While being the youngest on the team, U.S. midfielder Marie McCool, a current Tar Heel, has been quick to learn the U.S. system and causes several turnovers in the ride.

Training Regimen Keeps Team USA on its Toes Despite Challenges in Wales Win

Less than two minutes into the final pool play game for the U.S. women’s national team, Wales attacker Sophy Coombes-Roberts scored. It was the first time during the FIL Rathbones Women’s World Cup that Team USA did not get on the board first.

It was an unexpected slow start with uncharacteristic dropped passes and a lower shooting percentage for the Americans after a day off on Monday, but they soon responded with a six-goal run, led by former Syracuse attacker Kayla Treanor who scored four and assisted on one.

Treanor’s first goal was recorded after making her signature move rolling the crease, but what sparked the change in tides was a multi-player effort going back to their roots that showcase speed in all facets, from running to passing for the ultimate ball movement.

At the 24-minute mark, Wales failed to clear the ball thanks to Team USA’s pressure ride.

All options nearby were marked off, forcing a long pass over the restraining line that defender Megan Douty anticipated. With full speed ahead, she beat her mark to the ball, intercepted the pass and quickly dished it down low to Treanor, who then found attacker Brooke Griffin inside the 8-meter for the goal and the first U.S. lead.

The six-goal run ended with midfielder Laura Zimmerman driving hard down the middle of Wales’ zone, drawing multiple defenders, which left Treanor open at the crease.

“They do a great job of representing that saying of being the fastest sport on two feet.” - Jay Dyer, Strength & Conditioning Coach

Despite Wales overloading its defensive end with five defenders and only one attacker on the opposite side in a strategy aimed to stop fast breaks, Team USA’s fitness prevailed for the 17-6 victory. The U.S. is the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, drawing a matchup with undefeated Israel on Wednesday.

“Our speed was there,” U.S. coach Ricky Fried said. “Tactically, [Wales’ strategy was] a really good idea when we’re more athletic and pretty dangerous offensively to make sure there are no easy opportunities.”

While Fried recognized the team’s dominance on the draw, there was a lack of valuing possession with more uncontrolled play than usual. However, the Americans’ strength and conditioning coach, Jay Dyer, witnessed their quickness and explosiveness throughout the game, including when they were fighting to get the ball back.

“They do a great job of representing that saying of being the fastest sport on two feet,” Dyer said. “The pace that they’re playing at is great in regards to the excitement in the game and actually seeing the way it was meant to be played. That sounds cliché, but for me, for what I do for a living, it’s fun to watch.”

In October 2015, in the annual Gym Rats edition of Lacrosse Magazine, Dyer was profiled as the “Sultan of Sweat.” His workout routine allows world-class athletes to perform at their utmost potential. It’s about improving their weaknesses and enhancing their strengths, emulating moves in their training that they would make during games.

"You're trying to put them in as many movement situations as possible, so the feet and brain can make that connection when they're on the field," Dyer said in 2015, "so they're never in a position where they can't react to it."

Prior to flying to Bisham Abbey for one week of training camp ahead of the World Cup, the last time the U.S. competed together was in May for an exhibition against Canada, but before then, it was the Team USA Spring Premiere in January.

Being months apart at a time meant each player had to stay committed – “To be a part of the team, you have to be fit and you have to be ready to compete,” said defender Jen Russell, one of the few players on the squad whose full-time career doesn’t revolve around lacrosse on a daily basis – and remind themselves why they are in Guildford, England.

“Some of us haven’t played a meaningful game in four years, so when you get tired and you get down, remind yourself you trained for this,” said Baltimore resident and longtime U.S. veteran Kelly Rabil, who has been training with Dyer since the 2013 World Cup alongside Ally Carey. “How [Dyer] prepares us allows us to make us feel like we’ve already done it once before. We can do it again.”


Alongside Ally Carey, U.S. veteran Kelly Rabil trains regularly with Jay Dyer in Baltimore to be ready for the 2017 FIL Rathbones Women's World Cup.

During games that might start poorly, like against Wales, the U.S. is able to rely on their fitness to get back on track, especially in targeted double teams across the field. Team USA recorded 10 caused turnovers, while Wales turned the ball over 24 times.

“Wales is very fast and they’re definitely aggressive,” Carey said. “[Our fitness] helped us as collective unit to ride together and that’s a testament to how everybody worked when we weren’t together. … It’s really hard to get in lacrosse shape without playing lacrosse.”

With Dyer’s guidance, the U.S. stuck to a regimented program that allowed for their individual work to seamlessly mesh together once they took the field at Surrey Sports Park.

“You can see that just in how other teams can’t maintain for 60 minutes,” Fried said.

Now, it’s time to see if the hard work will pay off in the most crucial games of the event. With eyes on its eighth gold medal, Team USA first has to get past Team Israel, which features several American players, including point leader Jessi Steinberg, a 2012 Cornell graduate and all-Ivy League selection.

“This group thrives on challenges and it’s not even pressure at this point – it’s just a challenge to play at your best,” Fried said. “We have to give [Israel] a lot of credit for where they are and make sure they remember who we are.”