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July 11, 2016 — Two groups, one nation

There are two groups of women currently overseas, wearing red, white, and blue uniforms, packing three-foot-long sticks designed to propel a five-ounce ball in their luggage.

At first blush, that’s about all the U.S. World Cup women’s lacrosse team and the U.S. World League Semifinal field hockey side have in common.

The field hockey team, currently in South Africa for the Hockey World League, are already two games through the competition and have two wins in two games, placing them at the top of Group B. The Americans have a three-day rest period before playing Argentina on Friday.

Both of these Pan American Hockey Federation giants have transformed in comparison to the Rio Olympics. Argentina still may have all-time leading scorer Noel Barrionuevo, the Habif sisters, and Delfina Marino, but the Albicelestes have five players on their roster with 20 caps or fewer. The Americans have eight such players, including 17-year-old wunderkind Erin Matson.

The States’ mission, coming into this tournament, is simply to qualify for the 2018 Women’s World Cup, if not the World League finals later this year.

As for the women’s lacrosse team, the FIL World Cup begins tomorrow with the opening ceremonies in . The States will begin play Thursday against Scotland, then will have matches against Australia, England, and Canada on consecutive days before a rest day. After the finish of pool play July 18th against Wales, the United States makes its run through the single-elimination portion of the tournament.

Unlike the Hockey World League, the single-elimination portion of the FIL World Cup isn’t going to be as fraught with peril. That’s because, in the previous nine iterations of the competition, the United States has never finished lower than second.

There’s no reason not to believe that the Americans aren’t the favorite this time around. The team has the best goalie in the world, Devon Wills. Five Tewaaraton trophies (split between Taylor Cummings and Katie Schwarzmann) are on the roster, plus enough fitness, speed, and stick skills to give other teams fits.

Host England will have the benefit of Maryland’s Laura Merrifield and Megan Whittle, as well as Princeton’s Olivia Hompe. Both Hompe and Whittle are Americans, but are playing for the Lions during this tournament.

Australia, the last team to beat the Americans in a World Cup final, will have veterans such as Sue McSolvin, who will be playing in her seventh World Cup. Courtney Hobbs and Sarah Mollison from the University of Maryland, along with Northwestern’s Hannah Nielsen, will provide a considerable challenge.

But I think the wild card in this tournament will be Canada. The team is going to be led by center Dana Dobbie, who had an outstanding first season with United Women’s Lacrosse a year ago, winning draws and scoring a number of highlight-reel goals.

Danita Stroup of Northwestern, Louisville’s Kaylin Morrissette, and Allie Jimerson and Taylor Gait of Syracuse will make major contributions. I think there will also be a major influence from the gold-medal team from the last U-19 World Cup, one which had a number of players from Vaughn Hill Academy (Ont.), the continent’s first superprep team. I also think a player to watch will be Bianca Chevarie, who is just 15 years old.

If you want a barometer as to how the tournament could go, tune in at 1 p.m. Eastern Time this coming Sunday for the United States against Canada. This preliminary game could be the fulcrum on which the entire tournament pivots.

 

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2 Comments»

  Steve Smith wrote @

there’s a third group at the Maccabi games as well…

  Al Mattei wrote @

They played for the gold medal today.


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