January 27, 2013

Team USA Clips Wildcats to Close Champion Challenge

Team members now play waiting game ahead of World Cup roster announcement

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | Live Blog Replay

Team USA captain Lindsey Munday tallied four points to be named player of the game against Northwestern on Sunday at Champion Challenge.
© Scott McCall

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The U.S. women's national team used a balanced attack to cruise to a 16-9 victory over defending NCAA champ Northwestern in its third and final game of Champion Challenge weekend. The U.S. finished with a perfect 3-0 record against the Wildcats, Syracuse and Team England in its final weekend of training before this week's announcement of the 18-player roster that will compete in the 2013 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women's World Cup this summer in Oshawa, Ont.

"Our biggest thought is to improve every time we're together. It is the last time the 25 of us will be together, so we need to cherish this, and we've just got to go out there and play," said U.S. team captain Lindsey Munday, who won player of the game honors Sunday against Northwestern with a one-goal, three-assist performance.

The Wildcats opened scoring on an unassisted goal from senior midfielder Taylor Thornton, and the two teams traded goals for the first quarter of the game. But the U.S. took the lead for good when midfielder Kelly Berger (one goal, two assists) dished to attacker Sarah Albrecht (two goals), who converted a low crease shot at 12:54 of the opening quarter. A 9-2 run in late in the second half gave Team USA a comfortable 10-4 halftime lead. Overall, 12 different players scored for the U.S., despite a solid performance by Northwestern goalie Bridget Bianco (13 saves).

"This was a great test for us, because she did make a bunch of saves. So the attack and the midfield, we did have to take a breath and really focus on putting it around her," Munday said.

USA attackers Shannon Smith and Michelle Tumolo led the U.S. with three goals each. Thornton paced the Wildcats with a pair of goals.

"We're in the high teens [on offense] on average, which is a great thing, against really quality opponents," USA coach Ricky Fried said.

Team USA averaged 18.3 goals per game during Champion Challenge.

Northwestern had a slight edge on the draw, winning 15 of 27 attempts, thanks to junior midfielder Alyssa Leonard, the Wildcats' ace draw specialist. Leonard won 12 draws herself.

While no frontrunner has emerged as a go-to draw person for the U.S., Fried is willing to trade specialized skills for overall athleticism. With FIL rosters capped at 18, nearly half the size of a typical NCAA roster, versatility takes precedence.

"Everyone has different philosophies. If there was a draw specialist who was able to play the field as well as some of the people on our team do, that would be the way we'd go," Fried said.

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Albrecht, Kristen Carr and Allyson Carey all took the draw for the U.S. Though they had few clean wins in the air versus Leonard, thanks to strong offball play and its midfield ride, Team USA caused 16 turnovers and dominated possession.

Defensively, the U.S. performed well against a young Northwestern offense still trying to find a replacement for Smith, the former Tewaaraton Award winner and now first-year Hofstra coach who graduated last year. Devon Wills started in the goal for the U.S. and made four saves in the first half. Goalies Liz Hogan and Megan Huether split time in the second half, with Hogan contributing a save.

The game was chippy, with both teams accumulating multiple yellow cards.

"Early we were playing a little tight. There's a lot at stake individually, and it looked like that," Fried said. "We got settled in late in the second half. We really talked to them about letting the ball do more of the work, and the easy shots started happening."

For now, the players have done all they can do to make their respective cases for a spot on the team. Fried and his staff will make their decisions and inform players individually, and the final roster will be released to the public early this week. All of the 25 players will be invited to continue training with the team, and two alternates will be selected closer to the July 10 start date of the tournament.

"We asked them to focus on playing together and get the other stuff out of their minds," Fried said. "Now, that's easier said than done."

2013 Champion Challenge, a US Lacrosse event

USA 10 6 - 16
NU 4 5 - 9

Goals: USA — Smith 3, Tumolo 3, Albrecht 2, Rowan 2, McFadden, Berger, Igoe, Schwarzmann, Munday, Etrasco; NU — Thornton 2, Macaluso 2, Fitzgerald 2, DeRonda 1, Rich 1, Mupo 1.
Assists: USA — Munday 3, Berger 2, Tumolo, Schwarzmann, Etrasco, McPartland, Dashiell; NU — Macaluso, Cassera.
Saves: USA — Wills 4, Hogan 1, Huether 0; NU — Bianco 13.
Draws: USA 12, NU 15
Ground Balls: USA 21, NU 14
Clears: USA 10-13, NU 8-16
Turnovers: USA 14, NU 24

Check back to LaxMagazine.com this week for the Team USA Women's World Cup roster announcement.

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