December 3, 2012

Coaches Take a Close Look at Team USA Roster

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Team USA will trim its roster to no more than 25 players this week ahead of January's Champion Challenge. The current 38-player roster was evaluated over the weekend at UMBC. "It was a little bit of a challenge, but it was exciting," attacker Danielle Spencer said.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

BALTIMORE — After months of instruction, it was time for execution. To get one step closer to the final U.S. roster for the 2013 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Cup, players had to show the coaches that they knew what to do and how to do it.

"They made us make decisions on the fly. Mentally, it was a little bit of a challenge, but it was exciting," attacker Danielle Spencer (Northwestern) said.

This weekend the U.S. women's national team had its final training session at UMBC before coach Ricky Fried and his staff select a traveling team that will compete at Champion Challenge Jan. 25-27. There are currently 38 players on the Team USA roster; no more than 25 will travel to Florida. They will play defending national champion Northwestern and national runner-up Syracuse at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

"It all comes down to this. I have my booklet, and I was studying it in traffic on the way here. It definitely pays off," said midfielder Tatum Coffey, a Penn State sophomore.

With a surplus of individually talented players, it took knowledge of and proper execution of Team USA's systems to stand out. The coaches put a heavy emphasis on special scenarios, like scoring equalizers, maintaining leads and extra-player opportunities.

"It's the challenge of finding the balance between knowing what the coaches are looking for, but not letting that get you too jammed up and just letting the game come to you," Spencer said.

The main focus of the training weekend, which started Friday night and continued through Sunday, was situational drills and small-sided and full-field scrimmages. The coaching staff ran multiple sets with one side down a player, usually with a short clock and a one-goal difference on the scoreboard.

Fried also emphasized the importance of strong, convincing dodges, even in situations when a team wanted to hold the ball. Team USA's offense relies more on intricate cuts and pinpoint passes than one-on-one match-ups, but solid dodging to the cage keeps defenders honest and discourages double teams from opponents looking for a turnover.

Players will be notified via email no later than Tuesday afternoon if they will travel to Champion Challenge. Fried called the choice facing his staff a selection, not a cut.

"It's a hard task but that's better than it being easy. We appreciate it being hard," Fried said.

After Champion Challenge, the coaches will select 18 players and two traveling alternates from the field of 25 to compete in Oshawa.

Assistant coach Michele DeJuliis addressed the team to discuss the importance of being selected as an alternate to Team USA. DeJuliis, who was an alternate on the 2005 World Cup team and captain of the 2009 squad, spoke about the responsibility of the players who just miss the final roster.

"It's something that I feel very passionately about," DeJuliis said. "To be there, pushing your teammates to be their best is very important. You owe that to your teammates."

Notes

Two of the current 38 players on the roster, Maryland senior defender Iliana Sanza and Florida senior goalie Mikey Meagher, were unable to attend the training weekend due to injury. Sanza (meniscus) and Meagher (foot) were the 2012 IWLCA Players of the Year at their respective positions ... Georgetown sophomore attacker Caroline Tarzian sat out with shin splints and midfielder Sarah Bullard (Duke) missed Sunday's action after sustaining a mild concussion on Saturday ... Following the retirement of the 2009 team's two draw specialists Kristen Kjellman and Acacia Walker, there is a clean opening on the roster for players who can distinguish themselves on the start. Spencer, Coffey, Karri Ellen Johnson (Maryland) and Sarah Albrecht (Northwestern) all took multiple reps on the draw in Sunday's scrimmages.


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