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Friendly foes

The Baltimore Sun

When Roland Park's Miller Hughes takes the field tomorrow, she will face two of her best friends, Jordy Kirr and Katie Janian, on Bryn Mawr's side of the lacrosse field.

The three seniors have been friends for years, but since August they have forged a stronger bond as members of the U.S. Under-19 girls lacrosse training team. For them, friendship has somewhat doused the raging competitive fire you might expect of a school rivalry that is marking its 75th year.

Of course, they all want to win.

"Because," Hughes said, "you know you're going to hear about it for a year if you lose."

But being foes for a day can be a challenge.

"It's difficult in some ways," Kirr said, "but you just look at them like another player. I try not to put friendship in the way, getting into my team vs. looking at what's on the other side."

Janian said she likes playing against her friends.

"I think it's more fun when you play against people you know. It's healthy competition, but it's also more of a drive because you get more competitive," said the Mawrtians' goalie, who attended Roland Park until seventh grade.

Many of the Reds and Mawrtians are friends. They've played lacrosse together on rec teams and club teams and they are part of a tri-school community with Gilman, taking classes at any of the three adjacent campuses.

That is one reason the rivalry is not as heated as it could be, said Mawrtians coach Wendy Kridel, who also coaches the Under-19 team.

"It's unique because they're forced to be together whether they want to or not, so you lose a little bit of that potential nastiness, because there's a face that goes with the name," Kridel said.

She should know. She's seen the rivalry from both sides. In her 10th season as Mawrtians head coach, Kridel also coached the Reds from 1991 to 1995.

"Certainly, the [Bryn Mawr] alums remember those games - and it's the same for both teams," Kridel said. "If [the Mawrtians] had a big game against Roland Park - and I don't care whether it's a JV team, fresh-soph team, whatever sport - they remember. If they happened to have a season that's crummy, if they beat Roland Park, well, then all is not lost."

Even approaching tomorrow's game at Roland Park, with the Reds holding a 2-1 edge in the past three years of the series, Hughes, Kirr and Janian said they feel more like teammates than rivals.

The national team has played together for only two weekends, in October and February, but a tight chemistry emerged quickly, Janian said.

"It's unlike any other sports team I've ever played on," she said. "And it's different connections between the girls than even on a school team in which we're extremely close with everyone because we've known everyone forever. It's a whole different level of play for us."

The girls still face one more round of cuts. The 24-girl roster will be trimmed to 18 for the International Federation of Women's Lacrosse Associations' Under-19 World Championships Aug. 4-12 in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.

The training team includes five other Baltimore-area girls - Mount Hebron's Bria Eulitt, John Carroll's Ally Carey, Broadneck's Karri-Ellen Johnson, Severn's Josie Owen and Archbishop Spalding's Megan Fitzgerald.

Memorial Day weekend, they will play at the US Lacrosse Women's Division National Tournament in Lehigh, Pa. Soon after, the final team will be announced.

Kridel, who coached the U.S. to victories in 1999 and 2003 and assisted on the team that finished second in 1995, said the girls have bonded so tightly because, except for their families, they have only each other with whom to share their experiences.

"If they were boys, there wouldn't be this," Kridel said. "But as girls, they're asked to be so unbelievably humble, so with each other they don't have to [talk about it], they get to share it. They're proud of it and when they're together, they share something that's so incredibly different."

Living so close together has helped, said the girls.

"We're fortunate that we have each other to talk about it," Hughes said. "Even though we've been friends for a long time, we share another common bond, which is pretty neat. We can all be proud of each other."

Kirr has been aiming for a berth on the Under-19 team since she attended a clinic in the fourth grade given by the 1999 team that won the crown in Australia.

"I remember my dad saying, 'In 2007, you'll be eligible,'" Kirr said. "That just seemed so far away, but it's always been in the back of my head."

For all three, the experience has been a bit surreal. It's one they will savor before heading off to college - Hughes to Duke, Kirr to Georgetown and Janian to Yale.

"It's like a dream, almost," Hughes said. "When we made the team at first, we didn't understand what it meant until ... we got our clothes with USA Lacrosse and our numbers on them. I was like in awe."

Kirr said: "I remember when I was younger reading through the magazines and seeing a bunch of the older kids who were in that position and I still find it hard to believe that now I'm one of those kids."

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