January 8, 2016
After implementing a new defense in the fall, Team USA will need to work out the kinks when they open Spring Premiere competition against Florida. (Kevin P. Tucker)
After implementing a new defense in the fall, Team USA will need to work out the kinks when they open Spring Premiere competition against Florida. (Kevin P. Tucker)

Roster Cut Looms as U.S. Women Face Florida, Syracuse

by Megan Schneider | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | Schneider Archive

BRADENTON, Fla. – The scene is set, the stakes are high, and a lot of improvement is required of the U.S. women's national team as they step foot into IMG Stadium tomorrow for the inaugural Team USA Spring Premiere.

Three practices and two scrimmages – against Nike/Lacrosse Magazine's preseason No. 3 Syracuse and No. 10 Florida – stand between the U.S. women and a roster cut for a foreign tour this summer in preparation for the 2017 FIL Women's World Cup in Guildford, England.

When they travelled to Annapolis, Md., this past fall for their first competition outside of inter-squad practices since the 36-player training roster was announced in June, Team USA did not play consistently, nor as a cohesive unit, and finished with a 2-1-1 record. The U.S. women defeated both Florida (11-7) and Navy (19-2), but lost to Penn State 11-8 and tied Louisville 7-7.

The following day, the team sat down for a two-hour film session to break down their mistakes and their goals moving forward. After implementing a new defense in October, still a signature high pressure set with double teams, but no longer behind the goal, some kinks surfaced.

First, their ride had holes, which ultimately led to a second weakness – they allowed their opponents to have field vision. "The ball can beat the ride. Your feet can't," said Penn State coach Missy Doherty. "If you're able to pass and catch effectively and see each other, you'll have a better time getting it down the field."

In the ride, the attackers need to mark the players clearing the ball much faster. Within the defense, they can't allow teams to dictate the tempo. Team USA plays fast, and likes to keep it that way. Force the opponent to react.

"Be proactive, not reactive," said U.S. coach Ricky Fried. "The defense and the ride are the two biggest areas we'll be looking at coming into this weekend as to who's going to be able to play at the level we want them to play at. ... Who's going to take those and apply them in the game and be better in Florida?"

Fried identified Jen Russell and Kristen "Cookie" Carr as natural leaders for the defense as the only returning defenders from the 2013 U.S. team that won gold in Oshawa, Ontario. But it will come down to the best combination of players "who can get the job done," he added.

"Who's going to communicate the best with each other? Who's going to recognize situational pieces and then be able to, on the fly... adjust and adapt without having to go back and watch film before we do it?"

Syracuse squares off against Team USA Saturday at 5 p.m., but without their star attacker Kayla Treanor. "That obviously changes their team, us having Kayla," Fried said with a laugh. "Pretty significant. But they're a very athletic team and will give us a test. They'll be as athletic or more athletic as teams that we'll be facing internationally when you combine their athleticism and skill." (Kevin P. Tucker)

While the defense and the ride are the main focuses, everything will be evaluated. What is the U.S. coaching staff looking for? Fried broke down the field for Lacrosse Magazine:

Offense: Create opportunities for yourself and your teammates within the fast and dynamic offensive framework. Balance running the offense with creating opportunities for everyone.

Defense: Play solid one-on-one defense. Force the correct way.

Midfield: Midfielders are "lumped in with everybody," said Fried. Be able to do what is asked of both the attackers and defenders.

Goalies: Communication and decision-making are key. Know when to come out of the goal both on the defensive end, on the ride and on the clear. The goal is to successfully transition the ball from one end of the field to the other.

"No surprises," said Fried. "We'll be picking 24 players from this group to travel to England this summer for a foreign tour so that's going to be weighing on everyone's minds as they play. How they react to the mistakes they make is going to be really big because we want players that can handle that stress of knowing that there's a selection at the end of this weekend."

Dates for the European tour have been set for late June into July. Team USA will compete against England, Scotland and Wales at Surrey Sports Park, the site of the 2017 World Cup.

But the bottom line for Fried's squad is to not dwell on the past. Learn from mistakes, don't react and tread forward, focusing on what's next to defend gold.

"We want everybody to play an aggressive, disciplined style of lacrosse," he said. "It doesn't do us any good to be super aggressive and getting fouls, or being really disciplined and being cautious."

Be There

Single-day tickets to Team USA Spring Premiere, held Jan. 9-10 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., are $8 and $15 for the entire weekend if purchased in advance. Discounted tickets for groups of 10 or more are also available. To purchase tickets, please visit www.uslacrosse.org/springpremiere. All games will be live streamed. Full games will be uploaded to YouTube within 24-48 hours.

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