June 15, 2014

Bring It On: Newcomers Join Veterans on U.S. Team

by Megan Schneider | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

"I've worked really hard to get here," Boston College midfielder Mikaela Rix said. "It's really great to be able to represent the United States. Acacia Walker is my coach and she has been pushing me to do this, and I'm really thankful that she did. It's such an amazing opportunity. She was on the team for I think over 10 years, and she said how much of a great experience it would be. I'm sure it will be." (John Strohsacker)

Team USA Tryouts

* USL Names 38-Player Women's National Team
Preview: Next Generation of Young Talent Swoops In 
Photo Gallery: Day One
Day One: Thunder No Match For U.S. Top Talent During Tryouts                                                * Day Two: Maryland and Syracuse Dynasties Continue to Impress

WASHINGTON -- After three long days of tryouts filled with scrimmages, drills and timed fitness tests, the players' anticipation reached its peak in McDonough Arena, the home of Georgetown University's athletic department, as the announcement they wanted to hear all weekend was finally made – 38 women now earned the honor of sporting the red, white and blue as members of the 2014-15 U.S. women's national team.

"This is the best of the best in the world, and I can guarantee you that with the selection committee that created this roster, I'd be surprised if you find a better one," said Liz Kittleman, chair of the selection committee.

An unbearable silence filled the classroom in McDonough, where players sat amongst their college teammates along with some new friends, as Kittleman slowly read each jersey number one by one from the list on her clipboard.

"It was really nerve-racking. I was next to all Syracuse people and we were all looking out for each other's numbers trying to listen, which was really exciting once you heard your own number and a couple other friends' numbers," said Alyssa Murray, a two-time Tewaaraton finalist who couldn't stop smiling after trying out for the first time this weekend. "It's just one of my dreams that as my career at Syracuse has ended, it's really exciting that I'm able to continue playing at such a high level."

Among these elite athletes named to the roster are 18 tried-and-true veterans, from attacker Lindsey Munday, who graduated from Northwestern in 2006, to this year's Tewaaraton winner Taylor Cummings, who joined the squad in October 2013 for the Stars and Stripes weekend. But 20 newcomers, including Marquette defender Elizabeth Goslee, have made the leap to the international stage as they join world-class athletes to train for the 2017 FIL World Cup.

"We're looking forward to starting to put this team together and 2017 seems like it's worlds away, but it's going to be here before we know it," said coach Ricky Fried, who will look to those veterans to take on a leadership role because nearly 60 percent of the team is comprised of players who graduated this year or will graduate in the coming years.

Players were evaluated on a number of criteria defined by Fried, beginning with the basics of athleticism and stick work. But beyond that, the key factors that qualified players for spots on the roster included thinking on their feet, making good decisions at a high speed, keeping up with the faster pace, proactively reacting to mistakes made and making their teammates on the field better.

"It was really difficult," Murray said. "That's what we expected coming in – that it was going to be a really grueling weekend. But you're playing against the best people in the country. You know what you're walking into so you have to bring it."

One of the biggest tasks the selection committee focused on was filling the holes in Team USA's defense with only one defender – Jen Russell – returning from the 2013 World Cup championship team. Joining Russell are nine young women who Fried identified as aggressive athletes who can play under control in Team USA's signature high-pressure defense backstopped by veteran goalie Devon Wills.

"They're fast, they're energetic and they listen well," said Wills, one of eight players returning from last summer's World Cup. "There's a lot of people that I've watched this past season, and past seasons in general, and I've just been thinking what talented players they are and how they're students of the game. Meg Douty was a lot of fun to play with this weekend. She and I felt like we had a really good energy together. Katie Hertsch is somebody I love playing with, besides Jen Russell. Alice Mercer, I love her. She's got tons of speed. Everybody's got a different strength and I think it's going to come together really well."

Among the youngsters are six members of the world champion 2011 U.S. women's national under-19 team – Cortney Fortunato, Erin McMunn, Kayla Treanor, Kelly McPartland, Mikaela Rix and Taylor Trimble. Rix profusely thanked her coach at Boston College, 2009 U.S. World Cup team member Acacia Walker, for pushing her to succeed.

"There were six U-19 players that moved forward, so that says a lot about their desire to stay a part of the national teams program and what a good job that US Lacrosse is doing to try to keep them engaged," Fried said. "It was great to see so many players working toward a goal that they set for themselves. Obviously, everybody who got selected stood out for some reason or another."

Ten Who Impressed

So what were some of those reasons? Let's take a look at a sample of 10 players who impressed on the final day of tryouts.

Alyssa Murray (Attack, Syracuse 2014) – Of the newcomers in the group, Murray played like an experienced veteran with her speed and exceptional stick work, tallying one assist after another.

Courtney Swan (Attack, Virginia 2015) – Swan showed her ability to always find the open player to net an assist, whether it was a long pass across the field or a quick stick inside.

Maggie Bill (Midfield, North Carolina 2017) – From coast to coast, Bill is the go-to player for a full-field sprint when needed as she held her stick out front with no contest from the defenders, which allowed her to dock an assist.

Taryn VanThof (Midfield, Loyola 2015) – As a member of the Patriot League's first-time champion team, VanThof impressed with her defensive play, always scrappy while picking up several 50-50 ground balls.

Katie Webster (Midfield, Syracuse 2014) – The Syracuse midfielder may be known for her scoring abilities, but she too showed her well-rounded game by applying tough pressure on defense, forcing the attackers out of the 8-meter.

Laura Zimmerman (Midfield, North Carolina 2012) – A veteran of the U.S. team program, Zimmerman played aggressively in the full-field ride, which in turn awarded her with a caused turnover and then an immediate goal.

Megan Douty (Defense, Maryland 2015) – The lone defender among the Tewaaraton finalists this year, Douty continued to show why she earned that honor, always being prepared for the transition and with a firm stance, not allowing a shot on goal.

Alice Mercer (Defense, Maryland 2016) – Mercer was overjoyed when she hugged Douty following the announcement and she has many reasons to be, with just one of them being her continuous caused turnovers at the restraining line to keep the ball on her team's offense.

The Dynamic Duo of the Day: Kayla Treanor and Danielle Etrasco – It was like a broken record, as Treanor and Etrasco set the bar high, displaying their intensity while assisting one another for numerous goals.

Roster Breakdown

The 2014-15 U.S. women's national team roster, which can be found in full here, includes eight current or former North Carolina players, the most of any college represented, followed by Maryland (seven), Syracuse (seven), Duke (two), Virginia (two), James Madison (two), Boston University (one), Dartmouth (one), Hofstra (one) and Loyola (one).

Team USA features 17 current collegians, including 10 from the Class of 2015 (rising seniors), four from the Class of 2016 and three from the Class of 2017. The rest of the roster by graduation year: five from 2014, six from 2013, two from 2012, two from 2011, three from 2010, one from 2007 and two from 2006.

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