US Lacrosse has named the 1976 Cornell University men’s lacrosse team and the 1989 U.S. Women’s World Cup Team as the winners of its 2020 Team of Distinction Awards, recognizing outstanding contributions and impact to lacrosse made by an entire team during a specific era of participation. 

The 1989 U.S. Women’s World Cup Team, sponsored by the United States Women’s Lacrosse Association, won the gold medal at the world championship played in Perth, Australia. The event was just the third women’s World Cup competition and marked the second time that the United States claimed the top prize. Six nations competed in 1989: Australia, Canada, England, Scotland, USA, and Wales. 

The Americans outscored their six opponents by a cumulative score of 56 to 20 during the tournament, and defeated England, 6-5 in sudden-death overtime, in the gold medal game. A dominating defense, anchored by goalie Heather Dow, led the way to the title for the U.S. team. Dow recorded 50 saves through the six games, which still ranks as the U.S. record for most saves in a single World Cup Tournament.

All told, 13 members of the team have been inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, in addition to both head coach Sue Stahl (1999 HOF) and assistant coach Feffie Barnhill (2006 HOF).

Members of the 1989 gold medal squad were team captain Dee Cross (1999 HOF), Maggie Anderson (2016 HOF), Sandy Bryan (2006 HOF), Fran Den Hartog (2010 HOF), Betsy Dougherty (2000 HOF), Heather Dow (2002 HOF), Kathleen Geiger (2001 HOF), Lisa Griswold (2020 HOF), Jackie Keeley, Kim Lambdin, Mary McCarthy (2010 HOF), Mandee Moore (2005 HOF), Chrissy Muller, Tracy Stumpf (2013 HOF), Julie Williams (2002 HOF), Karen Borbee (2001 HOF), and Anita Deasey (manager).

“We were really a very tight-knit group, and we put it all out there for each other,” said team captain Dee Cross. “At least half of us had also been on the 1986 U.S. team that lost in the championship, so now we were a little older and ready to get it done. It was such an honor to be a part of that team.” 

Cross noted that playing the tournament on foreign soil helped to further build the bonds among the members of the team.

“You really get to know a lot about each other when you are travelling,” she said, “and that made us come together. It was a very easy group to be a part of. We were all good friends, and still are. We were one.”

The 1976 Cornell men are considered by many to be among the best all-time teams in the NCAA era. The Big Red capped an undefeated national championship season by defeating Maryland, 16-13, in the title game, finishing 16-0 overall. The Terps were the defending NCAA champions and also undefeated heading into the final.

Coached by Hall of Famer Richie Moran, Cornell featured 10 players who earned All-America honors in 1976, and six players who were eventually inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame. They are: Mike French (1991 HOF), Eamon McEneaney (1992 HOF), Bob Henrickson (1993 HOF), Chris Kane (1994 HOF), Bill Marino (1996 HOF) and Dan Mackesey (2006 HOF). 

Cornell’s impressive 1976 resume included seven games in which the Big Red limited their opponent to six goals or less, and five games in which Cornell’s explosive offense scored at least 21 goals. The Big Red captured their third straight Ivy League title that year before beginning their march through the NCAA Tournament. Cornell’s perfect record in 1976 became the foundation of a winning streak that would eventually grow to 42 games over three seasons, the longest NCAA Division I winning streak ever.

“We came into 1976 with a big chip on our shoulder after getting upset by Navy at home in the 1975 playoffs. That loss really left a bad taste in our mouths, and we were committed to doing what we could to get past that” said French, a team captain who scored seven goals in the national championship game and was named the nation’s most outstanding player in 1976.

“We hadn't played in too many close games that year, and against Maryland, we had one of those days where we came out slow (trailing 7-2 at halftime), but just battled back and took control. Thankfully, it wasn't sudden death in those days because Maryland scored first in overtime.”

Primary criteria for the US Lacrosse Team of Distinction Award include the following:

• Impact and contribution to the game of lacrosse.
• An extraordinary winning streak.
• National or World Championships won.

The US Lacrosse Men’s and Women’s Hall of Fame Committees make the selections for the award, although selection does not constitute election into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Selections are approved by US Lacrosse’s Board of Directors.

Created in 2016, the US Lacrosse Team of Distinction Award has been previously awarded to the 1950 Johns Hopkins University men’s team, the 1969 U.S. Women’s Touring Team, the 1965 Navy men’s team, and the 1975 U.S. Women’s Touring Team. 

Details about a public recognition for the 2020 Team of Distinction Award winners will be announced in the future.