October 3, 2012

USA-Australia Showdown Headlines Stars & Stripes Event

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Team USA and Australia will renew the biggest rivalry in international women's lacrosse at this weekend's US Lacrosse Stars & Stripes event in Palo Alto, Calif.
© Pellerins Photography

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America versus Australia. In women's lacrosse, there's just nothing like it.

"It's always a battle, and it's always been a battle," U.S. team captain Lindsey Munday said.

The last time the two teams met was in the final of the 2009 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women's World Cup in Prague, Czech Republic. The Americans held on for an 8-7 win and reclaimed the gold that they'd lost in 2005, when the Australians prevailed 14-7 in the title match

"We were so close, and there was that feeling if we could have had a couple more minutes, we could have got there," Australian midfielder Marlee Paton said of the '09 meeting.

The two teams will meet again this weekend at the 11th annual US Lacrosse Stars & Stripes event, held in Palo Alto, Calif., at Stanford University and nearby Burlingame High School, for the first time since Prague. The event, which begins Wednesday, features five international teams and local NCAA squads Cal and Stanford, but of the event's 18 games, the U.S.-Australia match, scheduled for 10 a.m. PST on Sunday, is the marquee event.

"For us we're really excited to play them again," Munday said. "The level of stickwork, and fitness, and playing together at a really, really high level – for spectators, that's a really exciting thing to watch."

The Australians will be without legendary superstar Jen Adams, who is being inducted into the University of Maryland Hall of Fame this weekend. But there are 12 current and former NCAA players including Paton (Loyola), Hannah Neilsen (Northwestern) and Sarah Mollison (Maryland) on the Team Australia roster. The Aussies are known for their speed and their craftiness around the crease and a crowd-friendly, freewheeling style of lacrosse.

"Our biggest strength is having a creative and free-flowing kind of lacrosse," Paton said. "Some [NCAA] teams are really set in their system, and we have great coaches who allow us to open up. It's a fast-paced transition game, and we have that crazed movement in the attacking end."

Max Madonia will coach Team Australia in Palo Alto, returning to the head coaching job after winning gold in 2005 but sitting out the 2009 games. Stars & Stripes will mark the first U.S.-Australia matchup under the helm of American coach Ricky Fried, who was an assistant on the 2009 squad and elevated to head coach shortly thereafter. Fried's emphasis for Team USA has been creating a 12-player ride to disrupt clears and force other teams out of their rhythm.

"The ride is something we take a lot of pride in because it is something we can all work together at one time," Munday said. "That's when we come together as a team, and work together to create some problems for the other team."

Munday and Paton made their respective senior team debuts in Prague. They are now team veterans who lead the way for the up-and-comers. Seven players who competed for Australia's U19 team in the 2011 FIL U19 Women's World Cup have graduated to the senior team. Australia was a runner-up in that event, too, blowing an early lead in the final game and ultimately falling, 14-11, to the U.S. Two players from the American U19 team, midfielders Tatum Coffey (Penn State) and Kelly McPartland (Maryland), will compete with the senior women at Stars & Stripes.

Of the 40 players on the current U.S. roster, only 10 played in Prague. The rest of them will be experiencing women's lacrosse's greatest rivalry for the first time. The Sunday game, to be aired live on ESPN3.com, will renew an old rivalry and set the stage for the 2013 FIL Women's World Cup.

Munday has tried to explain it to the newer players on the team.

"The vets have been telling the younger players how special the rivalry is," Munday said.

Words don't suffice, though. You have to play it to believe it.

Check back to LaxMagazine.com through Sunday for coverage from US Lacrosse's Stars & Stripes event.


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