England on a Mission to Capture Gold Medal

PHOTO BY ADY KERRY


When Phil Collier took the helm of the English national team in 2014, the squad was coming off its second-straight fourth-place finish in the World Lacrosse Women’s World Cup. It was a disappointing result for a team that took silver or bronze in every championship from 1989 to 2005. Collier came in with a bigger goal: Gold.

“You don’t really shoot for third place,” Collier said. “We said every year we want to be getting better on our mission to go for gold.”

The English did take third in 2017. Glad to be back on the podium but unsatisfied, the Brits return seven players from that team. The team will mix in 11 newcomers and a healthy dose of confidence from its 2019 European championship win in a quest to go further in 2022.

“We have a good strong core,” Collier said. “We are the U.K., and we are the European champions. We have a winning mindset when we go out to play.”

The defense is England’s most seasoned unit with three returners in captain Emma Adams, Chloe Chan and Emma Oakley. But expect a new look — and not just because of the additions of North Carolina standout Emily Nalls and Charlie Wilson. New defensive coordinator Michael Molster has implemented a more aggressive strategy designed to put pressure on players like Canada’s Dana Dobbie and Australia’s Hannah Nielsen.

“We were a little bit passive and let the other team have the ball too easily and control the game from behind the goal,” Collier said. “We don’t think we are going to let that happen this time.”

The English certainly won’t be sitting back if Adams has anything to do with it. Adams, who calls herself the vocal captain of the team, says the defense’s experience and Molster’s team-first mentality have built chemistry and trust.

“Last cycle, we were very much focused on 1-v-1,” Adams said. “You felt like you were out there on your own … This time, we’re very much focused on team defense … We’re very much moving as one. Because of that, we have more confidence to put pressure on the ball and take more risks.”

The veteran defense will play in front of a new goalie. Collier calls Katie Greenwood, a 2013 graduate of Division II Florida Southern, solid and steady. Brittany Read, Denver’s assistant coach who played in Athletes Unlimited last summer, brings experience taking shots from some of the top U.S. players like Taylor Cummings and Kayla Treanor.

“We don’t know the starter yet,” Collier said. “They’ll probably get equal time to start.”







Olivia Hompe headlines the list of returning attackers. Hompe, a former All-American at Princeton, led England with 12 goals and six assists in 2017. Megan Whittle will return to the state she called home in college. The former Terp and Tewaaraton finalist graduated as Maryland’s all-time leading goal scorer with 298 goals. In 2017, she poured in nine goals and dished three assists at the world championship.

Torz Anderson will likely start on the left side. Though 2022 marks her first world championship, Anderson has been a part of three European title winners. Georgie Southand will also play in her first senior world games, but she helped the Brits win bronze at the U-19 championship in 2019.

“She is a great finisher, a really smart player,” Collier said.

The midfield features the most newcomers of all the field positions. Emily Gray, Tilly Shires, Olivia Thomas and Liv Wimpenny are on the roster for the first time. Collier expects Wimpenny to take the draw and says Thomas’ athleticism will be pivotal in making hustle plays in transition.

“Between the lines, Thomas is very strong,” Collier said.

Claire Faram, a two-way midfielder who is disruptive between the 30s and can score, was a reserve who did not play in 2017. Captain Laura Merrifield will look to add stability to the unit. Merrifield, another former Terp, is playing in her fourth world championship and scored eight goals in 2017.

“Laura leads by example,” Collier said. “If we need a goal, she steps up. If we need to chase the ball down, Laura will step up.”  

Ruby Smith, who is playing in her third world cup, rounds out the unit.

England believes the blend of youth, experience and chemistry developed over an extra year of training because of the pandemic has it more prepared than ever to take on the world’s best teams in Australia, Canada and the United States. Collier has beaten Australia and Canada at least once since taking over, but a win against the U.S. is still elusive. He says the team is up for the challenge this year.

“There is a saying that every champion is a contender who refused to give up,” Collier said. “We’re very much aware of the U.S. — three gold medals in a row, lots of talent, lots of depth and a college system to choose from. We know it’s a really tough challenge, but it’s one we are prepared to take on.”

Adams knows most people have already counted England out of gold-medal contention. That’s exactly how she likes it.

“Our goal definitely is going out there and going for gold,” Adams said. “We would be doing ourselves a disservice to say we weren’t going for it. We have never won, but I think that puts us in such a great place because we are essentially the underdogs.”

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