When Dani Lazo first learned she would have the opportunity to play for the U.S. Under-19 women's lacrosse team in Germany this August, instead of just watching from the sidelines as a traveling alternate, her initial reaction wasn't one of excitement.
Instead, the first thing Lazo felt was a bit of grief for her teammate, Shannon Gilroy, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament in a New York high school game in mid June. With Gilroy sidelined, Lazo, a recent St. Mary's graduate set to play at Louisville next year, was promoted to the U.S.'s 18-member playing roster.
Lazo, a defensive midfielder from Stevensville, first heard the news on June 19, and after those primary emotions faded away, enthusiasm began to naturally creep in.
"I felt so bad for [Gilroy]. It was unfortunate for her," Lazo said. "But after a while, when I realized that I was going to be able to play, I started to get really excited. I couldn't believe it was actually happening."
"It's a great opportunity for Dani, but it's also sad for Shannon," said U.S. U-19 coach Krystin Porcella, who also coaches the girls lacrosse team at John Carroll. "Dani did a great job handling the situation. She obviously felt for Shannon. She's been really humble about it."
Before being promoted, Lazo was essentially the 19th member of the 18-person roster set to compete in the Federation of International Lacrosse Under-19 Women's World Championships in Hanover, Germany from Aug. 3-13. As a traveling alternate, Lazo trained and competed with the team in its recent tournaments in New York and Pennsylvania, but she would not have seen the field overseas if she had not been promoted to the playing roster.
Now, with the opportunity to represent the U.S. in the sport she loves, Lazo said it's hard to put her emotions into words.
"It's crazy. It's unreal. I don't think it's sunk in for anyone on the team yet," Lazo said. "When you put that uniform on, everything changes. We have little kids coming up to us and asking us for autographs, people asking for pictures with us. It's a crazy feeling and amazing to be playing for the U.S."
Lazo said she hopes to bring a team-first work ethic and willingness to do the dirty work to the U.S. squad, something that might not show up on the stat sheet but is still imperative to the team's success.
"I work really hard, and that's what I bring to the table," Lazo said. "I don't score all the goals and get all the recognition, but I do the little things that matter."
"She's a steady, consistent player," Porcella added. "She's great at starting the transition into offense. It will be great to have her coming out of the defensive end of the field and starting the move upfield."
As the tournament's three-time defending champion, the U.S. enters the FIL Women's World Championships with high expectations. The squad has only lost one match in the event's 16-year history — a 5-4 loss to Australia in the 1995 final — and won the 1998, 2003 and 2007 titles by a combined margin of 35 goals.
Lazo said she and her teammates aren't shying away from the immense expectations. They're actually embracing them.
"There's definitely a lot of pressure, especially because the U.S. is one of the most winningest countries — both men's and women's — in lacrosse," Lazo said. "But I know we can handle it, because we're a bunch of talented girls."