January 27, 2012

Champion Challenge Kicks Off With Team USA Women's Win

Notre Dame men get past Jacksonville in scrimmage

by Matt Forman and Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Champion Challenge Live Blog

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The U.S. women's national team kicked off 2012 Champion Challenge with a bang — and quickly.

Less than 30 seconds into the seventh annual US Lacrosse event at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Florida, Katrina Dowd isolated behind the cage, charged from behind and fired a shot past England goaltender Sally Keogh, giving Team USA an advantage it didn't relinquish the rest of the night. Behind a 13-for-23 first-half shooting effort and five assists from Corey Donohoe, the U.S. topped England, 18-4, in the weekend's opener.

"We moved the ball really, really well in the first half. We dominated the play of the game pretty much, from the defensive end all the way through the offensive end," U.S. coach Ricky Fried said. "The disappointing part was the second half; we didn't shoot as well as we would have liked. We got caught up in the score a little bit, and relaxed a little more than we should've. But a good learning experience. It's the first step of two-and-a-half games for everybody to play this weekend."

Team USA plays split-squad games Saturday evening against national runner-up Maryland (5 and 7 p.m.), and on Sunday the team faces the defending national champions Northwestern (11 a.m. ESPN3, re-air 10 p.m. on ESPNU). But Friday night's contest started a critical weekend for the women's national team, as it marks this group's final gathering before the 38-player 2011-12 roster is trimmed to 24 in preparation for a summer competition tour in Oshawa, Canada, host of the 2013 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL). This was the first time the team had played together since the Stars & Stripes Weekend in October, and the first time the women's national team faced international competition.

Danielle Etrasco scored off a Corey Donohoe assist, one of Donohoe's five helpers, in Team USA's 18-4 opening night romp over England at Champion Challenge, a US Lacrosse event.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

"This weekend is big," Fried said. "This is kind of a culmination of things, where we see who is starting to understand what we want to do. They can all execute, obviously, at a really high level. They're all very good players. We're looking for, in this case, the 24 best players that play together. Who complements each other well? Who's in the right place? Who's doing the little things consistently, as opposed to just the things they're capable of doing?

"The biggest thing is that they play really well together as a group. While they're all trying to attain the same goal of making the next World Cup Team, they also realize it's about something a little bit bigger — the national team in general — and they're willing to sacrifice some personal goals to make sure the team is going well. A lot of people look at national teams and think All-Star team and individual players. The biggest thing we want to take away is watching how disciplined our team can be playing together, and not focusing on individual results."

At the same time, it was hard to ignore the performance by Donohoe, who was the night's star and set up scores by Dowd, Casey Ancarrow, Danielle Etrasco and Laura Zimmerman (twice). What was working for Donohoe?

"Just open cutters, making the extra pass to get the open look," Donohoe said. "When you're playing with these top-level women, everyone makes each other look so good. People are cutting if the timing is down right, and it's easy for me to find them. They're doing the hard part, they're getting open, they're making the cut. The offense was just flowing really well, and when you get in motions like that, you get the momentum going and it works. That's what it was: Everyone playing really well together. The biggest thing is playing as a team and focusing on our system, on the offensive and defensive ends. When we do that, everyone looks good. Really just playing together, making your teammates look better, taking the opportunities when you have it."

Thirty minutes after the start of the USA-England game, the Notre Dame men started a five-quarter scrimmage against Jacksonville on an adjacent field at the Wide World of Sports Complex. The Irish prevailed 12-6.

Practice uniforms were worn but the play had a real-game feel. Coaches screamed instructions and after a stall warning was called on Jacksonville in the first quarter with the score tied at one, the Dolphins bench yelled "They're playing good defense," about Notre Dame's traditionally strong unit.

The first quarter ended knotted at one and neither team got any offense in the second until 7:59 left when Jacksonville freshman attackman Ari Waffle finished a tic-tac-toe play on the crease to beat Notre Dame goalie John Kemp. The Dolphins led 3-2 at halftime and Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan was clearly not pleased. During a timeout in the first half, he let his offense know it, telling them to move the ball and playing simple and smart instead of "trying to re-invent the game of lacrosse."

Notre Dame only broke the game open with a 4-0 third quarter that featured two goals from sophomore attackman Westy Hopkins, who finished with a game-high four scores. Junior attackman Ryan Foley also looked strong for the Irish with two goals. The Irish added four goals in the fourth. Kemp unofficially made five saves in a full five quarters in goal.

For Jacksonville and first-year head coach Guy Van Arsdale the scrimmage marked the first real competition for the Dolphins since the new coaching staff came on board in August. They had no scheduled fall ball scrimmages. Van Arsdale said after the game he was pleased with the effort. David Goldman led in scoring with two goals.

"We really competed," Van Arsdale said. "Our guys held up well. It's a great event for our kids to have and play an opponent like Notre Dame that's so well coached and so talented. I think we're going to be competitive."

The Dolphins were to bus three hours back north to Jacksonville late Friday night into Saturday morning. But Notre Dame will remain for a combined practice with the U.S. men's national team at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Four other games -- the English women's national team plays Syracuse and Northwestern, and the U.S. women's national team's pair against Maryland -- are also on tap Saturday, along with national team youth and coaching clinics.

Champion Challenge, a US Lacrosse event

Team USA Women 18, Team England 4

USA: 13 5 - 18
England: 2 2 - 4

Goals - USA: Ancarrow 3, Byers 2, Dowd 2, Walker 2, Zimmerman 2, Schwarzmann 2, McFadden 1, Bullard 1, Igoe 1, Smith 1, Spencer 1, Etrasco 1; England: Gray 1, Merrifield 1, Watt 1, Lafferty 1
Assists - USA: Donohoe 5, Carey 1, Rowan 1, Munday 1
Saves - USA: Wills 1, McBrearty 0, Huether 3, Altig 2; England: 12

Notre Dame Men 12, Jacksonville 6 (five-quarter scrimmage)

Notre Dame: 1 1 4 4 2 - 12
Jacksonville: 1 2 0 2 1 - 6

Goals - ND: Hopkins 4, Foley 2, Rogers 1, Pfeifer 1, Murphy 1, Corrigan 1, Marlatt 1, McCollough 1; Jax: Goldman 2, Waffle 1, Kenary 1, Tissenbaum 1
Assists - ND: Rogers 1, Pfeifer 1, Cotter 1; Jax: Gurowski 1, Kenary 1, Mann 1
Saves - ND: Kemp 5; Jax: DeLuca 2, Niklason 3, DiScala 3

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