Fight to Return Gold Shines in U.S. U19 Win Over England


Northwestern freshman Isabelle Scane is one of 14 players who scored against England on Saturday in the Spring Premiere.

STANFORD, Calif. — It’s a new era for the U.S. under-19 women’s national team. 

For the first time in its history, college players were allowed to train with the team and have the opportunity to make the final 18-player roster for the 2019 FIL U19 Women’s World Championship.

The age-eligible players on this squad range from juniors in high school to sophomores in college and the mix of experience blended well as the U19 team beat England 18-8 Saturday at the Spring Premiere in California. 

“It’s a game-changer,” said U.S. U19 head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller on the opportunity to name current collegians to the team. “You want to be on a level playing field with the other countries. You can see the difference even just from the fall with the October weekend [at Fall Classic] to now. There’s maturity there for some of them and hopefully they get way more mature. 

“But I have to hand it to the high school players too, because they’re not missing a beat,” she continued. “We’ll have a strong combo of both.”

Duke freshman Maddie Jenner led the charge with a game-high nine draw controls in the midfield and Northwestern commit Leah Holmes, a Hackley (N.Y.) junior, recorded a team-best three points on two goals and an assist. Recent NCAA stars Olivia Hompe and Megan Whittle led England with two goals each in limited action.

Seventeen different players recorded at least one point for the U.S., while college sophomores Alexandra Murphy (UMass) and Ally Palermo (Northwestern) anchored the defense. 

“You can see in the stat sheet everyone’s having production,” said Amonte Hiller. “It’s going to make our decision very hard to choose. ... I’m really proud of the way they’re representing this program so far.”

Amonte Hiller defined the team as “unselfish.”

“That’s the type of team we want to be,” she said.

Each player has a role and each unit has a goal.

For goalies – Oregon freshman Rachel Hall, North Carolina freshman Kimber Hower and Northwestern freshman Madison Doucette – leadership is key, as well as making saves.

Defensively, the goal is to make the one-on-one stops while also sliding effectively in a good team defense. 

Run and gun is the name of the game for the midfield unit – “we have a lot of kids that can motor” – while capitalizing on offense with as many assists as possible is the goal on offense. Exactly 50 percent of Team USA’s goals against England were assisted. 

“Make the hustle plays,” said Palermo. 

“It’s a team game, so make each other look good,” added midfielder Isabelle Smith, a Westhampton Beach (N.Y.) junior and Boston College commit. “Work hard. Work together.”

Playing under Amonte Hiller at Northwestern, Palermo has felt the drive to succeed with the U.S. team after seeing her coach's passion. Amonte Hiller's final time on the field as a U.S. team player was a loss to Australia in the 2005 gold medal game. Her mentality as a coach and desire to return gold home has trickled down to the U19 players.

“She is one of the most confident coaches and the confidence in herself, she really instills in her players,” Palermo said. “She realizes because she wants it so bad that she can push us to want it as well.”

While the selection process will be tough ahead of this summer’s competition, Amonte Hiller can already see the fight in her team, especially after the last U.S. U19 women’s team also missed out on gold in 2015. 

“Some of these players probably watched that World Cup and had aspirations to be on this team,” Amonte Hiller said. “We want to prove that we can do it together and that we can be the best in the world. I know that every team wants to do that, so it’s not going to be easy. We have to be ready every time we step out on the field.”

NOTES: The U.S. opened Saturday's Spring Premiere with an 18-1 victory over Japan's developmental team in an exhibition game...the U19 team played the first two quarters of a six-quarter extended exhibition against Stanford, trailing 7-3...the U.S. team will next reconvene for a training weekend at US Lacrosse headquarters in Sparks, Md., in June...the FIL U19 Women's World Championship takes place from Aug. 1-10 in Peterborough, Ontario.

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