Lacrosse dream comes true for Maryvale grad

July 02, 1993|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Staff Writer

Back in the seventh grade, Jenny Ulehla first dreamed of playing in a lacrosse World Cup.

As a rookie player at Sanford School in Hockessin, Del., Ulehla watched the U.S. World Cup team practice and pictured herself there someday.

"Kids always have dreams, but when I saw the U.S. team play then, I thought, 'I'd like to be part of that.' I always kept that dream in the back of my head," said Ulehla, now 24 and a Towson resident.

Over Memorial Day weekend, Ulehla's dream came true.

The Maryvale Prep graduate was named to the U.S. team that hopes to defend its World Cup title in Edinburgh, Scotland, in August.

"I can't believe it's actually happened. I've thought about it ever since I first picked up a stick, and it's such an incredible feeling," said Ulehla, a two-time All-America defender at Maryland.

One of the secrets to Ulehla's success at the World Cup team tryouts, which began right after Christmas, may have been her international experience.

Last summer, she toured Australia with the U.S. Under-23 team. Playing against state teams almost every day and the Australian national team four times, Ulehla gained plenty of experience.

"Having that experience under my belt built a lot of confidence. As for my chances [of making the World Cup team], I really thought I was right in there and I would make it or break it myself," said Ulehla, a four-year veteran of the U.S. Squad, a pool of 60 chosen annually from which players are selected for international competition.

Throughout the World Cup selection process, which began with open tryouts and a quick cut to 40, Ulehla commuted from her assistant coaching job at Dartmouth in New Hampshire to practices in the Middle Atlantic area one weekend a month.

Finally, at the United States Women's Lacrosse Association National Tournament in Ohio over the Memorial Day weekend, the team was cut to 16 plus eight alternates.

Among the alternates is Erin Brown, a Fallston graduate who may know more about Ulehla's abilities than anyone after playing against her every day for two years in practice at Maryland.

"Jenny's very intense," said Brown, an attack player. "She has the kind of patience that's very difficult for a defender to have. She doesn't get overzealous and try to check. She knows the important part is to maintain the body check, and when she has [the stick check], she takes it."

During the past 12 years, Ulehla steadily worked toward a spot on the World Cup team, but at one point she had to give up the sport altogether.

After the eighth grade, her family moved to Los Angeles, where there was no lacrosse. The next move, however, brought her to Maryland, where she helped Maryvale win back-to-back Association of Independent Schools championships.

Right after high school graduation, Ulehla's dream received some reinforcement when she watched the U.S. team lose the World Cup to Australia near Philadelphia in 1986.

"I set a real goal then. I was really inspired by the whole international experience," said Ulehla, who played two years at Loyola before transferring to Maryland.

In her first year at Maryland, she earned second-team All-America honors and an invitation to try out for the U.S. Squad. She made the U.S. Squad and went on to receive first-team All-America honors in her final season at Maryland.

After coaching at Towson State in 1992, Ulehla moved to Dartmouth this spring. She's not sure whether coaching has a place in her future, and right now, she will concentrate on playing.

"I love the sport, but it is difficult. It's very time-consuming and it can be an expense," said Ulehla, although the USWLA will pay her way to Scotland. "When I was in New Hampshire, it was really difficult. You work every single day, then fly down here, get here late and train the whole weekend and then go back. But I absolutely love it or I wouldn't do it."

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