Somehow, the dream come true did not feel the way Sue Heether had expected.
In the final seconds of the World Cup women's lacrosse championship game four years ago in Scotland, Heether stood in the goal with the U.S. team on the brink of winning a second straight title.
"It was exactly what you dream of," said Heether, 28. "The eight-meter was there. I made the save. I had the ball. The buzzer went off and we won. But I just wasn't satisfied. I know that throughout that tournament I wasn't the best I could be."
Heether is by far her own worst critic, and it was at that moment that she decided to commit another four years to a chance at fulfilling her own expectations. That determination has kept the former Loyola College All-American among the top two goalies in the country.
She will return to World Cup action Sunday in Tokyo when the U.S. team opens its title defense against Australia.
These days, it's a wonder Heether can even fit playing into her schedule. Pulling double duty as sports information director and head women's lacrosse coach at Maryland's St. Mary's College gives her more than a full load to begin with.
But she lives on fast forward.
"I hate to be bored and standing still and doing nothing," said Heether, who learned lacrosse as a freshman at Notre Dame Prep before moving to Illinois for the rest of high school.
"It's love of the sport and love of my team. We have such a good time together. It's still fun."
Heether manages to squeeze in time for any sport that catches her fancy, including team handball at the Olympic Festival.
"I wanted to go to the Olympics, so I said, 'What's the easiest way?' Luge in the winter and handball, because nobody understands it in the U.S.," said Heether, whose team won the silver.
The only surprise was that she didn't opt for luge. She's addicted to adventure sports, including mountain biking.
"Give me something faster and stronger and wilder and more dangerous," she said.
Her newest obsession is whitewater kayaking. At paddling school in West Virginia recently, "I think I hung upside down with the fishes more than I was straight up," she said.
"But it's the rush. It's like an eight-meter at the end of the game. That rush. You can hear the water, but you can't see what's coming. When you're in trouble, you just dig and paddle as hard as you can."
However, her adventurous lifestyle had to be put on hold while she's been training with the World Cup team.
"I'm so clumsy, I'm not allowed to do anything," said Heether with a laugh. "Knock on wood, I'm still healthy, but I've fallen off a stationary bike and had to have major surgery."
That time, about 18 months ago, she got a foot stuck in a pedal strap and tore the ligaments in her toes. The toes were sticking straight up when she got to her feet. She was sidelined for eight weeks.
She's suffered dozens of other injuries, but a serious problem with an ankle probably will end her lacrosse career after this World Cup.
"It's degenerative at this point," said Heether, who has had surgery on the ankle nine times.
"I'm going to be limited when I get back, because the only alternative might be fusion. That's [the foot at] 90 degrees for the rest of my life, and I'm not ready to go there yet."
But don't expect Heether to slow down. She doesn't know how. Retiring from lacrosse just means more time for mountain biking and kayaking.
World Cup Site: Edogawa Stadium, Tokyo
Dates: Sunday to May 4
Opponents: Australia, England, Scotland, Wales, Canada, Japan
Outlook: The United States is the two-time defending World Cup champion, having beaten England for the title in 1989 and 1993. England and Australia again figure to be the Americans' top competition. Australia is the only other team to have won a World Cup, taking the title in 1986. This year's U.S. team includes three Baltimore-area natives -- goalkeeper Sue Heether (Notre Dame Prep, Loyola) and attackers Michele Uhlfelder (Pikesville, Maryland) and Erin Brown (Fallston, Maryland). The team includes five other Maryland graduates -- Kelly Amonte, Maureen Scott, Jessica Wilk, Liz Downing, and Laura Harmon Schuman.
Pub Date: 4/25/97