July 30, 2012

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U.S. Newcomers Eye Spot on World Cup Team

by Matt DaSilva | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Kelly McPartland, a rising sophomore at Maryland, earned a gold medal with the U.S. U19 team in 2011. She and Penn State standout Tatum Coffey hope to make it a Team USA two-fer as the youngest players named to the senior squad Sunday.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

BALTIMORE – Eighty-two of the nation’s top women’s lacrosse players wore exhausted expressions Sunday as they navigated the stairwell and sauntered into a large dormitory suite at UMBC. Three days of intense scrimmages and small-sided drills under the microscope of U.S. senior team coaches and selectors had taken their toll. Several players limped. Others had heat exhaustion, the result of competing on a turf whose surface temperature exceeded 100 degrees.

Yale coach Anne Phillips, the chair of the U.S. women’s national team selection committee, thanked the players for their hard work. “You are the best 82 in the country,” she said, “and we have to announce 36.” Phillips then called out selections based on the numbers they wore for tryouts.

1, 43, 64, 67, 103, 111, 129, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156, 157…

157?

Kelly McPartland, a rising sophomore midfielder at Maryland and member of the gold medal-winning 2011 U.S. under-19 team, perked up in her seat in disbelief. She listened to the remaining numbers and instructions, left the room, found her pinafore and checked the number: 157.

“I’m a little shocked,” she said afterward. “I was not expecting it, not at all. I actually thought it was wrong. I thought they were making a mistake. It’s a huge honor. I’m so happy.”

The road to the 2013 FIL Women’s World Cup and a gold medal defense began in earnest Sunday, as US Lacrosse announced the 36 players who will compete as a training team through the fall. Ten of the 18 players who won the 2009 World Cup in the Czech Republic remain with Team USA today, including team captain Lindsey Munday. But seven players have since retired, including midfielder Acacia Walker, who told US Lacrosse officials Thursday she would not try out. Midfielder Erica LaGrow, a mainstay with the U.S. team since 2007, was cut Sunday.

“It makes today bittersweet. People that we were associated with, we’re not associated with anymore. But tomorrow we move forward and start preparing for the next step,” Team USA coach Ricky Fried said. “It was a great time to infuse some youth with some experience.”

McPartland, 19, was not the youngest player to qualify Sunday. That distinction belonged to Penn State sophomore standout Tatum Coffey, a fellow U.S. U19 team alum who will turn 19 in August. Coffey said it helped “knowing what tryouts were like, being prepared for them and not being scared,” but at times over the weekend she marveled at the company she kept on the field. “When I’m playing, the adrenaline is running and I’m not thinking about anything,” she said. “And then I come home and say, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m playing with my idols.’”

Now Coffey, McPartland and the other newcomers to the senior team – Karri Ellen Johnson (Maryland ‘12), Taylor D’Amore (Johns Hopkins ‘14), Brittany Dashiell (Florida ’14), Kelly Barnes (Georgetown ’12), Becca Block (Syracuse ’13), Iliana Sanza (Maryland ’13), Liz Hogan (Syracuse ’11) and Mikey Meagher (Florida ’14) are all first-timers – will look to unseat an idol or two in hopes of representing the U.S. next summer in Oshawa, Ontario.

“We definitely need to bring it,” Coffey said.

Sunday’s announcement was especially sweet for Hogan, the 2010 IWLCA Goalie of the Year and Syracuse’s all-time saves leader who fell short in two previous U.S. team tryouts.

“By nature I’m a competitive person. When someone tells me I can’t do it, that makes me want to do it,” Hogan said.

Hogan was one of five goalies retained on the 36-player roster. She and Meagher are Team USA rookies, joining veterans Devon Wills, Megan Huether and Kendall McBrearty.

“It’s like being a freshman all over again, trying to find that senior that’s going to carry you through,” Hogan said.

Both Phillips and Fried praised the quality of goalie play throughout the weekend, especially considering the demands put on the position by Team USA’s aggressive brands of defense and riding.

“Not only do they need to save the ball, but they need to be able to play outside the crease in our ride as well as our defense and direct our defense at the same time,” Fried said.

The U.S. team will reconvene in Baltimore for a training weekend in September and again in October for the US Lacrosse Stars & Stripes event in Palo Alto, Calif. It will be pared down to 24 players after another training weekend in November. The final 18-player World Cup team roster is expected to be announced after Champion Challenge, a US Lacrosse event in January.

Phillips’ Last Selection Sunday

Phillips, who in four years helped redefine the player evaluation process to be more objective and transparent, will cycle off as selection committee chair. Columbia coach Liz Kittleman, a former U.S. Elite team manager, will take over in that capacity.

Phillips’ commitment to objectivity showed Sunday in her notebook filled entirely with numbers and no names. She institutionalized a four-pronged approach that grades players on technical (stick skills), tactical (lacrosse IQ), physical (speed and quickness) and psychological (confidence and communication) abilities.

Phillips recalled being "overwhelmed" as a first-time selector five years ago before vowing to streamline the process as its chair the following year. “We were discussing one player, and I was a Division III coach [at Franklin & Marshall] at the time. They were so deadlocked on this, for and against," Phillips said. "They said, ‘Anne, what do you have?’ I read my notes and said, ‘This is what I have for her technical ability, her tactical ability, her physical ability and her psychological ability.’ And what do you have for the other player? And I said, ‘This is what I have for her technical ability, tactical ability’ and so on. And they said, ‘Do you have that for everyone?’ I evaluated them all the same way. That’s how I thought it was fair.”


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