stopped play at 18:36. Today's delay is believed to be the first ever weather stoppage in World Cup semifinal history. But rain did not dampen the spirits of Team USA, which returned after the break to increase its lead and hold a speedy English team to a tournament-low three goals.

"It's a really strong group of young ladies. It's from within with them. They could choose to lead and they choose to be led by each other," said head coach Sue Heether.

Six different American players scored multiple goals, led by Katie Rowan (3g, 5a). Bullard (2g), the youngest player on Team USA, won Player of the Match for her strong play between the lines.

Starting goalie Devon Wills had three saves in the first half; keeper Megan Huether had one stop in the second half.  Katy Bennett, Charlie Finnigan and Felicity Hermsen each scored for England. Starting English goalie Catherine Gaunt had two saves; backup Anita Thorose had five stops in the second half.

The U.S. now advances to its eight consecutive World Cup final game in its quest to regain the gold from Team Australia, which won the 2005 IFWLA World Cup in Annapolis, Md.

At Long Last, Halftime: USA 15 England 2

The sudden downpour didn't chill the US, who dunked two more goals on the English before Katy Bennett caught a pass off a quick draw control and got Engalnd on the board at 15:30. By my extremely unofficial count, the U.S. leads draw controls 11 to 7, a healthy advantage that bodes well for the second half and the gold medal game.

The rain seems to have totally burned off, leaving us with lots of sun.

Let It Rain: U.S. leads England, 7-0, before weather delay

The U.S. raced to a 7-0 lead on England before the skies opened up and lightning flashed and we went to a weather delay with 18:36 to play in the first half. I think we're going to be here for a while folks. We'll see if this extended delay give England a chance to regroup. The Americans came out a-blazing. The first five shots where goals in 5:33. Kjellman connected with Munday for the last one before the break. U.S. dominates at the X. This is already a long day for England.

Incidentally, the game is being played on Pitch B (turf) rather than Pitch A (grass; currently mud).

Team USA’s first game of the tournament came against England. The Americans got down 2-0 early and went into halftime with a 6-6 tie, but then shook off their early nerves and raced to a 17-8 win.

U.S. scoring leader Lindsey Munday is a double threat -- she can shoot (14 goals on just 17 shots) but will pass (18 assists, also a team high). She may well draw English takedown defender Georgina Hurt, who faced-guarded Jen Adams in England’s 15-4 loss to the Aussies and held Adams to one goal and two assists. (After the match, Adams told Hurt that was the toughest one-on-one defense she’d ever seen.)

Team USA employs a midfield trap strategy that leans on keeper Devon Wills’ (16 saves) athleticism to guard low attackers, but against a very speedy English team, head coach Sue Heether may employ Wills more conservatively.

Stay tuned...


U.S. routs Ireland, 22-5, in first game of knockout round

posted at 6:40 pm Prague time (GMT +2, EST +6)

The U.S. routed Ireland, 22-5, in the first game of the knockout round of the 2009 FIL World Cup, led by eight-point performances from both Lindsey Munday (2g, 6a) and Katie Rowan (3g, 5a). But the Americans have not lost their flair for drama - they briefly trailed Ireland, 4-3, in the first half before rattling off 15 unanswered goals to secure the quarterfinal win in the first meeting of the two programs in FIL competition.

"A lot of it is that we're going to get every team's best effort every time, straight out the gate. But we have the depth that we can handle it. Our coaches do a great job of making adjustments, and we're in it for 60 minutes," said Caroline Cryer (4g, 3a), who won Player of the Match honors.

The game got off to a rocky start when keeper Devon Wills (3 saves) - the keeper who plays with the agility and aggressiveness of an offensively-minded midfielder - drew a yellow card for contact with an Irish player. Team USA then struggled to connect on passes and to beat Irish keeper Alex Kahoe (11 saves), and Irelandès Krista Pellizzi (1g) and Lauren Cohen (3g) strung together two goals to gain a one-goal lead on the Americans.

