By Katherine Dunn, The Baltimore Sun
6:36 PM EDT, June 27, 2011
Alyssa Blevins spent much of the C. Milton Wright lacrosse season on the sideline recovering from December ankle surgery. Now, she's spending her summer making up for lost time.
One of the area's best defenders, Blevins hardly will have time to put her stick down until after she helps the United States try to defend its title at the Federation of International Lacrosse Under-19 Women's World Championships in August in Germany.
In the meantime, she will play at the Under Armour All-America Classic Saturday at Towson's Johnny Unitas Stadium and at the Champion All-America Showcase July 17-19 in Orlando, Fla.
"Getting back on the field was the best thing that I've ever felt," Blevins said. "It was great to step back on the field, even if I didn't play the whole game at first. It's great that I'm getting to play so much this summer."
Blevins, 18, was surprised to be selected an Under-Armour All-American after her abbreviated senior season, but she made the most of the eight games she played for the No. 13 Mustangs, who reached the state Class 4A-3A semifinals after making it to the title game in 2010.
In selecting Blevins for the Under-19 team, coach Krystin Porcella, also the John Carroll coach, was impressed by her ability to read defensive situations and her ability to run the transition. Even though she missed the last training session before final cuts because of the surgery, Blevins earned a spot among the final 18 players.
"She's very, very, very smart," Porcella said. "She's not our primary one-v-one defender. We want to free her up to make the slides. She's very good at directing the other girls and we want to use her to run the defense."
Despite all of the accolades and glowing reviews, Blevins is still surprised to be counted among the best players in the country.
When cuts were made from about 160 to 24 players after three days of grueling tryouts last summer at UMBC, Blevins did not see her number on the list at first.
"You look so fast and then my friend Tatum Coffey, who's on the U-19 team with me was like, 'Your name's on it.' I looked again and I was like, 'Yes!' I was so excited. When I didn't see my number, I was like, 'I'm good. It was cool that I made it through first cuts and everything,' but you don't think so much about making it and then I actually made the team. It was such a good feeling."
Blevins has always been so concerned with learning that she underestimates how good she really is. When she started looking at colleges, she concentrated on Division III schools, but when Princeton and Georgetown showed interest, C. Milton Wright coach Brent Ritz suggested she widen her horizons. She did and signed with UMBC.
"Sometimes she doesn't realize how good she is, and that's one of the things that helps her progress as a defender," Ritz said.
"She's one of those kids who just plays within herself. I think that's something that a lot of kids at her age are not mature enough to deal with. She understands her strengths, understands her weaknesses — like she claims she doesn't know how to check. She doesn't throw checks. Her positioning is so fantastic because she doesn't risk it that nobody gets past her."
Porcella, a former All-America defender at Loyola, said Blevins stood out during tryouts.
"She's a true defender, body and mind," Porcella said. "She's very conscious, conservative and calculated. She's not a free spirit out there. Everything she does is well thought out and well timed. She's not going to get excited, go for the check and get burned. She's going to wait until the opportunity presents itself."
In the 14-10 state semifinal loss to then-No. 4 Westminster last month, Blevins shut out the Owls' top scorer and All-Metro attacker Alyssa Semones in the first half and allowed her just two goals.
That cemented her full recovery from surgery to remove extra muscle between the tendons in her right ankle. Blevins first aggravated the ankle when she rolled it in October while playing with the Under-19 team in Boston. First diagnosed as a sprain, it kept getting worse, so Blevins saw a specialist in December and had the operation a few days later.
She knew she would miss the last Under-19 event in January before Porcella settled on the final roster, but Blevins said she was more worried about missing the high school season. The doctor gave her a five- to six-month recovery span.
"It was probably the toughest thing I've ever had to do," Blevins said of watching the Mustangs from the sidelines. "But it was cool being with my coaches. I learned a lot from them just sitting there and listening to how they went about situations and how they coach, just because maybe in the future I might want to be a coach."
When she got back on the field, it only took a couple games for her to win back her starting spot and that, Ritz said, was just a matter of making sure she was comfortable.
Memorial Day weekend, Blevins played with the Under-19 team at the US Lacrosse Women's Division National Tournament on Long Island. This week, the U.S. team, which has won the past three world titles, has a short training camp in Philadelphia and it will have week-long camp in Harford County just before leaving for the world championships Aug. 3-13.
"It's incredible to put on that USA uniform. It's like nothing I've ever done before," Blevins said. "It's such an honor and it feels so good. My mom took pictures when we played in New York, and to see myself in uniform with all the people who are that good around me, it's awesome."
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