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Focus on the process, rather than the results. Learn about your team and how you will ultimately reach success.
That's the coaching mantra for the first-ever Team USA Fall Classic this weekend at US Lacrosse headquarters in Sparks, Md. The event features the top four teams from the last World Cup – the United States, Canada, Australia and England – as well as the reigning NCAA champion North Carolina, and will be streamed live on LaxSportsNetwork.
With the 2017 World Cup just around the corner, each international team is determining the best combination of players and skill sets to achieve the gold standard that Team USA has consistently established, while the Tar Heels, whose program ingrains a similar standard within the NCAA, feeding players into the U.S. system, are developing their individual and team talent in their pursuit for its third NCAA Division I title.
"If you want to be the best, then you have to play against the best," said England coach Phil Collier, whose team is coming off a series win against Australia. "It doesn't get any better than this. ... As we prepare for the 2017 World Cup, these games offer us a great opportunity to assess players competing for a place on the team, and also to test our playing strategy and tactics, to see what works against the world's best."
The U.S. women's national team is the two-time defending gold medalist, having defeated Australia and Canada in 2009 and 2013 respectively. This past summer, Team USA completed a successful foreign tour, dominating England's senior and developmental squads, Germany, Scotland and Wales by a combined score of 100-11.
For coach Ricky Fried, the Fall Classic will be another opportunity following the US Lacrosse Grand Opening to evaluate his 36-player roster and determine which players compliment each other and ultimately work together as a team.
"We are working to choose the 18 players that make up the best team and there is a lot that goes into that, other than just talent," said Fried. "The different styles of play will help us see who can adapt and how players react physically, mentally and emotionally to competing in multiple games over a short period of time. Nothing simulates World Cup play more than facing the actual opponents, with a similarly rigorous schedule."
Each team may be focusing on itself, but there's no question all eyes are on the United States. Of the nine World Cups in the history of the event, the Team USA has won seven times and earned silver in the remaining two years (1986 and 2005) when Australia broke the mold as the only other team to take gold. England made an appearance in the gold medal game just twice (1989, 1993) and Canada has risen in the ranks, making its first gold medal game appearance in 2013.
However, when Team USA wins, it wins big. The Americans earned seven gold medals by outscoring their opponent by an average of nine goals.
"The biggest competition? You've got to look to the defending champion," said Canada coach Scott Teeter. "They're going to continue having the sight set on them until one of us beats them, but until then, it's got to be the U.S."
Teeter, who coached Canada's under-19 women's national team to its first-ever gold medal in 2015, added that the Canadians are up for the challenge in order to continue the momentum – and their rivals are well aware of it.
"Given their recent international success at all levels, men and women, seniors and U19s, Canada will be aiming to win the 2017 World Cup," said Collier. "They will have lots of box lacrosse players in their squad, so we can expect great stick work, a few tricks and smart game management."
England, however, has also improved. For the first time in its history, the under-19 women's team knocked out the Aussies to earn bronze in 2015. But a loss in the record book keeps Australia motivated to return to the gold medal standard it once achieved.
"I couldn't ask for a better lead-up to a World Cup having this kind of opportunity," said Australia coach Trish Adams, the 2015 U19 head coach who was named the senior team's head coach in August. "We appreciate so much that we had the opportunity to be here for the week and to utilize the facilities here. It's really eye-opening for us from an Australian perspective with the facilities in general and just the different colleges with what they can show us in terms of the professionalism of the sport."
What's better than having the best women's lacrosse players in the world in the same place at the same time? Regardless of the outcome, it will be a memorable weekend.
"An opportunity like playing the U.S. team is great," said North Carolina coach Jenny Levy. "I remember playing the U.S. team in college. If you got a one-on-one and were able to score, you walked off the field and you never forgot that."
Coach: Ricky Fried
2013 Finish: Gold
All-Time Medal Count: 7 Gold, 2 Silver
Current Roster Size: 36
Ultimate Goal: Defend the crown.
Coach: Scott Teeter
2013 Finish: Silver
All-Time Medal Count: 1 Silver
Current Roster Size: 40
Ultimate Goal: Keep the momentum.
Coach: Trish Adams
2013 Finish: Bronze
All-Time Medal Count: 2 Gold, 4 Silver
Current Roster Size: 23
Ultimate Goal: Be a threat.
Coach: Phil Collier
2013 Finish: Fourth Place
All-Time Medal Count: 2 Silver
Current Roster Size: 23
Ultimate Goal: Attain the gold standard.
Coach: Jenny Levy
2016 NCAA Finish: Division I Champion
All-Time NCAA Championships: 2 Titles, 4 Appearances
Current Roster Size: 33 (Excludes 3 Team USA members)
Ultimate Goal: Defend the crown.
Saturday, October 8
11 am - Australia vs. England
1:30 pm - USA vs. North Carolina
4 pm - USA vs. England
6:30 pm - Canada vs. Australia
Sunday, October 9
9 am - Canada vs. England
11:30 am - Australia vs. North Carolina
2 pm - USA vs. Canada
5 pm - USA vs. Austalia
To buy tickets to the Team USA Fall Classic, visit http://shop.uslacrosse.org. Single-day tickets are $10 each for either day and a weekend pass for all eight games can be purchased for $15.
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