In a new series of features, we take a look at some of the countries that will be competing at the 2017 FIL Rathbones Women’s Lacrosse World Cup in Guildford, England.
Our first instalment features Poland, a nation that will be competing in their very first Women’s World Cup, and the views of Canadian Head Coach Timm Stephenson and Warsaw Storm midfielder, Alison Ogorzalek.
So, just how did the Poland National Women’s team end up with a Canadian Head Coach?
Stephenson, already Head Coach at McMaster University and a Secondary High School in Ontario, Canada, contacted the Polish federation in 2014 to see if he could help them out.
Two years later and Timm, along with his Assistant Coach at McMaster, Jill Dixon, are now looking forward to leading the women’s team during the most exciting period in their history.
Stephenson, whose grandfather was born in Poland, admits he didn’t know what to expect when he first arrived but is now excited about taking the team forward to 2017.
‘Coming from Canada, I am used to a high level of the game, but the lacrosse in Poland has been good. The level of play is high and the athletic ability is great.
‘I can tell you there are a number of girls that I would take in a heartbeat to play over in Canada at McMaster.’
National trials were recently held in August, at which the management selected the roster for the World Cup. One player to make the squad is Warsaw Storm midfielder, Alison Ogorzalek.
Alison moved to the US when she was 11 and took up playing lacrosse at high school.
‘Coming from Poland, everything was completely new to me – the culture, the surroundings, the language,’ Alison said.
‘Lacrosse was another of these unfamiliar experiences but it seemed fresh, dynamic and enticing. I tried out for the school, made the team and it’s now become a bit of an obsession.’
Although the new partnership has its challenges in terms of language barriers and distance, Stephenson and the team are only able to make it to Poland every couple of months, Ogorzalek believes that improvements are really beginning to be seen on the field.
‘The coaches definitely know their stuff. In the past, as one of the most experienced players, I’ve often filled the role of a playing coach, however I’m aware that my knowledge is fairly limited, so the new staff have helped us improve and make the jump to a new level.’
‘They are exactly what women’s lacrosse in Poland has been looking for.’
Both Timm and Alison are now gearing up for 2017 and their excitement for the tournament is already evident.
‘I am truly honoured to be part of such a historic event. I had never considered playing at a level as elite as a World Cup, so when the possibility was mentioned, I was thrilled,’ commented Ogorzalek.
‘It has been an unspoken dream of mine to someday play lacrosse on the international stage and being chosen for the national team is exciting and has absolutely given me enhanced motivation.’
And Coach Stephenson predicts that the team could have a very successful World Cup next year.
‘My aspirations are that we do our best, work harder than any other team, and leave everything on the field.
‘In truth, I think our team could finish in the top 10. We have a lot of talent and we’re growing with each passing day’.
A top 10 finish at the World Cup would represent a remarkable achievement for the newcomers, as with 28 teams competing at 2017, the fight for places is set to be fierce.
While the World Cup may be the next immediate target for the Poles, straight after the tournament, Poland will host the 2017 World Games with lacrosse featuring for the first time.
The six team tournament, seen as an important milestone in achieving lacrosse’s Olympic Games dream, will pit the host nation against the best teams the world with USA, Canada, Australia, Japan and a combined GB Team attending.
‘I can’t even describe the emotions we are feeling being able to show lacrosse to Poland on this prestigious stage,’ remarked Ogorzalek.
‘Being the host country for the best teams in the world is a bit nerve-racking, playing on the same field as the best players in the world. We watch these girls on sports channels and to be able to play with and learn from them is a great honour.
‘Lacrosse is a fairly new sport here, but more and more are starting to recognise it. I have heard multiple passer-bys explaining to their friend about the ‘odd stick’ I’m seen carrying around in Warsaw!’
2017 is set to be an historic year for Polish lacrosse and the sport will be interested to see the impact a newer team make on the international stage with the increased spotlight on them playing against the world’s best.
2017 Poland Women’s National Team Full Squad