By Katherine Dunn
7:55 PM EDT, August 2, 2011
Erin McMunn noticed the question about the United States Under-19 women's lacrosse team at the bottom of the application she completed for the Baltimore Metro schoolgirl team in March 2010, but she passed right by it.
"There was a little spot that said, 'Would you like to be considered for evaluation to get a spot to try out for the U-19 team?' and I was like, 'There's no way. It's never going to happen,'" McMunn said.
Her mother disagreed.
"My mom was like, 'It couldn't hurt. Why not try?' So I said, 'OK, I guess,'" the Winters Mill attacker said.
Ten months after checking that little box, McMunn had earned one of 18 spots on the U.S. team that will play for its fourth straight gold medal at the Federation of International Lacrosse Under-19 Women's World Championships beginning Thursday in Hanover, Germany.
For once, McMunn said, she would not have minded her mom saying, "I told you so."
Gretchin McMunn never said that, but the Chesapeake-AA alum — who taught Erin and her sister Caitlin to play lacrosse in their backyard — was happy to have prodded her older daughter along.
"She wouldn't have considered doing it on her own," Gretchin McMunn said. "I don't think she would give herself that vote of confidence."
Known as a humble, team-first player, McMunn has a versatile offensive game that caught the eye of Under-19 coach Krystin Porcella. Last season with the Falcons, the All-Metro attacker scored 39 goals but also had 45 assists.
"When you're looking for the highest level player, the highest level athlete, they need to be able to do more than one thing," said Porcella, who coaches John Carroll. "The thing that's so impressive about Erin is that her head is always up, so she may have her opportunity to go to goal, but she's always looking for somebody else who may have a better opportunity. As much as she's a goal scorer, she's also a playmaker, which is a really hard balance to find."
McMunn, one of five Baltimore-area girls on the U.S. team, still has that deer-in-the-headlights look when she talks about playing for her country.
"When they first gave us our USA jerseys, I was kind of like staring at it. It feels so cool to put that on. You feel such a tremendous sense of pride just playing as a team. It's a group mentality of everybody's there to play hard, everybody enjoys it and has a passion for it. I feel like we know what we're representing and what we're playing for."
Although McMunn is the first U19 player from Carroll County, the county has been well represented on U.S. national teams. After the U.S. won the 2009 elite FIL World Cup, fellow Winters Mill graduate Amber Falcone was named the tournament's top defender.
This week's tournament will be the culmination of a 15-month process that included a grueling three-day tryout at UMBC last summer, training weekends in Boston in October, Florida in January and Long Island Memorial Day weekend, as well as training camps in Philadelphia last month and in Harford County last week.
McMunn, who will turn 18 in Germany, said it didn't take long for the players to feel comfortable on the field together.
"It's been pretty easy," she said. "I think it definitely helps that Porch [Porcella] did get those kinds of players who are not the I-have-to-take-it-one-on-one-every-time, I-have-to-score-every-time type. Everybody does that one thing that they're good at, and they just kind of all jell and have an understanding of what they're trying to do and what the coaches are trying to have happen."
Although McMunn helped the Falcons to their third state championship in four years in May, she said this experience is an entirely different level of lacrosse.
"It's constant motion [on attack]. Something's always happening. It's not like your basic motion offense where it's 'All right, next to the ball cut through, then challenge and keep replacing.' It's different than anything I've ever done before. A lot of it is based on knowing how the defense is going to end up reacting and how you know when it's your opportunity. It's all very disciplined."
Winters Mill coach Courtney Vaughn said McMunn sees the game unfolding in a way most players can't.
"She is so intelligent and her game sense is incredible," Vaughn said. "Not only does she see the game one play ahead, but she sees it two and three [plays ahead]."
Vaughn encouraged McMunn to broaden her horizons — including looking at Princeton where the 4.0 student will play next spring — because her abilities go way beyond what McMunn sees in herself.
"Even her leadership, which she doesn't even know she does," Porcella said. "She directs other players. It's one of those things where 'I'm taken care of. Now I can help my teammates.' She doesn't have to worry about what she does, because she just instinctively does it."
Federation of International Lacrosse Women's Under-19 Championships
When: Today through Aug. 13
Where: Hannover, Germany
Aug. 4/Japan/11 a.m.
Aug. 5/Canada/9 a.m.
Aug. 6/Haudenosaunee/5 a.m.
Aug. 7/England/9 a.m.
Aug. 9. Australia/1 p.m.
Aug. 13/Medal games/
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