Team England U19 keep us up to date with their USA tour.
40 England girls met at Heathrow ready to depart to the USA. After a long flight of movies and games, we arrived in Washington DC in the early afternoon. We travelled to holiday inn, Georgetown where we spent our first evening on tour. Having had some time to settle in, we walked down the road to a busy Mexican where we had our first meal as a squad. 40 burritos later, the squad were exhausted and went straight to sleep, ready for a full day of site seeing the next day.
After an early start due to jet lag we headed out to Washington DC for a day of sight seeing. In the morning we visited the famous monuments; Rosevelt, Martin Luther King and The Vietnam memorial. It was a fantastic cultural experience! Following a great lunch in the ‘international food court”, we had a free afternoon to explore Washington in groups visiting attractions such as the National History Museum and the White House. We headed to St Stephens and St Agnes School to meet our billets who we would be spending the next two evenings with. Our first night with our billets consisted of going to an amazing Country Club where we saw fireworks and celebrated the 4th of July, as their celebration on the 4th of July had been cancelled due to a storm.
We were able to spend the majority of the day with our host families and some of us were taken to Old Town or Georgetown for a spot of shopping. They were both really nice areas and it was a great chance to mix with other hosts as well. We all had lunch together and then many of us had the chance to spend the afternoon swimming in the host families’ country club. After a day of relaxing it was time to play our first match against Capital Lacrosse Club who are one of the best teams in the state. Many of us were nervous and still not used to the heat but after a positive warm up we were ready to go. The A’s played 3 matches of 25 minutes and the B’s played 2 matches of 40 minutes. In the A’s match the score lines got closer and closer and there was a significant improvement as the games progressed. The B’s also performed better in their second match and only lost by a narrow margin of 5-6. It was a tiring day but a lot was learned that can be implemented throughout the remainder of our tour.
We said goodbye to our hosts and thanked them for their hospitality. We drove to Baltimore harbour where we had some free time to relax and shop before we went to Towson University for our first day of lax camp. We started the afternoon with a demonstration from the head coach of the university team about stick work, in which he emphasised the importance of the sweet spot. We then split off into our training groups for an afternoon of skills training comprising of shooting, checking and 1 on 1s. It took a while to adjust to the heat and humidity, but we were allowed regular water breaks which we were grateful for!
Our evening consisted of 25 minute tournament games where the As played as the Netherlands and the Bs as Germany. Unfortunately these games were cut short due to thunderstorms and lightening. This meant that we could have a slightly earlier night in preparation for the two intense days that followed
We began the day with breakfast at 8:00, where we were offered a wide variety of food; from pancakes to full cooked breakfasts. We gathered in our groups and he headed over to the turf field, where we were introduced to Keith. A great motivational speaker, Keith gave the campers a pep talk about striving to achieve your goals, which really motivated us all to work hard throughout the day. We were then shown a shooting demo from Towson’s head coach and the Towson players. They stressed the importance of bringing your stick backwards before you shoot and keeping it parallel, as well as making sure that you follow through your shot. Emphasis was also drawn to “fading out”, which is when a player runs towards the side line before taking a shot, meaning they have less power and accuracy, and so we were encouraged not to do this. We then gathered In our group and began shooting drill, where we were able to put into practice everything we had witnessed in the demo. After a break, we began a 7 on 7 practice from an attacking perspective, and we were encouraged to keep the ball moving quickly and to find the slot player. We performed well in this practice, and our attack immediately looked more consistent as well as our play becoming more intelligent. We then focused on this 7 on 7 from a defensive perspective, and we were told to communicate more and steer our attackers towards the help. We were also encouraged to crash much earlier, and this provided us with ore successful turnovers. After lunch we were offered 2 out of 4 clinics to attend; these were “advanced stick work”, “driving the crease”, “checking from behind” and “mastering the draw”. Unfortunately rain meant that we could not finish these clinics! After dinner we continued our World Cup games where we, the Netherlands, faced Germany and Brazil. After a hard game, we beat Germany convincingly, however Brazil put up a strong fight and we ended the game drawing 4-4. We then returned to the dorms where we showered, stretched and went straight to bed!
