July 16, 2012

U.S. Women Survive Scare in Challenge Cup Finale

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Katrina Dowd had three goals and two assists Sunday in Team USA's 15-11 comeback win over Canada White in the North American Challenge Cup.

© JC Pinheiro

OSHAWA, Ontario -- In its third and final match of the North American Challenge Cup, the U.S. women's national team got its toughest challenge of the tournament Sunday, rallying from a first-half deficit to defeat Canada White 15-11.

Led by former NCAA draw controls record holder Dana Dobbie (three goals, three assists and four draw controls), the Canadians had a 7-3 draw advantage and a 6-4 lead with less than two minutes left in the first half. After Sarah Albrecht scored on a feed from Laura Zimmerman to put Team USA up 1-0, Canada went on a 5-2 run. It was the only time the U.S. trailed in the entire exhibition series.

"We came out a little slower than we normally do," Albrecht said. "We started concentrating on doing the little things, and once we started doing that, we started coming back."

And what a comeback it was.

The U.S. scored four goals in 45 seconds to take an 8-6 halftime lead. Albrecht started the run, cutting in from the top of the 8-meter arc and putting a feed from Katrina Dowd (3g, 2a) in the back of the net with 46.5 seconds remaining. The U.S. nabbed the subsequent draw, Zimmerman drew a foul and scored on a free position just 26 seconds later to tie the game at 6. Then Dowd scored her own fast-break goal. Danielle Etrasco, the weekend's breakout star, capped the run with a free position with one second left.

"We saw each other a little bit better, and we were able to get a lot of space that way. If you have a lane, then a lot of these girls can do a lot of damage," said Albrecht, the Player of the Match.

A game featuring five ties and four lead changes was a distinct change of pace from Team USA's first two games in the North America Challenge Cup, in which they defeated Canada Red and the Haudenosaunee by a combined score of 41-4. Canada White, which featured former NCAA stars like Dobbie, Crysti Foote and Lindsay Hart Svec, gave the Americans their first true test.

The Canadians tied Sunday's game once in the second half, but the U.S. never surrendered the lead. Etrasco's team-high four goals gave her 15 in three games.

"The biggest thing we did was to wake up a little bit, play a little bit more poised, be under control, weather the storm," Team USA coach Ricky Fried said. "It's good for us to get challenged and to see how we respond."

The U.S. closed out the North American Challenge Cup with a perfect 3-0 record, a good sign for the defending Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Cup champions. The tournament served as a preview of the 2013 World Cup, which will be held in the same venue in Oshawa, Ontario. Team USA will hold its next round of tryouts in late July at UMBC in pursuit of the squad that will return to Oshawa next summer.

"From a lot of perspectives, the trip was very positive. We were able to get a lay of the land, see where we're able to be playing. To win the games the way we did and to come away with a win on the last game, it says a lot about the character of the team," Fried said. "We're going to have a lot of tough decisions to make, which as a coach is a great place to be."

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