After a time-out, the Americans came out swinging and went on their dazzling offensive run to put the game out of reach. They dominated the draw controls, 20-9. Cryer led the team with five draw controls; Sarah Albrecht (2g) contributed four DCs.

"We did come out a bit flat. But the midfield made a great change on the field, with Walker, Bullard and Chrest on the circle, and we didn't even have to ask," said head coach Sue Heether.

The U.S. is now 5-0 in the tournament heading into tomorrow's semifinal match against the winner of today's England-Japan game. Two of those wins required comebacks, and even briefly trailing Ireland, a first-time FIL international competition participant came as a surprise. But Team USA's steady play and impressive depth allows them to rise up again and again as they march towards medal competition.

"I don't know what exactly we're going to be on the final day. But I can tell we're working towards it," said Heether.


The Comeback Kids

posted Monday at 9 p.m. (GMT +2, EST + 6)

Continuing in its propensity for dramatic comebacks and posting another second-half shutout, the U.S. rallied to a thrilling 10-9 upset victory over defending world champion Australia in today’s match at the 2009 FIL World Cup.

“They’re a young team. They needed to keep their composure, and they did," said head coach Sue Heether. "We needed to play a smart game, and we did.”

Click here for more post-game quotes and reactions.


FINAL SCORE: U.S. 10, Australia 9 

They did it -- shut out Australia in the second half, won more draw controls, and steadily chipped away at the Aussies' lead. Walker (2g) got the equalizer on a free position at 7:45 and Albrecht (2g) got the game winner on a feed from Cryer (1g, 1a) on a strong cut to the center that she slammed home for the win. Overall Team USA had some long posessions that turned into goals, over and over again until they pulled into the lead.

Australia controlled the final draw, and with about three minutes to play, it was in the Australian end. Under pressure, Adams flipped a tricky pass to Sonia LaMonica near the crease, but LaMonica couldn't quite contain it, and Huether picked up the GB. The US ran a textbook stall for the remaining time. Australia didn't start to double until the very, very end of the game and the US ran out the clock. Albrecht had the ball in her stick at the end and took a shot in the final second that went in, but the officials ruled that it was not good.

Quite a second half team, we've got here, eh? Another second half shut out, another win.

15:16 Australia 9 US 7

Three in a row for the US, who is indeed playing a bit more slowly and deliberately. Huether did come in at goal, and has two stops already. The US has won all four draws this half (including the one after goal 7) and there has been a definite momentum shift. Katie Rowan (2g, 1a) just got the most recent goal -- she may be shaping up to be the player of the day at this rate. Skies are getting cloudy -- don't know how much longer the rain will holdoff. Huether kisk got a huge kick save on Adams (and kicked Adams in the process). Adams got a free position on the foul but didn't get the goal. They are not out of this yet, although they have yet to score in this half.

Halftime: Australia 9 US 4

OK, the Americans have slowed -- but not stopped -- the Aussie onslaught. After that time out, Team USA started getting a few draw controls, and Albrecht cut from left to right and caught a beautiful feed from DJ to get the US on the board at 16:53. Kjellman added another point just 24 seconds later, prompting Aussie coach Sue Sofarnos to call a time out to ice the American streak. It didn't quite work -- DJ got the US to 5-3.

But aside from those three goals in 49 seconds, the US attack hasn't found a consistent way to penetrate the frustrating Aussie defense. They're playing it pretty close in, but are preventing the good cuts that the Americans need to get open. The US needs to be patient and wait for the high-percentage shots, which is hard to do when you're down by five.

I see Megan Huether is warming up on the sidelines -- Heether must be contemplating a halftime goalie switch, although Wills made a nice point-blank shot on Forbes and got a key ground ball in the last minute.

The Australians are doing Loyola College proud -- head coach Jen Adams (2g, 1a), alum Stacey Morlang (3g) and recruit Tegan Brown (1a, on an Adams goal) have a combined seven points.

