SPARKS — U.S. Lacrosse wants to help get the sport is governs back into the Olympics, and the organization created a three-phase process at the start of 2019 in an effort to flow high school players through its pipeline.
The first phase featured 21 regional tryouts over the span of three months, with close to 1,400 athletes in attendance. From there, 300 of the top boys and girls players from 27 different states converged on the U.S. Lacrosse headquarters in Baltimore County for the National Team Development Program combine.
Last week’s combine was invitation only, and it put players through three days of intense training and evaluations on and off the field. The best from the combine are set to be chosen at the end of this week for four USA Select teams (boys and girls under-15 and under-17 teams), which plan to return to the area in October to take part in an international showcase.
Emily Messinese is hoping she’s a part of it.
The incoming junior at Gerstell Academy participated in the girls under-17 combine, and came away with a positive outlook on the entire experience.
Playing on Tierney Field, home of Team USA. Being able to work with coaches and instructors who carry impressive lacrosse resumes. And getting a chance to flash her skills in front of an important audience.
All with the hopes of being ready for the Olympics when Los Angeles hosts the Summer Games in 2028.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking, but I think once I started playing and getting to know teammates and everything, having fun, then everything just falls into place and it’s good,” Messinese said.
The Manchester resident earned Times all-county first-team honors last spring at midfield. Messinese scored 53 goals and added five assists for the Falcons, and also earned all-Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference first-team honors.
The International Olympic Committee gave the Federation of International Lacrosse provisional recognition late last year, and the sport is working toward a return since its last medal-sport days in 1908. It was a “demonstration” sport three times after that, but hasn’t been played at an Olympics since 1948.
“It’s kind of been a long time coming,” said Natalie Wills, senior manager of the NTDP. “We’re planning on being back in the Olympics in L.A. Leading up to that, and with the hopes of winning gold — and maintaining gold, I should say — we want to be able to have been working.”
The U.S. fields five national teams — men’s and women’s senior squads, two under-19 teams, and a men’s indoor team.
Team USA competes in world championships every four years, with tryouts and training camps taking place in the years leading up to the international event. But with an Olympic Games on the horizon, creating the developmental program is a way to “make that better,” Wills said.
“We could make five teams at every level and do pretty well in the world championships,” she said. “The people that make that final-cut team are the best humans and the best teammates. So we really want to spend time to get to know these men and women, and see who they are as leaders ... Because that is the difference-maker when you’re wearing the red, white, and blue.”
Messinese said playing over the summer with her Sky Walkers club team helped her hone her skills and stay sharp. At the combine, she got the opportunity to see and feel what it’s like to train on a national level.
I’m very, very fortunate to have been a part of it for so long, and to be able to help these girls be that next generation.
Katie Haus, former Century High School and University of Maryland lacrosse star
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Watching from the field was Katie (Schwarzmann) Haus, a 2009 Century High School graduate who won two Tewaaraton Awards at Maryland and a pair of World Cup gold medals as a member of Team USA. Haus, a two-time Times Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year, didn’t lose sight of what was taking place with her sport last week at Tierney Field.
“I’m very, very fortunate to have been a part of it for so long, and to be able to help these girls be that next generation,” Haus said. “This is absolutely incredible. I think for a lot of us that have been a part of the senior team, to be here and kind of lay the groundwork for these girls, it’s amazing.”
Haus, a member of Team USA since 2010, had her share of assignments on the field as one of the combine’s instructors, but said she was aware of another Carroll product in the mix.
“I know how hard that we’ve worked in Carroll County, and the coaches that have put in so much time,” Haus said. “It’s just awesome to see us make it this far.”