In a hard fought battle between two incredibly skilled teams, Team USA slightly edged out the WPLL Select Team 10-9 in front of a crowd packed with youth players taking part in Presidents Cup tournament. The game, which can be streamed here, featured modified rules that may one day be seen in Olympic play, including a 6v6 format and a smaller field size. Players and fans agree that the fast-paced, small sided style was exciting to play and watch.
“Playing with these new rules was awesome,” explained WPLL Director of Player Relations Devon Wills, who coached the WPLL Select Team alongside WPLL Commissioner Jen Adams. “The game was very fast, with a lot of goal scoring. As coaches we will need to figure out new strategy in terms of defense and subbing. But I think that this pace of game is a great opportunity for us to showcase why we should be an Olympic sport, which is something that we all are working towards.”
Dana Dobbie (Baltimore Brave, Maryland 2009) opened the game with a draw control, and from the very start it was clear hat this game would be exciting. WPLL Select Team keeper Kelsea Donnelly (Baltimore Brave, Towson 2015) was a rockstar in net, tallying three early saves before Upstate Pride midfielder Elena Romesburg tallied the first goal of the game for Team USA. Moments later the WPLL Select Team found themselves in a man-up situation after a Team USA player was called for a foul. With numbers on their side, Taryn VanThof (New England Command, Loyola 2015) found an open Nicole Graziano (New York Fight, Florida 2016) who tied the game at 1-1 with a beautiful shot from deep. Hannah Nielsen (Philadelphia Fire, Northwestern 2009) was active on both sides of the ball, intercepting a Team USA pass at midfield, finding an open Brooke Griffin (Baltimore Brave, Maryland 2013), who fired a rocket towards the corner, which was turned away by Team USA keeper Liz Hogan. On the next possession Donnelly turned away a Kayla Treanor shot, clearing the ball to Amanda Johansen (Baltimore Brave, USC 2016). Johansen sped through the midfield, taking advantage of a 2v1 situation and dishing off a pass to Dana Dobbie (Baltimore Brave, Maryland 2009), who tallied her first goal of the game. This 2-1 lead would be the WPLL Select Team’s only lead of the game, as on the other end of the field Alex Aust scored for Team USA, bringing the score to 2-2. A few possessions later Katie Haus found an open Alex Aust, who tallied her second goal of the game. The quarter closed out Donnelly turning away another Romesburg shot, keeping the score to 3-2. It was Donnelly’s 6th save of the quarter.
Team USA won the draw at the start of Q2, streaking straight to net. Nielsen again came up with an impressive defensive play, causing a turnover and thwarting off the USA’s attempt. Nielsen came up big again for the WPLL Select Team on the next WPLL possession. Amanda Johansen found an open Nielsen at the center of the field. Nielsen quickly fired off a behind the back pass to Kara Mupo (New England Command, Northwestern 2015) who buried the shot low, tying the game 3-3. USA keeper Molly Dougherty then cleared the ball to a speedy Romesburg who took it straight to cage only for her shot to be turned away by Donnelly. Marie McCool scored next for Team USA, and the 2018 WPLL MVP brought the score to 4-3. Always active on defense, on the next possession Meg Douty intercepted a WPLL Select Team pass, racing up the field and finding an open Molly Hendrick, who made the score 5-3 Team USA.
With the pace of these new rules players were stepping outside of their usual roles. Attackers were playing more active roles on defense, and defenders were expected to contribute on the offensive end as well. A testament to this, attacker Dana Dobbie deflected a Molly Hendrick shot, showing that the gifted scorer has some defense in her, too. Donnelly scooped up the resulting ground ball, but on the other end Emily Garrity Parros caused a turnover, ran up the midfield, and found an open Kayla Treanor who made the score 6-3. This 3 goal Team USA streak could have been a momentum killer, but the WPLL Select Team buckled down and did not allow Team USA another shot on net in the quarter, thanks in part to Dobbie intercepting a Team USA pass. With the clock ticking down, Shelby Fredericks (Upstate Pride, Northwestern 2018) scored her first ever WPLL goal, beating the buzzer with a goal that was counted after a brief discussion by the referees. Fredericks’ goal caused a momentum shift, with the big play cutting the WPLL goal deficit to 2, rather than three, heading in to the second half.
The most exciting lacrosse of the night was yet to come. As the game continued players on both teams became more comfortable with the rules and pace of the game. At the start of the third quarter the WPLL Select Team forced the only shot clock violation of the game, due in part to stellar defense from Lydia Sutton (Upstate Pride, USC 2018). Then Team USA midfielder Dempsey Arsenault took over. The senior from BC had a standout third quarter, tallying three goals and showing that USA Lacrosse’s future is bright. Arsenault’s first goal made the score 7-4. Then a second Arsenault outside shot made the score 8-4. On the very next play Kara Mupo responded for the WPLL Select Team, burying a sidearm shot that brought the score to 8-5. Mupo’s New England Command teammate Taryn VanThof scored next, taking the feed from Nielsen and burying a deep shot, bringing the deficit back to 2. Shooting space was called, but the goal was good. Donnelly continued to shine for the WPLL Select Team on the next few possessions, turning away several Team USA shots, including a crafty take by Treanor. But Donnelly cannot turn away every shot, and a well-placed Dempsey Arsenault shot ended the Team USA scoring drought. But the WPLL Select Team struck back on the next possession. Donnelly found an open Amanda Johansen, who again used her unmatched speed to clear the ball. Teammate Dobbie set a pick, then rolled toward the net unguarded. Johansen dished the ball to Dobbie, who scored on a nifty sidearm shot that made the game 9-7. Dobbie’s goal was the last of the game.
The fourth quarter was a defensive battle that saw the WPLL Select Team come up just short. Team WPLL held Team USA to just one goal in the 8 minute stanza. The WPLL team started the fourth quarter down two players, as two players had committed penalties toward the end of the third quarter. Team USA tried to take advantage of the mismatch, calling a timeout once it was clear how many WPLL players were out. After the timeout Team USA took the field with only Taylor Thornton (Baltimore Brave, Northwestern 2013), Nielsen, and Sutton on defense for Team WPLL. Team WPLL executed some textbook 4v3 defense, and Donnelly came up with a big save, preventing Team USA from capitalizing on the mismatch. The WPLL had several close scoring opportunities off of great shots from Graziano and Nielsen, but Hogan and the pipe proved to get in the way. Hendrick broke through for Team USA moments later, scoring the last Team USA goal of the game. Thanks in part to clutch saves down the stretch by Liz Hogan, late goals by Griffin, and VanThof were not enough to bring home the WPLL victory, as Team USA went on to win the game 10-9.
Players and fans alike enjoyed experiencing this new brand of lacrosse. Following the game players from both teams meet with fans, posing for photos and signing autographs. The WPLL would like to thank US Lacrosse and the IWLCA for organizing the game, and looks forward to collaborating in the future. See the full WPLL Select Team vs. Team USA game here.