13:38 Australia 5 US 0

Yiiiiiikes. Team USA's propensity for slow starts is catching up with them. The Aussies are dominating at the X and went up 2-0 in just 2:06. Morlang and Adams each have two goals; Nielsen assisted on both Adams tallies. Score notwithstanding, the US defense, especially Oliver, is doing a decent job of causing turnovers and making the Aussies work for those goals. But the American attack just can't get anything going. Goalie McSolvin is playing lights out. American head coach Sue Heether has just called a time out. There's plenty of time here, but someone has got to step up to get this back on track for the US.

Incidentally, based on volume alone, the crowd seems to be leaning pro-Aussie.


LIVE BLOG: USA v. Australia


Grettings from Pitch A! My Internet connection is a little sketchy but I'm going to do my best to keep you updated on the undisputed BIG GAME of the tournament thus far. It's currently breezy and overcast here; I wouldn't be surprised if part of this game ends up being played in the rain. Here are our starting lineups:

USA

Attack
17 Caroline Cryer
21 Katie Rowan
27 Whitney Douthett

Midfield
8 Caitlyn McFadden
9 Lindsey Munday
13 Acacia Walker
18 Katie Chrest
19 Sarah Bullard

Defense
1 Amber Falcone
4 Michi Ellers
14 Regina Oliver

Goalie
3 Devon Wills

Australia

Attack
8 Hannah Nielsen
11 Sonia LaMonica

Midfield
7 Jen Adams
9 Sarah Mollison
15 Alicia Moodie
21 Stacey Morlang
22 Courtney Inge
23 Sarah Forbes
24 Tegan Brown

Defense
10 Megan Barnet
16 Tess McLeod

Goalie
14 Sue McSolvin


Team USA's Record-Setting Win; Seoul Patrol

posted Saturday, June 20 at 6:41 p.m. (GMT +2, EMT +6)

Linsdey Munday – and the rest of Team USA – put on a show in the Americans’ 26-12 defeat of Japan in the 2009 FIL World Cup tournament.

The diversity of the offensive output from Team USA was staggering, with six players scoring multiple goals. Read the complete game recap here...

Team USA has Sunday off and will face reigning world champion Australia at 11:30 a.m. (Prague time) Monday on Pitch A.

In the meantime, here's a feature on the South Korean team making its international debut here in Prague.


“I’m with you all day. Let’s play a little bit.”


That's what defender Michi Ellers shouted to her American teammates as they retook the field after halftime. And that’s exactly what Team USA did, and turning a 4-3 deficit into an 11-4 victory over Canada on Friday. The Americans are now 2-0 in World Cup pool play.

“We didn’t really adjust anything on offense or defense. What we decided to do was to claim the grass,” said head coach Sue Heether.

Draw controls took a turn for the better in the second half. Canada dominated 7-1 at the X in the first half but Team USA started crashing the ball in the second and won 7 of 9 draws. They also unleashed a furious ride that made it difficult for the Canadians to get anywhere when they did get possession.

“We got the ride going better. We were forcing them and the help was there, from attack to defense,” said goalie Devon Wills (7 saves). Wills came out of the cage a few times to help provide a spark for Team USA, much to the delight of the crowd. A lot of foreign players never get to watch a goalie with Wills’ speed and athleticism (she can switch hands, too) and believe me, she’s a sight to see.

As for Canada, the team employs a zone defense with a conservative backer. They struggled yesterday against Australia, but things seemed to be going better against the U.S. until the American ride started to click. We'll see if they stick with the plan versus a very speedy English team tomorrow.

“We had much more of an attacking mindset in the second half. In the first half, we were wondering what Canada was going to throw at us, and we were reacting to them instead of forcing them to react to us,” said American midfielder Katie Chrest.