Today we started off with breakfast at 8:00. At 9:00 we headed down to the turf for the remainder of our World Cup games. After all of the teams/countries had played competitive matches against one another the scores where in. Our U19 A team (Netherlands) had defeated all teams to come out on top. The U19 B team (Germany) had played very well and gained loads of experience winning against other countries in the tournament. Both teams gained loads of experience and were able to showcase everything they had learnt on the camp. This included new types of shots and attack/defence situations. The A team won special Towson university shooter shirts and Georgia Bacon won a brand new American stick for the longest shot. After the camp awards the other campers departed. After a quick nutritious lunch, we then headed out to the turf for a further two private sessions with the Towson coaches. However as we were walking too the turf a thunder storm stopped us from progressing. Sideways hail and lightning doesn’t create perfect practice conditions. After the rain had finally stopped we began our intense training with the Towson coaches, katie and mike. After two exciting sessions including, midfield transitions, shooting, specialist defence and centre draws, we were very very tired. We then finished the camp with a talk from the coaches and a good nights sleep.
Today we checked out of Towson and headed to the lacrosse museum where we saw how lacrosse started and has grown into an international sport. We stopped to refuel with a sandwich and drove to the tournament venue, we were overwhelmed by the 24 pitches it had! Kitted up in England gear, both teams began To warmup. Unfased by the sweltering heat, the B team were first to beat Virginia United 10-7, followed by the A team at 3pm who beat ‘envy’ 12-2. After a short break from the heat, both teams hit the field again with the b’s putting up a strong fight against the mighty FS lax who beat them 19-3. However the A’s were again victorious against MC elite, winning 12-6. After a long day of matches, everyone checked in to the hotel, showered and headed out for a well deserved meal at Italian pine.
This morning both teams had a well deserved lie in before heading out to conclude the pool matches of the tournament. The Bs played a thrilling match against ‘crash’ which ended with a 10-7 victory for them. The As convincingly beat ‘York invaders’ 12-2 to secure both teams a place in the semi-finals. This was an incredible achievement not only because of the high standard of the American club teams but also because the England teams had had little time to play together before the tour. After very hot matches the squad headed to the pool for a refreshing swim. For supper, we went to a classic American diner ‘Ruby Tuesdays’ and everyone ate a substantial to ensure we had energy for the following day. On the coach on the way back to the hotel Laura Merrifield orchestrated a ‘riff-off’ which was thoroughly enjoyable for everyone – particularly when Laura sang down the microphone to the whole bus! We then all went to our rooms and went to sleep after a very tiring yet successful day.
Today was our last day of lacrosse on tour and we were all super excited for the playoffs that both teams were in. In the quarter finals both teams, again, performed superbly, with the progress that we have made from the beginning of tour shining through. This resulted in 2 well deserved victories, as defence continued to go from strength to strength and the attacks converting many well worked scoring opportunities. This put both teams through to the semi finals making both England sides part of the top four in this prestigious tournament. Off the back of not only another match but camp as well, it was amazing to see that everyone still had something left to give. The B’s faced a side they had already played and were determined to take it to the next level this time. And that is exactly what they did, unfortunately the team still got the better of them but the goal difference was significantly reduced. This shows just how much they have improved and how strong their mental approach to this game was. The A’s came up against a side that were much better than any other team they had faced in the tournament, and with the reduced length of the game for the semi’s, it proved a challenging 25 minutes. Being tied for the majority of the game meant we had to constantly change up our tactics and try different things to match the score line. We did this so well and everyone’s determination was impressive. The last 8 minutes forced the defence to dig deep as the other team played a well practiced stint of possession. The narrow loss represents the fact we left nothing on the pitch and gave all we had. Both teams evidently had a fantastic last day of lacrosse and coming 3rd and 4th in the tournament is a fantastic result. We have so much now to come away with from this tour. It is amazing that individuals and whole teams can gel and improve so much over a short space of time and makes us all so excited for what is to come in this build up year to World Cup.