Blogs and Commentary

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:

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!

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