Incidentally, the skies opened up early in the second half, which a) messed up the Internet feed on the game and b) turned an already scrappy game into a slippery one. No one seemed to mind playing in the rain, but the U.S. and Canada like to get chippy with each other and slicking up the field added to the match’s physicality. The Canadian coaches (Harvard’s Lisa Miller and Stanford’s Amy Bokker) were furious with the unsportsmanlike red card that star player Mandy Friend received at the end of the game, which DQ’s her for the  England game. To my untrained eye, it looked like Friend had her feet set when she initiated contact with Katie Rowan, who caught a long pass from the defensive end near midfield and was just turning towards Friend when they collided. But the umpires said that it was unsportsmanlike because it was a blind hit.

“Any time you put the Canadian team and the U.S. team on any field – or on any rink of ice – it’s going to be like that. It’s always a grudge match. It’s patriotism coming out,” said Heether.

I asked Heether if having a second half team made her nervous. She rejected the premise of the question.

“This team has heart and passion but it doesn’t necessarily come out in-your-face in the first half. We have faith in our system and we have faith in our players. Technically it was a comeback, but to call it a comeback…I’m not sure you’re giving the players enough credit for their guts and their glory,” said Heether.


U.S. Roars Back in Second Half to Defeat Canada, 11-4

Here's the quick-and-dirty on Team USA's win over our northern neighbors; will post later with more stats. I hear there was trouble w ith the web feed -- I suspect it was the result of a bad rainstorm that blew into town just as the second half kicked off. 


U.S. Opens with a Win, Defeats England 17-8

posted Thursday June 18, 9:16 pm (GMT +2 or EST +6)

After a slow start, the U.S. team rallied from an early 2-0 deficit to defeat England, 17-8, in its first match of the 2009 FIL World Cup. Midfielder Kristen Kjellman led all scorers with five goals, four of which came in the second half. The Americans scored nine unanswered goals to start the second period, putting the game out of reach for the upset-minded English...Click here for the full game story.

I was sitting next to FIL president  Feffie Barnhill for the first half, and when Sarah Bullard (2g, 1a) tied the game at 2-2 off a pretty assist from Lindsey Munday, Barnhill mentioned that Bullard is the baby of the team.

“She’s just 20 years old! That’s her first World Cup goal!” said Barnhill, a past chair of the US Lacrosse Board of Directors and former William & Mary head coach.

Then she paused and added, “But I guess that’s true for all of them.”

When you look at the U.S. roster, it’s so chock-full of All-Americans that it’s hard to imagine them feeling nervous, or to remember that the entire team consists of World Cup rookies. Now that they have the “freshman jitters” out of the way, the rest of the field had better watch out. Tomorrow the U.S. takes on Canada, who lost 16-11 to the Aussies earlier today.


Photos: FIL World Cup Opening Ceremonies

posted Thursday, June 18 at 6:56 p.m. (GMT +2 or EST +6)

Click the thumbnail below for some photo highlights of Wednesday's parade of nations in Prague, where 16 teams converge for the 2009 FIL Women's World Cup.

Photos: FIL World Cup Opening Ceremonies

LMO's Clare Lochary captures the parade of nations in Prague, where 16 teams are vying for the 2009 FIL Women's World Cup... [SEE PHOTOS]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let the Games Begin

posted Wednesday June 17 at 10:30 p.m.  (GMT +2 or EST +6)

Just back from the Opening Ceremonies for the FIL World Cup! There was a lot of pomp and circumstance since this is the first World Cup under the auspices of the FIL, the newly formed international governing body of both men's and women's lacrosse. There were a handful of speakers to mark the occasion -- current FIL president Feffie Barnhill, outgoing IFWLA president Fiona Clark and Prague mayor Pavel Bem.

The ceremonies had a definite international flair. All announcements and speeches were read in Czech and English, and there was a gorgeous rendition of the Czech national anthem, "Kde domov muj?" ("Where is my homeland?"), played live on the viola.
 
But the highlight, as ever, was the parade of nations. In all, 16 nations marched into the arena waving their colors high. The Czechs got the biggest cheer from the gracious crowd. They seem truly thrilled to be hosting the World Cup on their home turf. I'll post some pictures soon.
 
