Kayla leads. Taylor competes. McCool runs. Ally controls draws. Charlotte shoots. They each brought their super powers. It was a joy to watch. Work is love made visible. USA wins gold at the 2022 World Lacrosse Women’s Championship.
Their love of the game and each other was apparent in the product they delivered on the field, perhaps the most dominant Team USA Women’s Lacrosse roster ever assembled. Credit the coaching staff under the eye of UNC’s coach Jenny Levy, for not screwing this up. The right ingredients need a chef. If USA played well, and didn’t self-disrupt, they were going to win. They are that much better than the rest. But strange things can happen. Ego’s can get in the way. They didn’t. In fact, they brought out the best in one another. The players accepted their roles, the team structure, and then flourished. That’s what we all got to see.
Team USA had too much talent, too much speed, too much chemistry, and too much depth. Nothing was going to stop them.
USA spurted in front during the second quarter, scoring a gorgeous transition goal to make it 6-2 with 9:18 to go before halftime. Assistant coach Joe Spalling pumped his fist on the far sideline and the bench came to life. From goalie to midfielder to one-more with a layup on the doorstep to finish it, this goal showcased the American’s athleticism, attachment, and thirst for free flowing play. Canada called timeout to settle down, and did. They cut the margin to 6-4 at the break before USA scored to open the third quarter, a key goal, making it 7-4. The red, white, and blue never relinquished the lead. Canada clawed and scratched making it 11-8 with :58 second to play, but USA won the ensuing draw and ran out the clock.
The USA Women’s team won their fourth straight World Lacrosse Championship and ninth overall. It was their first win on home soil. Their 8-0 run in pool A was dominant, now part of a 30-0 run. The players deserve credit for working on their craft on their own in isolation and managing the weather delays during the week in lightning prone Maryland, all without a hiccup. They were first-class role models for young players. They developed chemistry and played team ball in what was the most widely broadcasted World Championships ever.
I swung by Towson University on Saturday to watch portions of the bronze and gold medals finals. The crowd was okay, I’m sure some stayed home with the precipitation and watched the USA vs Canada game live on ESPN2. It was rainy and cloudy but cool at 69 degrees, actually pleasing conditions to run up and down the field. The stadium was half full on the near side with just a spattering of fans on the sideline bleachers. The fans that showed up were passionate, especially the Aussie and England sections during the overtime bronze medal nail biter. They cheered, sang, and rooted all game long.
Towson is an ideal host, with dorms, multiple fields, and ample parking lots, although the stadium isn’t a perfect venue for lacrosse. The field is surrounded by an Olympic track, the stands sit 25 yards from the playing surface. It’s not intimate. The sight lines are dreadful. Bigger isn’t better.
The television cameras up top provide a ‘camera one’ angle at midfield that’s too wide by my standards. Women lacrosse is played exclusively around the arcs. Other than draws, the middle of the field is not where significant action occurs. In international lacrosse, there is no shot clock, which equates to longer possessions and less transitional full field action. Each arc and goal area should have it’s own “camera one”. A lower tight camera at the fifty-yard line that can be used for draws.
I walked away impressed with Saturdays double-header but thinking that something was missing. I strongly believe that Team USA, both the men’s and women lacrosse programs, need to foster a warmer sense of support for the dozens and dozens of nations that idolize them and crave all the help they can get their hands on.
In Netanya, Israel, the USA men’s team did not house near other nations and had limited interactions with the emerging teams that hold them in high esteem and awe. Team USA got in, won, and got out each day. Opportunity lost. They treated it like a business trip. It should be more than that.
Let’s not forget, the USA expertise is a commodity that must be shared and harvested through relationships, connections and time spent with the developing nations. We need USA players and coaches to attend practices, meetings, and supply these lesser powers with the tools to build when they go back home to Hong Kong, Italy, Belgium, Finland, Israel, Mexico, Spain, Latvia and Denmark. Move lacrosse forward with actions off the field that raise the bar for others who don’t have youth leagues, high school programs, a college feeder system, or access to world class coaching that Team USA greatly benefits from.
In sharing this knowledge and building bridges, the modern American professional lacrosse player can also grow his or her brand globally. Make it more than a business trip. Plant seeds that can be grown when your playing days are done.
The goals must be more significant than winning gold or signing autographs along with posing for photos with adoring young fans on the walk to the team bus. That’s transactional. Team USA Lacrosse teams should strive to be transformational. With the Olympics on the horizon, USA Lacrosse programs must continue to invest in the success of other nations, and that doesn’t mean kicking their ass and disappearing into the abyss of the dorms.
For the benefit of the entire lacrosse universe, it’s time for Team USA to start sharing its secret sauce.