September 9, 2016
Team USA got a glimpse of the new US Lacrosse headquarters in its August tryouts, but grand opening weekend will mean much more as they compete in a Blue-White intrasquad scrimmage on Tierney Field this Sunday. (John Strohsacker)
Team USA got a glimpse of the new US Lacrosse headquarters in its August tryouts, but grand opening weekend will mean much more as they compete in a Blue-White intrasquad scrimmage on Tierney Field this Sunday. (John Strohsacker)

Five Things to Watch for the U.S. Women at Grand Opening

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

This weekend marks the official grand opening of the new US Lacrosse headquarters in Sparks, Md., home to Team USA. Both the U.S. men's and women's national teams will host clinics on Saturday and play in Blue-White scrimmages on Sunday, followed by a special NYPD-FDNY memorial game in remembrance of September 11.

Opening draw for the women's game is slotted for 10:15 a.m. as Team USA continues its training for the 2017 FIL World Cup in Guildford, England, next summer. The rosters for the intrasquad scrimmage will be selected Saturday night.

Lacrosse Magazine caught up with coach Ricky Fried to see what's on tap for a meaningful and productive weekend with the team.

Red, White and New

The 36 players selected to the U.S. women's national team following a three-day tryout on Tierney Field in August got a glimpse of the new headquarters, but this weekend is much more significant, according to Fried, because it showcases how far the sport, especially women's lacrosse, has come.

Their training coincides with the dedication of the IWLCA building at US Lacrosse, as well as the field and memorials, plus the unveiling of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame and Museum. Three Hall of Fame inductees this year – Margie Anderson, Joanne Connelly and Julie Dayton – played for Team USA in previous World Cups. Today's generation of Team USA players will be reminded of the program's past accomplishments.

"We're honoring people that have come before the players that are doing this now," said Fried. "A lot have been on a national team, but didn't have the same amenities that we have now. It allows us to not take those things for granted and understand a lot of people sacrificed to get to where we are now, big picture-wise, program-wise. That's going to be really exciting and something we'll be sure to talk about with our players."

It's Real

After Team USA captured its second consecutive world title with a 19-5 win over Canada in the 2013 World Cup, the process to defending their crown began again.

Fried, who led the U.S. women's national team to gold three years ago, started building the new-look roster, which features just eight veterans from the 2013 world team – attacker Danielle Etrasco (Boston University 2013), midfielders Sarah Bullard (Duke 2011), Ally Carey (Vanderbilt 2012), Kelly Rabil (James Madison 2007) and Katie Schwarzmann (Maryland 2013), defenders Kristen Carr (North Carolina 2010) and Jen Russell (North Carolina 2010) and goalie Devon Wills (Dartmouth 2006).

But with the 2017 World Cup just around the corner, the dynamic is now different. The competition increases as the camaraderie continues to build. Each elite player selected to the training roster is talented, but now their skills won't separate themselves from their current teammates when it's time to make cuts again. Mental strength and playing for the team, not individually, will now factor largely in selecting the World Cup roster.

"We need to make sure this group comes together," said Fried. "It's a completely different dynamic because everybody knows this year we are reducing it to 18. They knew that three years ago that this was eventually going to happen, but now it's real – talking about it and making sure people understand that the best way people can give themselves an opportunity is to make sure they're focused on playing for the team."

Following the October fall classic, featuring the top women's teams in the world, the roster will be cut to 24. The 18-player World Cup roster, plus an additional two alternates, will then be selected after the Team USA Spring Premiere in January.

Francesca Whitehurst (Georgetown 2019) won silver with Team USA at the 2015 U19 world championship in Scotland last summer. (Alan Rennie)

Continuing Tradition

Francesca Whitehurst, who just finished her freshman year at Georgetown under coach Fried, was named to the roster after helping the 2015 U.S. under-19 team to a silver medal in the world championship last summer. But she isn't the only one who has continued an upward trajectory in the U.S. program.

In the 2011 U19 world championship, current members of the senior women's team who lead Team USA to gold include Cortney Fortunato (Notre Dame 2017), Shannon Gilroy (Florida 2015) and Kayla Treanor (Syracuse 2016). Sarah Bullard and Ally Carey also won gold in 2007 with the U.S. women's U19 national team.

"It's nice to have U19 representation again," said Fried. "For the last two [World Cups], for the last three (including this upcoming World Cup), we've had someone who has continued to play, which I think is really encouraging for the program as a whole."

Anchors in Net

The current training roster for the 2017 World Cup features five goalies – Liz Hogan (Syracuse 2011), Gussie Johns (USC 2018), Rachel Vander Kolk (Virginia 2018), Caylee Waters (North Carolina 2017) and Devon Wills – and they are expected to be the natural leaders this weekend.

"The most successful teams, the leaders are their goalies because they are the eyes," said Fried. "They can see everything on the field. That's ideally what you want. Maryland might be the exception because they change goalies so much, but continue to succeed at a very high level. Ideally, everyone will want their goalie to be their leader."

Wills, who has been a staple of the program as a two-time gold medalist, was named captain for the team's most recent foreign tour in England, where it defeated five teams from England, Germany, Scotland and Wales by a combined score of 100-11. Hogan and Waters also joined Wills on the England tour, while Vander Kolk and Johns are the new faces in the mix, the latter which is now coached by Wills for the rising USC program.

Katie Schwarzmann, who is known her sheer speed, is one of eight current U.S. players who won gold in 2013. (Scott McCall)

Keep Up

Team USA's biggest strength is its athleticism. From the offense to the defense, each position features speed and size and each player can play at a high tempo. However, it's the execution of playing at that high pace that remains at the forefront of the coaching staff's minds.

"The biggest thing is how people will respond to the pace," said Fried. "It's always faster than anticipated, especially for the newer players. So it's the attackers getting used to the high pressure, the defenders getting used actually doing the high pressure and who can balance that as well as play at a high pace. That's going to be one of the major things regardless of what position you play."

It comes down to the fundamentals. Can they catch and throw on the move? Do the attackers get rattled under pressure? Can the defense increase its force without leaving players open? It's about playing under control – no swinging and not giving up on the 50-50 battles or in one-on-one scenarios.

"We're aggressive by nature, so we don't want to limit that, but we want to be able to control while we're being aggressive," said Fried. "We want to do both well – not one or the other."

US Lacrosse Grand Opening weekend in Sparks, Md., includes Team USA instructional clinics for boys and girls, the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame Induction, U.S. men's and women's intrasquad games and a special 9/11 memorial dedication followed by a FDNY vs. NYPD game. Tickets are available for $8 at shop.uslacrosse.org.


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