January 28, 2012

Dowd a Coach by Day, Player by Night

Syracuse assistant scores seven goals against Maryland

by Matt Forman | LaxMagazine.com | Champion Challenge Live Blog

Katrina Dowd scored seven goals for Team USA in a 23-7 win over Maryland, just a few hours after coaching Syracuse in a game against Team England.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — On the field, she's known as "Trix." On the sidelines, she says she comes across as intense. But what happens when Katrina Dowd wears both hats — player and coach — or headbands, as the case may be? For one thing, it makes for a really busy, long day. For another, it shows off the layers of Dowd's talent.

For Dowd, an assistant coach at Syracuse and a Team USA World Cup hopeful, a day that started with coaching in the Orange's exhibition match against the English women's national team ended with a seven-goal performance against Maryland in the nightcap of Team USA's double-header against the Terrapins. Dowd's highlight-filled dandy put an exclamation point on the U.S. national team's sweep of Maryland, 18-3 and 23-7, on Saturday night at Champion Challenge, a US Lacrosse event at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Florida.

Dowd roamed the sidelines for Syracuse's 11:30 a.m. contest against Team England, and left midway through the second half to help — get this — coach at Team USA's youth clinic, from 1-3 p.m. Shortly thereafter, she warmed up with the women's national team, then played in the second of Team USA's split-squad night matches against Maryland.

"It has been a lot of fun," Dowd said. "I knew coming down here that I would have a hectic schedule, especially today. This whole week I made sure Syracuse was well taken care of, they knew their itinerary, so it could be seamless when I wasn't around. But it was great today. Gary [Gait] is such a great coach, and he's played at the national level for Team Canada. He told me, 'Hey, your focus is Team USA. We're OK at Syracuse. We'll take care of it.' That was pretty nice of him to say. That made it easy for me to go back and forth, and just really worry about Team USA."

Many players on Team USA's 38-member roster — which needs to be trimmed to 24 after this weekend in preparation a summer competition tour in Oshawa, Canada, host of the 2013 (FIL) World Cup — are college coaches.

Take a deep breath, then soak in this list: Sarah Albrecht (UMass assistant), Amy Altig (Penn State assistant), Kelly Berger (UMBC head coach), Sarah Bullard (Boston University volunteer assistant), Jillian Byers (Yale assistant), Kirsten Carr (Delaware assistant), Corey Donohoe (Navy volunteer assistant), Amber Falcone (Vanderbilt assistant), Katie Hertsch (Boston University assistant), Erica LaGrow (Florida assistant), Caitlyn McFadden (Florida assistant), Lindsey Munday (Southern California head coach), Gina Oliver (Duquesne assistant), Brittany Poist (McKendree head coach), Katie Rowan (Albany assistant), Jen Russell (Harvard volunteer assistant), Lauren Schwarzmann (San Diego State assistant), Danielle Spencer (Stanford assistant), Acacia Walker (Boston College associate head coach), Devon Wills (Southern California assistant).

But it's rare to both coach and play in the same weekend event.

"Katrina loves to compete. She loves to play, and now she loves to coach," said U.S. coach Ricky Fried, who estimated he's known Dowd for eight years, since he recruited her as a high-schooler in New York. "She's a little bit of what you would call a lax rat. She always has her stick in her hand. She likes to develop new tricks. The nice thing about Katrina is she's willing to share that ability with kids. I watch her at camps, at clinics, and she just has a great time with them showing what she can do, trying to develop them as players."

Dowd has certainly excited the Orange. During Friday night's exhibition between Team USA and England's national team, Syracuse — after finishing up practice on an adjacent field at the Wide World of Sports complex — cheered on its coach and went wild when Dowd scored 35 seconds into the game. They even made signs to support her.

"Oh, I love (Dowd)," sophomore attacker Alyssa Murray said. "When she was on the field playing, I was joking around saying things like, 'She's my idol!" But really, she's awesome. She's added so much to our team. She's a blast to work with. She definitely adds a little spice into our mix."

A volunteer assistant at Denver University last year, Dowd called Gait last summer about her interest in potentially joining Syracuse's staff. It was wait-and-see mode for a couple months, as Gait hinted there might be an opening on his staff. But in late July, Gait called Dowd and offered an interview. She was quickly hired.

"She's a great addition to our staff," Gait said. "She just lives and breathes lacrosse, and she brings an energy and enthusiasm to our program, with a lot of knowledge. She's a champion, and that's where we're looking to go, and she brings that same philosophy to the program. But she's got a great coaching career ahead of her."

Dowd primarily has worked with the attackers at Syracuse, though she was more hands-on with the defense during halftime of the Orange's 9-9 tie with Team England, pointing out tendencies and ways to approach the English offense.

Dowd shares a smile on the sideline with Syracuse head coach Gary Gait during practice Friday. The former Northwestern star is in her first season as an assistant coach with the Orange.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

"I'm a big dodger myself, and I want to instill that ability in my players," Dowd said. "All players can be great dodgers, so that's something I really make a focus. But as an attacker, I do play a lot at Syracuse during practice drills and 1-v-1's, and I kind of know them better than they know themselves, because I know what to manipulate, I know what they're trying to take away."

