July 11, 2012

Team USA Women Prepare for North American Challenge Cup

Boston University attacker Danielle Etrasco, who scored two goals in a Team USA intra-squad scrimmage Tuesday, is one of three current college players who will compete for the U.S. in this weekend's North American Challenge Cup.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

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BUFFALO, N.Y.-- It was Danielle Etrasco's 20th birthday when she got the call that she made the cut for the U.S. women's national team. The rising senior attacker at Boston University thought Team USA coach Ricky Fried was kidding.

"I was in shock. I was estatic. I didn't know who to call first," Etrasco said. "It was a dream of mine from when I first started."

Etrasco is one of three current college players on the 24-player roster that participated in an intersquad scrimmage Tuesday at Hamburg (N.Y.) High School. The others are Syracuse attacker Michelle Tumolo and Maryland midfielder Katie Schwarzmann, both Tewaaraton Award finalists. The scrimmage was in preparation for this weekend's North American Challenge Cup, an international tournament where Team USA will face the Canadian and Haudenosaunee teams in Oshawa, Ontario.

Rookie attackers like Etrasco have a chance to make an impact this weekend, as injuries have sidelined team veterans Lindsey Munday (wrist) and Danielle Spencer (hip). The U.S. offense is loaded with individual talent like Katrina Dowd and 2009 World Cup veteran Katie Rowan, but the system set up by Fried and his assistant relies heavily on teamwork and communication.

"Our offense isn't easy, but the actual scoring is easy. Our offense is designed to break down defenses, working for the shot we want to get," Fried said. "We need everybody to take a role in that, like our defense does."

Team USA's scrimmage also included Buffalo-area college players who went toe-to-toe with the best in the world. The final score was 15-8, but the U.S. coaching staff swapped goalies Megan Huether and Devon Wills at the half and switched midfielders between the two squads throughout the game. Some of those midfielders generated offense -- Sarah Albrecht and Kristin Igoe scored three goals apiece. On low attack, Etrasco added two goals and an assist.

"I had a rough first half, but everyone talks you through it. You think college is fast, and then you get here. I like it a lot. The girls bring you to that level, and you can learn from them," Etrasco said. "That's what I'm working on personally, to not be afraid to say what I see."

Team USA hopes to use this training opportunity to perfect its intricate attack.

"We want to work on getting the plays down, getting everything smooth and having possession sets instead of going straight to goal," Etrasco said.

Local players who participated in the Team USA scrimmage included Caitlin Formato (George Mason), Kelsey Marafioti (Boston University), Haley Marafioti (Duquesne), Devon Collins (Syracuse), Lindsey Morgan (Canisius), Maria Kotas (Canisius), Jill Maier (Hofstra) and Jodi Battaglia (Albany).

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