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The 24-member U.S. U19 women's training team included representatives of 10 states, including two each from Michigan, Texas and California, as well as players from Utah and Florida.

America's Team: U.S. U19 Standouts Come from All Corners of the Country


This article appears in the July/August edition of US Lacrosse Magazine.
The U.S. U19 women’s team reports to Evanston, Ill., for training camp this week at Northwestern and will compete Aug. 1-10 in the World Lacrosse Women’s U19 World Championship in Peterborough, Ontario.
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Twenty years ago, the U.S. under-19 women’s national team captured its first gold medal with a roster that consisted of 13 players from Maryland, two from Pennsylvania and one from Massachusetts.

While you could not deny the talent on that team — a young Acacia Walker and future World Cup standout Lauren Aumiller were among the players who avenged a 1995 loss to Australia with a 15-8 win over the host Aussies in Perth — it did little to dispel the notion of lacrosse as a regional oddity.

Two decades later, when the 2019 U.S. U19 women convened for training camp this past June, the group of 24 included representatives of 10 states, including two each from Michigan, Texas and California, as well as players from Utah and Florida.

Grow the game you say? Geographically, at least, we’re there.

“I think United States lacrosse is affecting the U19 team. It’s not like we’re affecting it,” Team USA coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “We’re just a byproduct of what’s happening across the country, and the diversity is unreal.”

Wendy Kridel, coach of three gold medal-winning U.S. U19 teams (1999, 2003 and 2007), marveled at the makeup of the current roster.

“It’s a tribute to the game’s growth,” said Kridel, who coached at Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore before moving to San Francisco four years ago to become the national director of Tenacity Project. “And it’s going to continue to grow.”

Kridel was an assistant coach for the 2015 team that took its first Californian, current USC defender Jackie Gilbert.

“As the sport continues to grow, there are players coming out of all states,” said Colorado coach Ann Elliott Whidden, a U19 assistant. “You’re going to find all these players that can compete at this level given the opportunity.”


“We’re just a byproduct of what’s happening across the country, and the diversity is unreal.” — U.S. U19 coach Kelly Amonte Hiller


Across the country, transplants from traditional areas and college products are helping create more opportunities to play at a younger age. They give kids the chance to compete at a high level sooner.

“That’s been a big credit to it — the coaching,” said Brooke Matthews, the current coach at Bryn Mawr and Amonte Hiller’s assistant on the U19 team. “You have the athletes, and they’re able to be exposed to it a little younger and develop that passion for it.”

The result is a pool of players growing exponentially. A record 500 players sent in applications before they were whittled down to 100 for the first U19 tryouts in August 2018.

“We made a conscious decision to include kids from different areas,” Amonte Hiller said. “There were some kids that were probably pretty strong from a few areas that we had to say no to, because we wanted to include that depth in diversity and location. We did make a conscious effort to do that on the front end.”

Selecting her coaching staff was also very intentional with Matthews, a high school coach from the Baltimore area, UMass coach Angela McMahon from the Northeast and Whidden from the West. 

“When you pick a national staff with college coaches and high school coaches from across the country, you’re going to get eyes on a different pool of kids,” Amonte Hiller said. 








It’s actually easier than it sounds, Amonte Hiller said, even with players from four different grades, nine different states and 13 different colleges. Her Northwestern team this spring featured attackers from western Canada, Oregon, Texas and Michigan.

The Michigander of that quartet, freshman Izzy Scane, was Northwestern’s second-leading scorer behind Tewaaraton finalist Selena Lasota, who memorably led Canada to its first U19 world championship four years ago in Scotland.

Scane, who grew up in the Detroit suburbs, and Brooklyn Neumen, from the western part of the state near Grand Rapids, faced each other once each year in Michigan high school lacrosse. But they played summer club ball in more traditional hotbeds. Neumen traveled to Baltimore to join Coppermine, while Scane flew to Boston to join Mass Elite. 

“I can’t express how much it made me who I am today,” Scane said. “Obviously, I was close to getting there, doing a lot of stuff in Michigan. But being able to go out there with amazing coaches and players, and playing against good players, it helped me prepare for college and become a better player than if I’d just stayed in Michigan.”

