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July 3, 2022 — Memories of a World Cup past

On June 26, 2005, the U.S. women’s lacrosse team played Australia in a pool match in the 2015 FIL Women’s World Cup.

It was a game that was expected to be a preview of the championship final. The temperatures were above 90 degrees in Annapolis that afternoon, and U.S. head coach Sue Stahl, having won four World Cups previously, wanted to try to dictate the pace and rhythm of the game so that the U.S. team would have something left for the rest of the tournament.

Stahl has coached a number of very low-scoring, tactical games against Australia. In 1989, with the tournament in Perth, the U.S. lost in pool play by a score of 2-1 (no, that’s not a misprint). Four years later in Edinburgh, Scotland, the two sides met in the semifinals with the United States winning 6-5. Four years later in Japan, the Aussies won the opening game of pool play by a score of 6-4, but the U.S. won the rematch 3-2 in overtime in the World Cup final. With the next tournament in England, the low-scoring continued as the States beat Australia 7-5 in pool play, but opened the pace up a bit more in the final, winning 14-8.

Then, as now, there was no possession clock in international play, meaning that the U.S. could hold onto the ball and make the opposition chase the ball in the heat if they so chose.

Only on this afternoon in Annapolis, the U.S. couldn’t hang onto the ball. The U.S. had a two-goal lead heading into the final seven minutes of play, but instead of running a full-out stall, made some ill-advised forays towards the Australian goal. Team Koala was able to draw level in the final minutes, tying the game at 7-7.

In the final, Australia dictated the pace of play in the other direction, scoring 14 goals on the U.S. defense and running up and down the field.

It’s a lesson that is applicable at any time, and I think, with the way that weather has wreaked havoc with the 2022 World Championship, that coaches are going to be working overtime trying to figure out ways to make the opposition uncomfortable, not just trying to solve a defensive puzzle.

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