Equal Parts Starstruck and Validation at U.S. Tryouts for Trinity McPherson

PHOTO BY NICK IERADI

Trinity McPherson is soaking in the tryout process after never expecting to get an invite.


Trinity McPherson remembers the conversation well.

McPherson, who just wrapped up her senior season at Johns Hopkins, recalled a moment she shared with Blue Jays assistant Kristen Carr, a U.S. women’s national team mainstay. Carr was describing the scenery and competition of the tryout process.

“Imagine if I was there with you one day!” McPherson said, almost jokingly.

“Trin, you can be,” Carr said matter-of-factly.

Fast forward a few months, and there was McPherson, sharing the field with Carr at USA Lacrosse Headquarters in Sparks, Md., during the second day of tryouts.

“There are moments when I’m starstruck just watching them do their thing,” McPherson said. “It’s two-sided. It’s starstruck, and then on the other hand, it’s very validating to feel like I can play and hang with them.”

McPherson, a USA Lacrosse Division I Women’s third team All-American on defense, burst onto the national scene this season. The Catonsville, Md., product compiled 38 ground balls and 29 caused turnovers, helping Johns Hopkins earn an NCAA tournament berth.

After not playing a fall season due to COVID-19 protocols and restrictions, McPherson said the players surprised themselves by season’s end.

“I think we really surprised ourselves. I think we surprised the teams around us,” she said. “We kind of tried to shock the world. Our season went up, down, up, and I feel like we just really took off when we needed. We never really plateaued.”

McPherson, who will take a year off to continue working with Harlem Lacrosse in Baltimore and for a cybersecurity consulting firm, hopes to pursue a master’s degree and play lacrosse for one last season after her gap year.

But laser-focused on the U.S. national team’s tryout process, McPherson again looked back on the past. Not to her conversation with Carr, but to her final two years of high school, which she spent in the Philippines.

Along with her younger sister Madison, Trinity McPherson lived on three continents growing up. Their parents, James and Rebecca McPherson, are U.S. State Department employees.

An assignment in August 2015 brought the family to Manila. Two years later when Trinity McPherson enrolled at Hopkins, the family moved to Lusaka, Zambia.

There was no lacrosse for McPherson to play in the Philippines, so she instead shifted her attention to track, basketball and soccer — all in an effort to hone the other skills she knew she’d need when she picked lacrosse up again.

“Being in a new environment, I got the chance to develop some other skills,” she said.

She also developed the ability to be an accepting, versatile teammate, in large part because of the many types of people and personalities she was exposed to in a foreign country.

“Being overseas, seeing so many types of people and all colors and personalities, it really shaped me into someone who’s very tolerant and understanding,” she said. “It comes into play on the field playing with people I don’t know or people who play with different styles.”

McPherson’s path to Homewood Field and now the U.S. women’s national team program has been both winding and unique. A fun-loving player who smiles ear-to-ear when talking about her experiences both on and off the field, McPherson is soaking it all in.

“I showed up the first day and was like, ‘Let’s just go,’” she said.







NOT DONE YET

Angie Benson tweeted just a few hours after Athlete Unlimited’s inaugural collegiate lacrosse draft that she was thrilled to be continuing her career.

That was the whole point of going back to college, after all. Benson struggled to get professional looks after leaving Towson in 2017, so she took some time away from the collegiate game before enrolling at Virginia Tech.

Now a VT graduate, Benson is living out not one, but two dreams — playing pro, and competing in the U.S. program.

“It’s so surreal,” Benson said. “First thing, I thought I had a really rough season. So coming out now, and being out here with all these great players, I feel happy playing. I haven’t been happy playing in a minute. That’s the biggest thing. I feel like I play better when I’m having fun.”

Benson knows the talented goalie group around her, a collection of “studs,” as she puts it, that includes Liz Hogan, Gussie Johns, Caylee Waters, Taylor Moreno, Molly Dougherty and Sam Giacolone. And while it might have been intimidating at first, Benson has already acquitted herself well after just two days of tryouts.

“I was questioning my ability at first, for sure. Like, do I belong here?” she said. “And then once I started getting in and everyone was cheering me on, I was like, ‘OK, I fit in.’”

Once the tryout process concludes, Benson has her sights set on competing in the first-ever lacrosse season with Athletes Unlimited. She said she’s most looking forward to playing with her idols and getting involved with AU’s efforts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in the sport.

“I think the representation is huge,” she said. “It’s probably the most diverse professional league that we’ve ever had.”

THE EVALUATORS

Helping U.S. national team coaches Jenny Levy, Amy Altig, Alex Frank and Joe Spallina is a group of former U.S. players with a keen eye for what it takes to compete on the international level.

Anne Phillips, Gina Oliver Thomas, Amber Falcone McKenzie, Erica Lagrow Bamford and Amy Appelt Slade are all on hand to provide their feedback to the coaching staff once tryouts conclude.

“They’ve all been invited because they’re all wonderful players. They’re putting on a show,” Falcone McKenzie said. “I remember what these tryouts are like. They’re stressful, and they’re high anxiety. I’m just so grateful to be a part of it and be a small part in picking the next team.”

Among a variety of other skills, the evaluators are judging players based on their athleticism, lacrosse IQ and physical strength.

MAKING THE MOST OF IT

Lizzie Colson is unable to compete in the tryout process due to a broken right wrist, but the former Maryland defender and 2021 Tewaaraton finalist is still taking it all in.

She and Emily Hawryschuk, Syracuse’s injured attacker who tore her ACL in February but has announced her intention to return for a final season, can be seen near the midline during U.S. team drills. They aren’t participating — each wearing a brace at the location of their respective injuries — but they’re still vocal and involved.

“It’s so much fun,” Colson said. “It’s such an honor for Jenny [Levy] to even want me here injured. You learn a lot playing, but you arguably learn more on the sidelines. It’s been really great.”

Colson said she and Hawryschuk have been pushing each other for years on the field, and now they’re helping each other off it.

“Even this morning, we were working out together,” she said. “We’re just pushing each other in different ways.”

Katie Detwiler (Loyola), another injured invitee, is not participating in workouts. Andie Aldave (Notre Dame), Sara Cooper (Syracuse) and Cara Trombetta (Florida) will not attend U.S. team tryouts due to injuries sustained during the college season.

THE SHOWDOWN

Want more Charlotte North highlights? Of course you do.

North took on Liz Hogan one-on-one in a fast-paced shooting match at the end of the first tryout session on Thursday, converting on 5 of 6 shots. Naturally, the lacrosse world loved it.

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