There hasn't been much taking away or slowing down of Dowd thus far this weekend. Through two games, she leads Team USA with nine combined goals. And though Fried said the national team wouldn't be "stat-based," Dowd is making an impression that she deserves a spot on the final. Back in 2009, Dowd was called in the final days before the World Cup to fly to Prague in case one of the Team USA players was unable to play due to injury concerns. She didn't get to play that year, but she made a case to be a fixture on the Team USA roster for the foreseeable future.

Fried sees, and has seen, all the pieces to Dowd's puzzle: the raw talents of an athlete, the development of a lacrosse player and the birth of a coaching career.

"She has great hands, and that gets overlooked because you notice the feet, you notice the quick first step," Fried said. "She's developed a good outside shot, which makes her a multiple threat. Her vision has improved tremendously. But without a doubt, her quickness goes without saying. You watch it, and even we're wowed at times. It's hard not to be. She just to learn when to use that, and when it's appropriate.

"She's always had the physical tools, that's obvious just watching her play. Sometimes she has to make sure that she doesn't rely just on her physical tools, rely on her mental capacity, because it has grown the last couple years. And the ability to communicate to her teammates — that's one of the pieces that people take for granted, at times — but she's starting to get in that position, where we're looking for her to be a vocal leader, not just a lead-by-example-type of person.

"She's going to have to continue to work on not being able to show people what to do, but being able to explain to people what to do. Most people aren't going to be able to do what she can do physically, so teaching them the game as opposed to that skill set, that's the area where she'll have to work. That's why you hear stories about excellent players who don't become good coaches, because they get frustrated with people who can't do what they can do. For her, she has a lot of patience. She is becoming more of a student of the game, and those attributes will take her a lot further along. She's being more comfortable with herself, frankly, and being able to communicate and not just showing it on the field."

"As her game continues to evolve, she's going to be one of those ambassadors that can really excite people about our game."

Fried Talks Team USA's Sweep of Maryland

Team USA coach Ricky Fried, on the takeaways from Saturday's sweep of Maryland: "The biggest thing is, comparing both games today, we had a long lull in the first game. We started off very, very strong and scored our first four shots, but then got a little lackadaisical mentally. That's one of the things we're really trying to focus on, is playing a complete game. That doesn't mean not making a mistake, but it means not allowing the mistake to elongate and be multiple minutes. I thought the second half of the first game we responded really well, 10-1 in the second half and we played under control, did a lot of good things.

"Same thing in the second game. It was a little bit up-and-down in the first half, and I thought Maryland played really well. They were aggressive, and we would go on a run, they would go on a run, we'd go on a run, they'd go on a run. In the second half, we got more under control of ourselves and played together again. Huge credit for our team, because they're playing a very good Maryland Terps team. I know the score doesn't necessarily represent that, but we have excellent players at every position, and they have a lot of young kids that are getting their feet wet. I think this will probably help them down the road, even though it doesn't feel great right at the moment."

On the fitting Northwestern and Maryland flair Saturday, with several players from those schools filling the scoresheet: "Since we have the best players in the country, you would imagine they would come from the best programs in the country, and Maryland and Northwestern for the last decade, or [longer] in Maryland's case, has been one of those dominant programs. Everyone likes to play against their alma mater, or a rival opponent in the ACC, whatever it may be, so you saw some kids come out today and, in our opinion, perform a little bit better than they have at practice, because they're a little bit more comfortable playing within the system that we want to play in, and second, everyone likes to compete at a certain level. It's very nice to beat teams that have been very successful."

There was a piece of Maryland flair missing, however, on Saturday: Karri Ellen Johnson did not play for the Terps' in either game because of an undisclosed, but non-concussion related injury. Johnson missed most of last season with a concussion.

Champion Challenge, a US Lacrosse Event

Team USA Women 18, Maryland 3

USA: 8 10 - 18
Maryland: 2 1 - 3

Goals - USA: Smith 4, McFadden 3, Byers 3, Tumolo 2, Munday 2, Spencer 1, Carey 1, Albrecht 1, Igoe 1; Maryland: Phillips 1, Black 1, Aust 1
Assists - USA: Munday 4, Spencer 2, Smith 1, Carey 1, Albrecht 1
Saves - USA: Wills 4, Altig 3; Maryland: Dipper 14

Team USA Women 23, Maryland 7

USA: 14 9 - 23
Maryland: 6 1 - 7

Goals - USA: Dowd 7, Zimmerman 4, Ancarrow 2, Berger 2, Walker 2, Etrasco 2, Donohoe 1, Cannizzaro 1, LaGrow 1, K. Schwarzmann 1; Maryland: Black 3, Griffin 2, McPartland 1, Phillips 1
Assists - USA: Rowan 5, Zimmerman 2, Donohoe 2, Cannizzaro
Saves - USA: McBrearty 1; Maryland: Dipper 2

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