U.S. U19 Experience Shows in Exhibition Against Pros

Experience from college players proved crucial for the U.S. team in an exhibition game against an all-star team against players primarily from the Women's Professional Lacrosse League.

SPARKS, Md. — Just seconds into the game, it looked like a might be a long night for the U.S. Women’s U19 training team.

Taylor Cummings, the three-time Tewaaraton winner from Maryland and 2017 U.S. world champion, won the opening draw cleanly. She passed it to former Penn State All-American Steph Lazo, who fed a streaking Ally Carey, a three-time gold medalist out of Vanderbilt, for a quick strike goal that gave an all-star team consisting of Women’s Professional Lacrosse League players and local college athletes a 1-0 lead over the U19 squad.

But when it was all said and done, head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller’s young U19 squad weathered the storm and more than held its own, rallying for a 12-11 win in the scrimmage at US Lacrosse headquarters.

“I was really happy with how they competed,” said Amonte Hiller. “We’ve played some tough teams, but mentally we were defeated against the older players. We didn’t have the confidence that we needed.”

Saturday night’s game was the first competition for the U19 squad since the Spring Premiere at Stanford in January. In the final game of that event, the U19 team played two quarters against Stanford and trailed 7-3 after 30 minutes.

A lot has changed since January. That was evident on Saturday.

“Now that we’ve got kids with a full level of college season under their belt, I think those guys were the sense of calm that spurred on everyone’s confidence,” said Amonte Hiller.

Michaela McMahon, who scored 22 goals as a freshman at Penn, had two of the first three U.S. goals. Izzy Scane, a 62-goal scorer at Northwestern, had a goal and four assists and Megan Carney, a 50-plus point scorer for Syracuse had a pair of goals for the U.S.

But it was one of the youngest U.S. players that led the squad in points. Caitlyn Wurzburger had three goals and three assists for a team-high six points, including a beautiful behind-the-back shot as the first quarter came to an end to tie the score 4-4.

“She’s just a player that you want to play with because she has that ability to make you look better,” Amonte Hiller said. “She shares the ball so well, she finishes so well and she works behind the cage with Megan Carney unbelievably. They have incredible chemistry.”

The all-star team, which rotated U.S. team goalies Madison Doucette, Rachel Hall and Kimber Hower through its lineup, led for the majority of the game with Carey, Lazo and Hannah Nielsen scoring multiple goals, but the U.S. finally took the lead when it scored four straight goals to open the fourth quarter to move in front 12-10. Wurzburger assisted the first two and Scane the second two, including the go-ahead goal with 6:19 to play by Jane Hansen.

One of the big keys to the game was the U.S. improving it play on the draw. Cummings won the first three of the game and the all-stars had a 6-2 advantage on draws after the first quarter. For the rest of the game, the U.S. team won 12 of 17, despite missing expected draw specialist Maddie Jenner due to injury. The Duke freshman sat out the weekend, but is expected to be ready later this summer.

“With Maddie hurt, we brought in Greta (Stahl) at the last second and she did a fantastic job,” Amonte Hiller said. “Our circle girls did a fantastic job and the other girls that took draws throughout the night just really scrapped. We really got into our groove.”

It was clear the U.S. team players felt comfortable, even as they were pushed by some of their idols.

“You grow up watching such amazing players like this and then you get to play against them in events like this and it’s so exciting,” Scane said. “It’s really awesome and an honor to be able to play against them.”

Scane’s freshman season in college ended with Northwestern’s loss in the NCAA semifinals to eventual national champion Maryland just over two weeks ago. She relishes the chance to try and win another championship so quickly.

“It’s a little way to redeem ourselves because we have a couple of girls coming from our team,” Scane said. “After that game we said, ‘Okay we’ve got one more championship we can work hard for and hopefully we’ll come out with a win this time.’”

There’s still some work to do. Amonte Hiller had 23 players in camp this weekend. In addition to Jenner being out with the injury, Kasey Choma missed the first two days while leading her Eastport-South Manor team to a New York Class B state championship. Choma scored three goals on Saturday as ESM beat Fayetteville-Manlius 9-7.

Before the World Lacrosse Women’s U19 Championship begins on Aug. 1 in Peterborough, Ontario, Amonte Hiller still has to make another round of cuts to get the roster down to the maximum limit of 18. Despite the individual hopes and dreams, this is a group still very much with a team mindset.

“I feel great about the group that we picked,” Amonte Hiller said. “They’re all very unselfish, sharing the ball, we had a lot of assisted goals. It’s a great group and they’re really starting to gel. We emphasized that all weekend. We want great communication on and off the field, getting to know each other more every session and in between sessions.”

Following a final training session on Sunday morning, the team will gather for training camp at Northwestern University July 8-10 and then a brief training camp at Niagara University before heading to Canada.

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