Three friends from Broadneck, Spalding, Severn to vie this weekend for a spot on the U.S. team playing in a summer world championship

Making the cut

Lacrosse

May 23, 2007|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,Sun Reporter

With the academic year winding down, most high school juniors and seniors know exactly what they'll be doing this summer. Megan Fitzgerald, Karri Ellen Johnson and Josie Owen won't find out until next week.

They all want to play for the U.S. team at the International Federation of Women's Lacrosse Associations Under-19 World Championships from Aug. 4-12 in Peterborough, Ontario.

As members of the 24-girl U.S. Under-19 training team, they will play for one of 18 final berths at this weekend's US Lacrosse Women's Division National Tournament in Bethlehem, Pa. Next week, they will find out whether they made the cut.

Although they play at different schools - Fitzgerald at Archbishop Spalding, Johnson at Broadneck and Owen at Severn - they have known each other since they started playing for the same recreation team five years ago. Since they were selected last August for the training team, they have grown close to each other and to the other girls on the team.

While the girls said they would be heartbroken not to make the final cut, it wouldn't be the lacrosse they'd miss the most.

"The worst part about it would be not being able to spend three weeks with those girls," Owen said. "The lacrosse thing, you're always going to be able to play for four years in college and you can still say that you were one of 24 people to make the training squad. Even that's an accomplishment in itself, but the worst part would be being left behind and not being able to go to Canada. I think I would still try to fly up and watch them play if I didn't make it."

All three have worked hard to make it. Each has emerged as one of the best players - possibly the best - on her high school team.

The team has only trained together for two weekends since tryouts were completed in August. On a training weekend in late September, they first got to wear USA uniforms.

"It was Christmas," Johnson said of being handed her USA gear.

While the girls can hardly verbalize what it would mean to them to play for their country, Owen said they got a tiny taste of it through visualization exercises.

"One of our coaches said, `Close your eyes and imagine wearing red, white and blue in the opening ceremonies of the world championships.' Everyone just took a huge deep breath and she was like, `If you didn't get goose bumps then you shouldn't be here.' We opened our eyes, and we were all sweating and smiling."

The girls admit this weekend will be a little nerve-racking as they go through a series of games under the watchful eye of head coach Wendy Kridel, who had guided the U.S. team to gold medals in the past two Under-19 world championships. But the girls said they have felt a little under the microscope at times this high school season, especially when they played Bryn Mawr, where Kridel is the head coach.

"I remember the day we played Bryn Mawr," Fitzgerald said. "It's that stress, because it's not just Bryn Mawr, it's Wendy's team. I tried not putting the two together. I tried focusing more on high school, but it's hard because you know Wendy's going to be there watching you."

Kridel said she thought about that, too, because several of the local girls on the U-19 training team play for schools in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference with Bryn Mawr.

"I feel a little guilty about it," Kridel said. "These kids are coming to play just their regular games and I am imagining that they're feeling the extra pressure of `I still have to make this final team,' and I've seen so many of them play and play against my Bryn Mawr team. I feel badly because it's sort of an unfair situation. There's an extra pressure on them to perform."

Of course, the girls said, it could be worse. Two of their U-19 teammates, Jordy Kirr and Kate Janian, played for Kridel every day at Bryn Mawr. John Carroll's Allyson Carey plays for U-19 assistant coach Krystin Porcella.

The team also includes Roland Park's Miller Hughes, Mount Hebron's Bria Eulitt and Lauren Fenlon, a Howard County resident who plays at Good Counsel.

Despite all the pressure, Fitzgerald, Johnson and Owen wouldn't trade their experience for anything. Each said it has helped her game and it has widened her lacrosse horizons by introducing her to players from other areas of the East Coast and seeing their styles of play.

"Playing for the U-19 team has given me a lot of confidence," said Fitzgerald, a senior defender who is headed for Towson in the fall.

Fitzgerald said facing players such as Johnson and Owen, both speedy junior midfielders who can score a lot of goals, has helped improve her game.

"I don't always play with much confidence [with the U-19 team] because everyone's so intimidating, but it definitely carries over to high school, knowing that I'm good enough to make the USA team," she said. "Especially on defense when someone's going one-on-one, they don't compare to Karri Ellen and Josie, so if I can stop them in practice sometimes, I can stop anyone else."

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

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