January 29, 2011

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Risky Business: U.S. Throttles Virginia

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | Champion Challenge Blog

Team USA's Danielle Spencer draws against Virginia on Saturday in Champion Challenge, a US Lacrosse event. The U.S. defeated Virginia, 21-6.

  © Scott McCall

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla -- For the U.S. women's national senior team, risk really is the game of global domination.

Using a relentless ride that often left its own goal vacant, Team USA throttled the University of Virginia -- the nation's No. 7-ranked team, according to Lacrosse Magazine's NCAA Division I preseason poll -- and coasted to a 21-6 victory in its Champion Challenge opener Saturday at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Jillian Byers (Notre Dame '09) scored four goals, Kelly Berger (James Madison '07) scored three and Caroline Cryer (Duke '09) had two goals and an assist for the U.S., which returns to action Sunday with split-squad games against Virginia again and defending NCAA Division I champion Maryland.

Erica LaGrow (North Carolina '08), Kristen Kjellman (Northwestern '07) and Kristin Igoe (Boston College '11) added two goals apiece.

But it was Team USA's ability to re-defend after turnovers, saves or missed shots that characterized its victory.

"Philosophically, we want to make sure you have to earn what you get," said U.S. head coach Ricky Fried. "There's that risk-reward piece, because [Virginia] had two open-net opportunities, but I'll take two of those and about 12 to 15 turnovers through the midfield and second-chance opportunities any day of the week."

The game started with a moment of silence for Yeardley Love, the former Virginia women's lacrosse player who was murdered May 3, 2010, allegedly at the hands of former Virginia men's lacrosse player George Huguely. The Cavaliers' lacrosse teams issued a joint statement this week to media saying they will no longer discuss the details of Love's death or the trial pending against Huguely.

"Our focus is on this team and our own healing process, then what we're doing on the game and practice field," Virginia women's lacrosse coach Julie Myers said after the game Saturday. "It's a whole new year, a whole new season. Obviously, we have some pain and some history in our hearts, but we have a whole new team and a new season ahead of us that we really want to make a mark in."

The Cavaliers caught the U.S. off guard early, as Ainsley Baker finished a feed from Julie Gardner to put Virginia up 1-0 just over a minute into the game. But Team USA responded with five unanswered goals and held the Cavaliers scoreless for over 20 minutes to seize control.

Josie Owen brought Virginia within 5-2 when she took advantage of U.S. goalie Devon Wills (Dartmouth '06) being out of the cage on a ride and restart with an empty-net goal from about 35 yards out.

Team USA did not relent, however, answering with a 7-0 run spanning 13 minutes that bridged the first and second halves.

Baker, Gardner and Owen were bright spots for the Cavaliers with two goals apiece. Baker added two assists, and Gardner had one, as the trio combined for all of Virginia's scoring.

"Julie and Josie, they're going to be huge playmakers for our attack side. Ainsley Baker is crazy fast, and she did a great job really changing he pace of the game at times," Myers said. "But it's a team game, and we need to make sure the others are filling in the blanks and stepping up to the challenge."

The U.S. held decisive advantages in shots (30-16), draws (17-12) and ground balls (18-9). Each team committed 16 turnovers, statistical evidence of Fried's high-risk, high-reward approach.

Despite having just one training weekend since its US Lacrosse Stars and Stripes exhibitions against Boston University and Boston College in October, Team USA looked sharp and at times made Virginia look like the team not used to playing together.

"I think the excitement of not playing very often, and then having the opportunity less often than the college girls, replaces a little bit of just the every-day going through the motions," said U.S. midfielder Acacia Walker (Maryland '05), who had a goal and an assist. "It allows us to connect and meet in the middle somewhere, because in college sometimes you get in the lull of it. But because we don't play a lot, we get here, we cherish the moment and we make the best of it."

Said U.S. midfielder Sarah Bullard (Duke '11): "It's honestly the most fun style to play."

It's a style that causes headaches for opponents, especially when the U.S. -- which only fields 18 players in World Cup competition -- has up to 39 players at its disposal.

"Their mindset is that they're better than everybody, and you buy into it," Myers said of Team USA. "You get stuck in that one spot where all the U.S. kids are."

Said Fried: "We expect to dominate teams by outworking them."

News and Notes

Team USA scratched attacker Casey Ancarrow (James Madison '13) and Alyssa Kildare (Johns Hopkins '12), Fried said, because both are on the mend from injuries with their college teams... Sunday's 11 a.m. game between the U.S. and Maryland will be broadcast live on ESPN3 (espn3.com) and on tape delay at about midnight on ESPNU.

CHAMPION CHALLENGE, A US LACROSSE EVENT – LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA.

Team USA 21, Virginia 7

USA – 10 – 11 – 21
UVA – 2 – 4 – 6

Goals – USA: Byers 4, Berger 3, LaGrow 2, Kjellman 2, Igoe 2, Cryer 2, Spencer, Albrecht, Walker, Dowd, McFadden, Tumolo; UVA – Owen 2, Baker 2, Gardner 2

Assists – USA: Munday 2, Cryer, Spencer, Walker; UVA – Baker 2, Gardner 1

Saves – USA: Wills 3, Huether 3; UVA – Kolarik 2, Colgan 2.


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