Familiar Feeling Brings Amonte Hiller Back to Team USA

PHOTO BY KEVIN P. TUCKER

Kelly Amonte Hiller earned all-world honors at the 2005 World Cup, but the U.S. saw a string of four straight championships come to an end with a loss to Australia in the final.


On a far corner of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the U.S. women’s national team gathered moments after losing to Australia in the 2005 World Cup final. The players watched as the field was set up for closing ceremonies, knowing that their dream of winning on home soil had slipped away.

A veteran-laden team, many of the players had key roles in helping the U.S. to previous World Cup championships — the U.S. entered that championship having won four straight (1989, 1993, 1997 and 2001) gold medals. The sting of losing was unfamiliar, and a feeling they’d just as soon forget.

One of those players was Kelly Amonte Hiller, who had played on the winning 1997 and 2001 World Cup teams and earned All-World honors in 2005. It may have been even harder for her to accept than her teammates. Less than two months earlier, on the same field, she had led Northwestern to the first of her seven NCAA championships as head coach at the school.

A decade later, that same unsettling feeling came back when the U.S. was stunned by Canada in the finals of the 2015 Federation of International Lacrosse U19 World Championship in Scotland.

Amonte Hiller was uniquely drawn to the event. Three of her Northwestern players — Megan Kinna, Selena Lasota and Danita Stroup — played for the winning Canadian team, with Lasota dominating the championship game with three goals and two assists in a 9-8 victory. On the flip side, two of Amonte Hiller’s incoming recruits — Claire Quinn and Mallory Weisse — played for the U.S. team.

“I talked to them throughout the tournament and felt connected and a part of what was going on,” Amonte Hiller said.

She couldn’t help but reflect on her own experience at the 2005 World Cup.







“It was hard,” Amonte Hiller said. “I knew it was my last playing experience. I knew we tried and gave everything we had, so there was satisfaction in that sense. I’ll never forget it, being at the Naval Academy where there was so much history. The U.S. did a great job of hosting, there was an incredible amount of fans, but I felt like we let the U.S. down.”

Amonte Hiller has carried that burden for more than a decade, and the feelings were rekindled with the 2015 U.S. U19 team.

“I felt the pull to get involved and help change that,” Amonte Hiller said.

Amonte Hiller got her wish last week when she was named head coach of the 2019 U.S. U19 team. Winning gold is important, but she has a much bigger vision for the program.

“We want to be role models, handle ourselves well and be extremely dynamic on and off the field to showcase the sport,” Amonte Hiller said. “That’s a big part of it. We’ve embraced that at Northwestern, where we’re at the forefront in the Midwest of growing the sport. We want little girls all around the country to want to be the next whoever it is on the U.S. team.”

Amonte Hiller envisions a staff representing all corners of the country and can draw on first-hand experience in getting her players prepared for the unique thrill of representing your country.

“It’s such a cool experience to play with players from different colleges or regions or high schools,” she said. “They go from being your rivals to your teammates. You build friendships and bonds. Sue Stahl and Heather Dow, as coaches, were such role models. They instilled in us what an honor it was to put on the jersey.”

Amonte Hiller no longer wears the jersey, but a coaching shirt with USA emblazoned on it will give her a chance to add a new chapter to her legacy.

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