June 19, 2014

From Tryouts to Training, Team USA Preps for 2017

By Megan Schneider | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Jen Russell, the lone defender returning from the 2013 World Cup championship team will help guide the new young talent beginning this August. (John Strohsacker)

With the new invite-only tryout process for the 2014-15 U.S. women's national team comes a new structure in preparation for the 2017 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Cup in Surrey, England.

In past years, typically the women's senior team only had time for a shootaround or walkthrough before events like Champion Challenge or the Stars and Stripes weekend due to time commitments with their college or other squads.

But following suit behind the men's national team, women's coach Ricky Fried and his talented athletes, like veteran goalie Devon Wills who made history this year earning a spot on the New Yorks Lizards' practice squad, will advance their training regime.

After the 38 women were named to the national team roster on Sunday, they convened for a brief orientation outlining their agenda for the upcoming months, complete with their first USA team cheer. They will all reunite at Georgetown for their first official practice in August.

"We're really excited," said Fried. "It seems like it's right around the corner. It's going to be our first opportunity to practice and train together, which will be really fun because in the past, we've had one practice and then went in to play games, which was challenging."

So what will be the first order of business in August? That may just be developing their defense. Jen Russell is the only veteran returning from the 2013 FIL World Cup championship team.

"The people who left, those are huge shoes to fill, so time will tell," said Russell. "The young kids will step up. But I hope that those of us who got to play with those who are no longer playing can carry what they taught us onto these kids."

Of the remaining nine defenders named to the roster, seven graduated this year or will in 2015 or beyond, including Tewaaraton finalist Megan Douty and a new face and name to get to know – Elizabeth Goslee from Marquette. Goslee is the only defender representing the Big East, as well as one of two sophomore defenders who made the training roster – the youngest for the position. The second sophomore is Alice Mercer from Maryland.

"There's a tremendous amount of athleticism back there," said Fried on the new defensive lineup. "They're different styles which I think will be fun to watch grow, but a lot of speed, a lot of players that are really aggressive. We're really excited to be able to continue to play a high pressure defense and make other teams react to our athleticism."

With the move toward more training weekends, Fried and his coaching staff will be able to develop the youngsters into another championship squad. After leading Team USA to its seventh world championship last summer, Fried has set the bar high for his expectations. But who will guide this new young talent to excellence?

"All the veterans will take on some leadership role because the newcomers outnumber the veterans," said Fried. "Lindsay Munday and Devon have been a consistent voice. Kelly Berger – Rabil – has also stepped up her communication level. But frankly, we're going to rely on the eight World Cup players and returning players to help us set the standard for what is expected as a U.S. player."

Munday and Wills, the oldest veterans of the bunch, both coach side by side at USC – Munday as the head coach and Wills as the assistant and defensive coordinator. Their chemistry on and off the field, as players, coaches and friends, will mold the team dynamic.

"Communication is one of the biggest things obviously so we just play off each other, trying to get more people on board with what is expected [for Team USA]," said Wills on Munday. "She's always a firecracker. She's a pistol. She's always working her tail off and she's so much fun to play with and I couldn't do it without her."

Ultimately, 18 players will represent the U.S. as the team goes for a third consecutive and eighth overall world title.

"I'm really excited," said newcomer Alyssa Murray, who is now able to continue playing the sport she loves after graduating from Syracuse. "I just want to keep getting better and be ready for when we have practice in August. I'm looking forward to it."

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