World Cup Redux, Early Look Ahead to 2017 in England
At age 25, Team USA midfielder Caitlyn McFadden already has two gold medals and shows no signs of slowing. That's a familiar theme among the U.S. ranks.
© JC Pinheiro
The U.S. women's national team capped a dominant performance at the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Cup with a 19-5 victory over host Canada in the gold medal match Saturday in Oshawa, Ontario. A record 19 teams competed in the 2013 games, with Team USA capturing its seventh world title.
The next FIL Women's World Cup will be in 2017 in Guildford, England. Here's an early look at some storylines to unfold.
Can Team USA three-peat?
Resoundingly, yes. Ten of the 18 players were holdovers from the 2010 team that eked out a gold medal win over Australia. They were World Cup rookies then. They're in their prime now. The average age of the 2013 team was 26. Even with Canada's rise, strength in participation numbers favors Team USA.
Coach Ricky Fried has helped foster continuity in the U.S. women's national team program, with US Lacrosse staging multiple events to keep Team USA sharp in competition. Seventy-six players have suited up for the U.S. since 2009, a span during which the team has gone 45-0, gathered for 17 training weekends and cycled through three tryouts.
Who will be back?
Defender Gina Oliver, goalie Megan Huether and midfielder Sarah Albrecht may retire. Oliver and Huether both were coaxed out of retirement to make a run with this 2013 team.
Otherwise, it's wide open for the remaining 15 players to return. But considering the influx of talent out of the college ranks each year and the demand to play at the senior level, 2017 could have an entirely different complexion than 2013.
Who are the top prospects in the U.S. system?
As traveling alternates on the 2013 team, midfielder Taylor D'Amore and defender Katie Hertsch had a unique perspective on this gold medal run. Just ask Katrina Dowd how valuable that experience can be. Dowd was an alternate in 2009 and four years later set the world on fire as Team USA's top scorer and most dynamic offensive threat.
Of the 36 players on the standing 2012-14 U.S. senior team, midfielder Laura Zimmerman and attacker Michelle Tumolo may have been the next-best players not to make the World Cup team. Tumolo is on the mend from ACL surgery.
If Huether retires, that could open the door for Liz Hogan, Mikey Meagher or Kendall McBrearty in goal.
And let's not forget Cortney Fortunato, who was in the mix with Team USA until last fall. The exciting young attacker was the youngest and best player on the gold medal-winning 2011 U.S. U19 team and was the only high school player invited to try out for the senior team. She will be a freshman at Notre Dame in the fall.
Can Australia recover from its worst World Cup performance in years?
Max Madonia, coach of the gold medal-winning Australian team in 2005, did not have the same magic touch in 2013. It started inauspiciously when Jen Adams tore her ACL in training camp. In addition to a lopsided 18-9 round-robin loss to the U.S., Australia lost twice to Canada and settled for a bronze medal — its worst finish since 1993.
There's still plenty of talent Down Under. Midfielder Marlee Paton is a two-time All-American at Loyola and will be in the Tewaaraton Award conversation as a senior in 2014. And attacker Sarah Mollison, who has been in the Australian national teams system since 2005, was a Tewaaraton finalist in 2011. That's not to mention two-time Tewaaraton winner Hannah Nielsen, who is only 26.
Will Adams be back?
When asked by LaxMagazine.com's Sean Burns if she'll make a run at the 2017 team, Adams, 33, would not rule it out. "There would have been a time that I might have said this was my last time," she said. "But prior to all this happening, I was given the advice to never go into something with the assumption that it would be my last one, and I had really adopted that for this tournament.
"Right now, we get surgery, and we get rehab. We'll just see how it feels in the future."
Adams might not be the player she was in her 20s, but she's the best to ever play the game and would be a boost to any team. "Jen is just an entity outside of everything," Madonia told LaxMagazine.com's Clare Lochary after the Aussies lost 11-7 to Canada in the World Cup semifinals. "The residual of that loss is still here today."
Is Canada the new Australia?
Marlee Paton and Australia will look to rebound from their worst World Cup finish since 1993.
