This article appears in the April issue of Lacrosse Magazine, a US Lacrosse publication. Join today to start your monthly subscription.
On the Prowl
by Nelson Coffin | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online
|Sarah Albrecht and the U.S. team begin the quest to
bring back the World Cup on June 18 in the Czech
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com
Under one Google listing for Sarah Albrecht is a link to Chicago
Magazine’s Web site and a profile of Sara — sans the
“h” — Albrecht, owner of the chic Chicago
The original search subject, Sarah Albrecht, is a highly decorated member of the 2005 and '06 Northwestern championship squads and a newly-minted member of the U.S. World Cup team.
And she's every bit as stylish as her namesake — if in a different way.
For instance, in that same Google list are links to You Tube clips of the former Wildcats' stick tricks that are the slickest things this side of Mikey Powell.
In one, Albrecht and ex-Maryland great Sonia Judd work on a routine that includes a slew of behind-the-back passes and between-the-legs shots. Solo videos of Albrecht show her delicate “Merry-Go-Round” and gravity-defying “Spinderella” maneuvers.
Yet U.S. women's coach Sue Heether is hardly expecting her star midfielder to become a showboat when the Americans attempt to retake the world title from Australia at the 2009 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Cup, June 17-27, in Prague, Czech Republic.
For starters, that's not really Albrecht's style. In fact, the Harvard assistant, known as “Alby” to her best buds, is much more reserved on the field than one might think — or than Heether wants.
“Our coaches have been trying to find ways to motivate Sarah,” said Heether. “It’s been a challenge because she’s just so stoic.”
That said, Heether is willing to let Albrecht's competitive juices bubble to the surface slowly rather than boil over, mainly because the coach knows just how driven Albrecht is — inside.
While there's not a display of fist-pumping histrionics to her game, Albrecht is there when you need her.
“Sarah generates it all from within,” Heether said. “She takes care of business when she has to.”
Kind of like she did in the 2006 NCAA semifinals, when her overtime goal against Duke sent the Wildcats to the title game against Dartmouth. Her two goals and an assist in the 7-4 victory over the Big Green earned Albrecht tournament MVP honors.
“She absolutely took over and scored the game-winner in overtime,” current U.S. and former Wildcat teammate Lindsey Munday said. “She took on about three Duke defenders, but there was no stopping her.”
In contrast to Heether's assessment of Albrecht, her fiery halftime speech against Dartmouth was every bit as good as her performance on the field.
“She inspired the whole team to leave nothing out on the field,” Munday recalled. “There was absolutely no way that she was going to walk off that field without a win.”
Albrecht's resolve hardens the moment she hits the field, and she is able to ride the ensuing emotional crests and valleys of the game with the skill of a world-class surfer.
“I hit a switch that I am ready to compete,” she said. “When we are able to score a great goal, I celebrate and move on to the next thing. When we do something bad, I figure it out and move on to the next thing. Good or bad, the following play is what really matters and pushes the momentum of the game. Being stoic on the field keeps me focused and on task.”
Staying on task is something that Albrecht feels will help when the U.S. team ramps up its defensive pressure all over the field.
“There are huge similarities between the style that the U.S. team plays and the way that I played at Northwestern,” she said. “It is a very tiring defense, but it is one that speeds the game up for the offense and can generate a good amount of turnovers.”
Playing for Heether, a goalie on the 1993, 1997 and 2001 U.S. world championship teams, has been a relatively smooth transition for Albrecht after serving under the ultra-driven Kelly Amonte Hiller at Northwestern.
“Both (coaches) are intense and very passionate about lacrosse and the team,” she said. “They expect a lot from their players and want the team to thrive.”
Albrecht has that same drive, although she keeps it under wraps most of the time.
“She is the best at conserving her energy and knowing the right time to push it or slow it down,” said U.S. teammate Michi Ellers-Salcedo.
Much like a cat on the prowl.