Scane’s jet-setting also helped her meet her future U.S. U19 training teammates. When she flew into Boston, she would often find Jane and Elle Hansen, sisters from Cohasset, Mass., waiting for her at the airport.

“They’d open up their house for me, pick me up from the airport, take me to practice and they were so awesome in letting me play for their program,” Scane said. 

Texans Megan Carney and Rachel Hall also knew each other before qualifying for Team USA. Carney’s Grit club out of Dallas and Rachel Hall’s Tenacity team out of Houston faced each other during summers.

“It definitely is still a big deal, even in college it is,” said Carney, who as a freshman played a key role in Syracuse’s prolific offense. “The national team is even bigger and better. It’s fun being able to represent my state, and me and Rachel Hall, we’re trying to make a name for Texas and represent the state well.”

Carney also is friends with the only player from Florida, Caitlyn Wurzberger. They met four years ago at a club event when Wurzberger was an eighth-grader committing to Syracuse. She has since committed to North Carolina. 

“We became friends and saw each other at camps for commits and Lake Placid, and we just clicked,” Carney said. “I would go down to Florida and visit. There was a camp in Florida that Coach Gary [Gait] had for Syracuse. I went because I knew Caitlyn was there. I could stay with her and kill two birds with one stone.”




PHOTO BY CASEY VALENTINE

Texan Megan Carney (left) and Floridian Caitlyn Wurzburger have developed a special rapport on the Team USA attack.


Hall was one of three goalies that made the 23-player training roster after the Team USA Spring Premiere in January. None of them have traditional lacrosse upbringings.

Madison Doucette grew up in Kansas City before moving to Unionville, Pa., switching from field to goalie as a freshman while also starring in ice hockey.

Kimber Hower hails from Utah. She grew up playing boys’ lacrosse, played club outside the state and graduated high school one year early to redshirt at North Carolina and train at a higher level. 

“We’re setting a trend for where we live, that it is possible,” Hower said. “It’s not way out of the box like most people think.”

Hower wouldn’t have tried out for the U.S. team last summer if her North Carolina coaches didn’t encourage her. She had to send in a video since so few coaches had seen her play.

“I wasn’t an Under Armour All-American,” she said. “I didn’t have any accolades whatsoever. I was just going in to have fun and play my best, and it just worked out.”

Hall, a self-described underdog, moved to Houston from Niskayuna, N.Y. — hometown of U.S. senior team standout Kayla Treanor — when she was 11. 

“It’s a lot different,” Hall said. “The biggest difference is the athletes. In upstate New York, their lacrosse IQ is a lot higher. In Texas, the kids are a little more athletic. It’s definitely a different style. I like the style of play down there, and the lacrosse IQ I got from New York helped me when I moved down there.”

Hall further adds to the diversity by playing at Oregon, where she led the country in saves as a freshman.

Scane and Neumen would be the first players from Michigan to make a U.S. women’s team.

Hower might be the first ever to try out from Utah.

“It’s awesome that there’s a lot of girls from not traditional lacrosse areas,” Scane said. “It’s great that some areas that usually wouldn’t be represented are getting a chance to play for our country.”

Scane, Carney and Charlie Rudy, an under-recruited Californian who will be a sophomore at Colorado, were added back into the national team pool before Spring Premiere based on their play as collegiate freshmen after they had been cut at tryouts last August.

“Playing at the high level that they’re playing at and playing against college seniors shows they’re capable of doing a lot and they’re impactful,” McMahon said. “It’s a little different situation when you’re analyzing a college player’s experience from a high school player’s experience. They really had a good fall and spring. We do our due diligence. At the end of the day, we want the best players.”

For the first time in program history, college players are eligible to play for the U.S. U19 team. But that’s only part of the picture of building the most geographically diverse collection of talent in national team history.

“You have people from all over,” Hall said. “We all play a little different style, but can all come together to play one style under the U.S. team and hopefully bring home the gold.”