After the ceremony, I caught up with U.S. head coach Sue Heether. She said her team is thrilled with the fields, the food and the hospitality in Prague, but after a week of training, they're very, very ready to play.
 
"We couldn't have gone another day without an opponent. We're ready to unleash ourselves," said Heether.
 
The Americans will unleash themselves upon Team England tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. our time. You can watch that game, and the entire tournament, live on the web at Nova Sport. (Just search for "Lakros" in the left-hand sidebar menu.)

Things get started at 10 a.m. with Austria versus Denmark.


World Cup Promotional Video

posted Wednesday, June 17 at 7:29 p.m. (GMT +1 or EST +6)

Check out this video promoting the 2009 FIL World Cup. Opening ceremonies ongoing...


Greetings from Praha!

posted Wednesday, June 17 at 4:15 pm (GMT +1, or EST +6)

Hello readers! I made it to my hotel in one piece. Prague is a beautiful city full of spires and churches and elaborate embassies befitting a European capital. It definitely feels far from home, although the bus boy who helped me with my luggage tells me there are other laxers in the hotel. (The American team is staying elsewhere, much closer to the stadium.) He also asked me "Why are you so small with so many bags?"

In my defense, I am a glorified courier for the national team, and had to bring some gear along with me. Now I'm off to deliver it -- and catch the opening ceremonies -- at Slavia Praha.


Ten to Watch

posted Monday, June 16 at 3 p.m. Eastern

The 2009 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women's World Cup commences Wednesday with opening cermonies in Prague, Czech Republic. Can Team USA reclaim the gold? That's not the only storyline bubbling to the surface this week.

Here are 10 things to watch for at the World Cup.

1. Australia's Sarah Forbes
The names Jen Adams and Hannah Nielsen are familiar to most young lacrosse fans, but Forbes was the one who really started the Australian invasion. Forbes, a Maryland alum, was a member of three national championship teams and one runner-up during her career as a Terp. She won the 1997 NCAA National Offensive Player of the Year honors as a senior, and helped lay the foundation of Maryland's legendary seven-year championship dynasty. Forbes' college career came before the advent of the restraining line, when it was harder for an individual player to stand out amidst a jumble of 11 defenders, but the Australian team captain is a force to be reckoned with. Forbes (and Adams and Nielsen and Sonia LaMonica, for that matter) has experience defending a title, so the Americans will have to work hard to plunder the gold from Down Under.

2. New Kids on the Block
No, NKOTB will not be on hand to sing at the opening ceremonies, although there is a Depeche Mode concert scheduled for June 25 at Slavia Praha (the same venue as the Cup) for any ‘80s music fans attending the tournament. I'm talking about the whopping six new teams that have entered the World Cup fray since 2005. Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Korea, the Netherlands and the Haudenosaunee will be first-time World Cup participants, grouped together in Pool C. There are 16 teams total in competition, an all-time high.

3. Crowd Control
This year's FIL tournament runs (partially) concurrent with the annual Prague Cup, one of Europe's premier summer lacrosse tournaments. The men will play June 17-20 and the women's tournament is June 22-25. Given that that there are more teams than ever before and a bunch of laxers in the vicinity, there could be some pretty decent crowds at Slavia Praha. A friendly match on June 12 between Australia and England sold more than 1,000 tickets in advance.

4. You've got a Friend
Two expected stars of the Canadian national team are Mandy Friend and her kid sister, Abbey. Mandy, an attacker/midfielder recently graduated from the University of Richmond, where she led the Spiders in ground balls (34) and turnovers (26) and ranked second in goals (47), assists (19), points (66) and draw controls (36) this year. Abbey, just 16, is a junior middie at Canandaigua (N.Y.) High and an early commit to the University of North Carolina. (The Friends' father, Jeff, holds Canadian citizenship.)