© JC Pinheiro
Every player on Canada's World Cup roster had NCAA playing experience. That says something about the development of women's lacrosse north of the border. Dana Dobbie (Maryland), Adams' assistant coach at Loyola University, showed she can still get it done in the circle and around the goal. She and defender Katie Guy (Penn State) were named to the All-World Team. Abbey Friend (North Carolina) and Mandy Friend (Richmond) can flat-out score, as can Megan Takacs, a two-time MPSF Player of the Year at Cal. Goalie Katie Donohoe had a solid tournament.
Which upstart from the 2013 World Cup can keep it going?
On the field and off, Israel drew a lot of attention in Oshawa. Fielding their first women's lacrosse team ever, the Israelis went 4-1 in pool play, took Japan into overtime, hung tough with Canada for 30 minutes and nearly upended Scotland for a spot in the fifth-place game. Israel then forfeited its sixth-place showdown with the Haudenosaunee because the team refused to play on the Sabbath, which begins at sundown Friday and continues until sundown Saturday, citing national identity.
Even so, an eighth-place finish for a first-time World Cup contender speaks to the momentum of lacrosse in Israel. With a mix of Israeli natives and U.S. players of Israeli heritage who seem committed to the growth of the sport there, the future looks bright.
What new teams will be in the mix?
While as many as 40 nations are expected to compete for the men's world championship in 2014, international growth for women's lacrosse lags behind. A record 19 countries participated in the 2013 FIL Women's World Cup.
Don't be surprised if you see Uganda or Jamaica — two countries with rapid lacrosse development—make their way to England in 2017. Even though men's lacrosse has been the focus of their progress, both lacrosse governing bodies have rolled out women's programs.
On July 20, Jamaica Lacrosse posted on its Facebook page: "Today the FIL Women's World Cup Championships is taking place in Canada. Jamaica women's lacrosse is just getting started, but let's pray that this is the last time ever that the fastest women on earth are not in attendance. This train is bound for glory. #WatchOutWorld"
How do you break the U.S. ride?
Fried first developed his full court press-styled ride as an assistant at Johns Hopkins. He called it Aces and brought it with him to Georgetown and Team USA. With the U.S. team's depth and athleticism, it's nearly impossible for opponents to advance the ball from one end of the field to the other without turning it over. Even if they do, Fried said, they tend to relax on offense and make mistakes.
England, which always boasts some of the best-conditioned athletes, had the best answer for the U.S. ride — sending long balls over the top to create transition opportunities. Canada did this with some success too.
But that's not the kind of thing you can sustain for 60 minutes, as both teams learned in the medal round.
How will the World Games affect the World Cup?
In its latest step toward Olympic recognition, the FIL in June became one of three new members of the International World Games Association (IWGA), a group officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that conducts quadrennial world championships for non-Olympic sports.
The World Games currently run in the same years as the FIL Women's World Cup. They started Thursday in Cali, Columbia, and end Aug. 4. The next games after those will be held in 2017 in Wroclaw, Poland, and the FIL will apply for lacrosse to be a part of the games in Poland as an official sport. The plan is to include both men's and women's lacrosse as part of the event.
The details, including the number of teams and how it would affect the schedule of the 2017 Women's World Cup, remain murky. ""We've been looking at all of our championships to see if there might be a better way long term," FIL President Stan Cockerton told LaxMagazine.com's Brian Logue. "This might force us to look at things a little sooner."
Will home-field advantage help England contend for a medal?
Despite its long and prestigious women's lacrosse history, England has not reached the FIL World Cup final since 1993. The team's best shot to win it all came four years earlier, when they took the U.S. to sudden-death overtime before losing 6-5 in Perth, Australia. The English finished fourth this year after a 12-6 loss to Australia in the bronze medal match.
Midfielder Laura Merrifield (Maryland) was named to the All-World Team. England would benefit from sending more players across the pond to play NCAA lacrosse. Where was Charlie Finnigan, the English export and former Tewaaraton Award watch list player at Virginia, during this World Cup?
The last time the games were held in England in 2001, the host country won the bronze medal.