Net Zero: Youth Wins Out in U.S. Team Selections
by Brian Logue | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff
|Colorado native Devon Wills was one of 18 first-time
World Cup players selected for the 2009 U.S. team.|
(Photo: John Strohsacker)
You want change President Obama? No problem. The U.S. women's lacrosse team is delivering it for you.
Four years after a runner-up finish in the World Cup, the U.S. team will head to the Czech Republic this June featuring an 18-player roster that contains zero players with World Cup experience.
How does that stack up against the 2005 team?
That team had 16 players that had played in a combined 22 World Cups, including three players that were playing in their fourth World Cup.
Quinn Carney, a two-time World Cup veteran, was among six players named to the alternate pool following the Champion Challenge in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., where 24 players were competing for a spot among the 18 players allowed for each country by the Federation of International Lacrosse.
"It was a very hard decision, and even more so because I've been a longtime teammate of Quinn's," said U.S. team head coach Sue Heether, who won a gold medal with Carney on the 2001 U.S. team. "We were and are very good friends."
Heether said that the entire selection process was grueling.
"When you just look out onto the field, you start welling up and think, 'Why can't I take 24,'" said Heether. "It's not so much that anyone played poorly, it's just that others played better."
One of the newcomers is goalie Devon Wills, a Colorado native that starred at Dartmouth and tried out for the World Cup team in 2005. She was on the phone with teammate Michele DeJuliius when she got word of her selection.
"We were both like, ‘Oh my god' knowing the final list was out," said Wills. "She read it to me. It's a great feeling, but I wish there were others that could still be a part of the 18."
"This is a nice tight-knit group and when they look to their left and they look to their right, it really is a family-type feeling," said Heether. "But when they look to their left and right, they also know they want to beat out the people on each side of them. It's fiercely competitive."
Although this team doesn't have World Cup experience, it doesn't necessarily lack for international experience. The U.S. team played Canada at the US Lacrosse Women's Division National Tournament in May, travelled to the Czech Republic last summer for the Prague Cup, played Scotland and the Haudenausaunee at the US Lacrosse Stars & Stripes weekend in October, played Japan at the Champion Challenge event last weekend and will play England and Wales at the South of the Border tournament in North Carolina this weekend.
The U.S. team will be dramatically different from 2005 not just in terms of names, but in terms of age. Six of the final 18 players are currently on collegiate rosters. The youngest U.S. team players in 2005 - Lauren Aumiller, Rachael Becker and Kate Kaiser were all two years removed from college.
Among the current collegians that stood out in Florida was Duke sophomore Sarah Bullard, a key player on the U.S. U-19 team that won a world championship in 2007.
"She was everywhere she needed to be and more," said Heether while praising Bullard's maturity and leadership. "When she steps out on the field, it's not, ‘Oh wow.' She comes on and says, ‘Here I am. How can I make you better?' She's found her niche."
The younger players will have some veterans to look up to for leadership. DeJuliis, a member of the national team program for the last decade, is one of three alternates from the 2005 World Cup team, joining Katie Chrest and Acacia Walker. Chrest and Walker were members of the U.S. team that won an U-19 world championship in 1999.
Winning is the goal, but Wills says that the team's motivation will not necessarily be based on bringing back the cup after finishing second to Australia in 2005, ending a streak of four straight World Cup championships in which the U.S. was seemingly pulling away from the rest of the women's lacrosse world.
"It's proof that we have really legitimate competition," said Wills. "We can't just walk out on the field and expect to win just because we're the U.S. We do have to really work hard."