October 11, 2010

Age Just A Number for 15-Year-Old U.S. U19 Star Cortney Fortunato

by Dan Hickling | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

"Everyone loves each other," says U.S. U19 training team midfielder Sammy Jo Tracy, pictured here in action against Mass. Elite on Sunday, "and it's only the first week."

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The names have been known for a full two months. It was now time to put them with faces, which is what U.S. U19 women's lacrosse coach Krystin Porcella and her staff were able to do Sunday at the annual Stars and Stripes Weekend, a US Lacrosse event.

The event was hosted this year by Harvard University, and gave Porcella her first look at the 24-member training team that was selected in August.

“It's a chance to me to get to know them, better,” said Porcella, who was an assistant on the 2007 gold medal-winning U.S. team. “And for them to know me, too.”

What Porcella knows about this group, after seeing it dismantle two strong Massachusetts club teams, is that it's loaded with talent, from front to back.

With the likes of Jen Cook, Cortney Fortunato, Kayla Treanor and Shannon Gilroy leading the way, Team USA had no trouble filling the net in its 18-4 rout of Team Revolution.

Fortunato, a sophomore at Northport (N.Y.) High School, said that the Stars and Stripes Weekend helped bring home the notions of national pride and teamwork.

“It's an amazing thing to have 'USA' across your chest,” she said. “All the girls get along, and we have really good chemistry, which is great. Sometimes it's tough when you have a lot of girls with a lot of talent come together. But it was easy.”

Fortunato said she was able to soak up everything that Porcella and her staff presented.

“I got a lot of training,” Fortunato said, “and learned new things, like offenses, defenses and systems. It's going really well. We have an amazing coaching staff and an amazing team.”

That thought was seconded by midfielder Sammy Jo Tracy, a junior at Fox Lane High (Bedford, N.Y.).

“I gained so much,” Tracy said. “The coaches gave us great feedback. The girls from all over the country are the coolest and fun loving. I get to know my team better.

“I think everyone's been bonding really well. No one dislikes [anyone]. Everyone loves each other. And it's only been the first week.”

Porcella, head coach at John Carroll School in Bel Air, Md., heads up a four-member Team USA staff made up exclusively of high school coaches. There's not a collegian in the bunch.

According to Porcella, having a coaching group that deals daily with teenagers is the way to go.

“It's actually great,” said Porcella, who played and coached at Loyola University. “The high school athlete is very different from the college athlete. They're at very different points in their lives. So having people who are used to working with that particular age group really helps.

“College coaches have the luxury of being with their student-athletes all the time, with their parents removed from the situations. High school coaches see their players during the season, so you have to have that sense of urgency when you're around them.”

Fortunato, who is barely 15 (which happens to also be her Team USA uniform number), is the youngest of a very young U19 training team. Despite still getting to know her teammates, she said she has also gotten some good-natured teasing about her young age.

“Nothing for real,” she said. “[They're] just kidding. It doesn't really matter how old you are. If you're good enough to be here, then we're all teammates, and we're all at the same level."

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