The younger Friend recently got caught up in a high-end version of what has become a familiar problem for girls who have conflicting commitments to club and scholastic lacrosse teams: she had to miss the Braves' New York State Class B semifinal on June 12 to travel overseas to practice with Team Canada. Canandaigua lost, 13-9, to Yorktown. The game was closer than the final score would indicate, with seven ties and four lead changes. Canandaigua coach Sue Ellis downplayed Friend's absence to The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, but teammate (and early Johns Hopkins commit) Taylor D'Amore did not mince words: "I'm not going to talk about the Abbey thing. It was her decision. She left us. But I think we went out there and gave what we had."

5. Irish for a Day
Fans of American college lacrosse will see some familiar names on the Irish roster. As an emerging lacrosse nation, Ireland's eligibility rules are extremely inclusive -- anyone with an Irish-born grandparent or spouse, or with two years of residency in Ireland, can play. Thus, half of the 18-player Irish roster consists of American citizens. Watch for Kristin Blanchette (New Hampshire alum, Brown assistant coach), Lauren Cohen (Maryland alum, C.W. Post assistant), Merritt Cosgrove (a rising senior defensive midfielder at UMass), Jennifer Johnson (Penn State alum, Vermont head coach), Kaitlin Leggio (recent Stony Brook grad), Alex Kahoe (Maryland alum, Duke assistant coach), Krista Pellizzi (Maryland alum) and Jaclyn Rosenzweig (recent UMass grad) to do some wearin' o' the green.

6. I Love Lucy
Lucy Lynch, an English midfielder, is an amazing physical specimen doing her second tour of duty at the World Cup. Since 2005, she spent a year as a graduate student playing for James Madison. Her stats weren't off the charts due to a slowly healing broken leg (Lynch also plays for England's national rugby team and sustained an injury on the pitch), but it allowed her a chance to hone her stick skills that should serve her well in England's attempt to upset the Aussies and the Americans.

7. Close Your Eyes and Think of England
The English, always a contender, could catch the U.S. napping. They beat Australia, 8-6, on June 12 in a friendly warm-up match hosted by Cobham Sports Association. Australia didn't have its whole team for that early game, but it still served as warning to the rest of the field that England came to play. Besides Lynch, Team England boasts giantess midfielder Laura Merrifield, fresh from a final four appearance with Maryland, and Charlotte "Charlie" Finnegan, the University of Virginia's first English lacrosse recruit.

8. Wales Watching
The Welsh are also a team to watch for, although they have a tough road to medal contention. The odds-on, two-time reigning European champs will face the home squad in Pool B, and lost to Scotland and two English teams in an April tournament. Coached by 29-year-old Travis Taylor (a European lacrosse fixture who has also coached men's and women's lacrosse in Bristol, England and has coached the Dutch men's team), the Welsh return half their roster from 2005. One newcomer is goalie Maisie Osteen, a 5'10" goalie from Charlottesville, Va. who graduated from Hofstra in 2008.

9. Dutch Duck
Her name doesn't leap off the roster as obviously as some of the American players in the tournament, but the Netherlands' Ilsa van den Berg just completed her NCAA career at Oregon, where she graduated as the program's all-time leading scorer. The daughter of a Dutch father and a South African mother, van den Berg grew up in Baltimore and winged her way out to Portland for college. (You can read more about it here)

10. Terrible, Terrible Puns
Bad wordplay makes me laugh like nothing else (see: the title of this blog), so I'm going to get all the really obvious lacrosse check/Czech Republic puns out of my system all at once here. Trust me, it's for the best.

Czech it Out!
Illegal Czech
Bad Czech
Bounced Czech (would have been so good for a CR player with a red card, ugh)
Czech baby, Czech baby, one, two, three, four, Czech baby, Czech baby, one two three...
You need to Czech yourself
The Czech cleared (for goalies)
Coat Czech
Playing Czech-ers

(Checkers? Get it? No? I'll stop now.)

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