Speedy Sam Swart a Factor in U.S. Transition Game


SPARKS, Md. — In the brutal heat at the U.S. women’s national team training camp Wednesday morning, Sam Swart held the ball to set up a play for the offense.

“Rocket!” she yelled.

It’s a fitting play call for someone who’s a human rocket herself. 

As the U.S. team starts to install systems in preparation for the 2022 World Lacrosse Women’s World Championship, Swart’s speed has become her signature. Already a mainstay at Syracuse, Swart is embarking on her first camp with the U.S. after being selected for the 36-member player pool earlier this month.  

Swart, who was named second-team All-ACC after the 2021 season, said that being a newcomer to the U.S. team hasn’t been without its challenges. But she also has decided to use it as an opportunity to grow as a player. 

“It’s showing me what I need to work on,” said Swart, a senior midfielder who will return to Syracuse for a fifth year in 2022. “In college, we’re always getting better. But here, it’s really showed me my flaws. After the tryouts, I went home and fixed some of the things I thought I needed to be better with. I brought that with me this week and I feel like I’ve definitely accomplished a lot.” 

Using her speed to her advantage, Swart said she’s been focusing on growing accustomed to how the U.S. team uses the midfield to rapidly transition the ball. 

“Here at USA, it’s all about the middies,” she said. “Your job is to push the ball, push the ball, push the ball.” 

Training with Team USA has another unique advantage for Swart, as she is getting the chance to play alongside her newly named Syracuse coach Kayla Treanor, who took the reins of the Orange program last week. 

“It’s so cool,” Swart said, grinning ear to ear. “I gave her a stick tap and was like, ‘You’re literally my coach. This is crazy.’” 

Swart said she grew up idolizing Treanor at Syracuse lacrosse camps where she was a camper and Treanor was a counselor. Now all these years later, Swart said she can’t wait to see the new creativity and passion Treanor brings home to the Orange. 

“Playing at [Syracuse], she knows the culture, she knows the history and she’s going to bring a lot of creativity,” Swart said. “I’m really excited to see what she does with our offense. I’ll really learn a lot.” 

Rayna Sabella is another U.S. team newcomer soaking it all in. 

Sabella, a senior defender who will return to Stony Brook in 2022 for her fifth year, is training with Team USA for the first time. Even compared to tryouts earlier this month, she said, the competition and work ethic have intensified. 

“We’re moving at a very fast pace,” Sabella said. “We’re really getting ready to go to the world games next summer.” 

The America East Co-Defensive Player of the Year, Sabella is no stranger to guarding tough opponents and locking them down. However, she said competing against players of the caliber of Treanor or Kylie Ohlmiller is a real test. 

“It definitely is intimidating,” she said. “But to come out here and compete, you almost can’t be intimidated.” 

Sabella credits U.S. assistant coach Joe Spallina, who is also her head coach at Stony Brook, with helping her prepare mentally for this experience. 

“When he called me and told me I was even coming here I was speechless,” she said. 

Spallina has guided Sabella throughout her time so far with the U.S. team, reminding her to stick to her game and come out firing. 

“He told me to just go and be myself,” she said. “Work my butt off and play like I was meant to be here.” 

During Wednesday morning’s session, Spallina commanded from the sideline, at times animated and at times serious, but always dialed in. His high-intensity style is something Sabella said helps bring out the best in any team. 

“He’s a great coach but he also can be a tough coach,” she said. “I love that, and I love that he’s here. His coaching style really gets teams amped up and gets them to play the best way that they can play.”

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