Since joining the Czech Republic women’s lacrosse national team this week, Belle Martire said she has quadrupled the number of Czech words and phrases in her repertoire.
Her favorite? “Pass me the ball,” she said with a laugh.
Sounds like pretty good advice. Martire, who grew up in Baltimore, had a hand in eight goals with five goals and three assists to propel the Czech Republic to a 13-10 win against Italy in both team’s opener Thursday at the 2022 World Women’s Lacrosse Championships at Towson’s Johnny Unitas Stadium.
Martire, who graduated from William & Mary, wasn’t the only standout performer for the Czech Republic (1-0), which placed 10th at the 2017 World Championships. Midfielder Anna Lottman had four goals and two assists, fellow midfielder Michaela Srchová scored three times and goalkeeper Anna Ničová turned aside a game-high nine shots and had an assist on Lottman’s fastbreak goal in the first quarter.
Three years removed from earning Most Valuable Player honors at the European Cup after scoring a team-high 24 goals for the Czech Republic, Martire appeared to pick up where she left off. She had one goal and two assists in the first quarter, one goal and one assist each in the second and third and one goal in the fourth.
“We knew that Italy was going to be a really competitive team, and I just wanted to do everything that I could with my team to make sure that we came out on top,” she said.
Lottmann, who played at Louisville under her maiden name Kopecka, said she has played with Martire for only about two months cumulatively, but said the latter has been an immediate contributor on offense.
“I love it because not all of the pressure is on me and Michaela,” Lottman said. “She takes off some of the pressure and is leading the attack. So it’s really nice for me to maybe take a step back and feed her or give her the space.”
At William & Mary, Martire — who graduated from The Kinkaid School in Houston, Texas, under the watchful eyes of her mother Eva Martire, a former Yale player who is now an assistant coach for the Czech Republic — developed a reputation for scoring goals. She wrapped up her career ranked third in program history in goals (149) and sixth in points (182) and compiled 33 assists and 89 draw controls. She owns school single-game records for goals (nine), assists (six) and points (10) and was a three-time All-Colonial Athletic Association standout.
But Czech Republic coach Adam Ondráček said Martire is always looking to get her teammates involved.
“She can score a lot of goals. She’s great in one-on-ones and dodging,” he said. “But she can also help the others to shine. The defense tries to watch her. So other players have more free hands.”
Martire’s connection to the Czech Republic runs through her great grandparents, Jan Anthony and Eugenie Funda Obst, who grew up in what was then known as Czechoslovakia. When a Communist regime took over the country in 1948 shortly after the end of World War II, they and their daughter, Ivana, fled to Germany.
They then applied for and were granted visas to immigrate to the United States in 1950, according to Ivana Obst Turner.
“It is enormously moving for me to see Belle play for the Czech team as it deepens my personal connections with my place of birth,” Turner wrote via email. “Growing up, Belle had a wonderful relationship with her great grandmother, who enthusiastically imparted an appreciation for all things Czech to the whole family — from an interest in international relations to Eastern European cooking. I’m so delighted that she’s had the chance to play for the Czech team in addition to her years on the W&M squad.”
Martire, who got a taste of her grandmother’s famous strawberry pie, said the memory of her great grandmother continues to drive her.
“I got to grow up with her and learn from her,” she said. “So it’s definitely a special place in our family, and I would love to travel there with my grandma one day and see where she grew up.”
Martire first participated on the Czech Republic women’s national training team and helped that squad capture the Prague Cup in 2018. She admitted that first trip to the Czech Republic was “a scary experience.”
“I was a foreigner, I didn’t know the Czech language, but I kind of just approached it as a learning opportunity to take my game to the next level and to learn from older women, women who play a different style than me,” she said. “And I learned so much from them, including some Czech words. It’s just been such a cool opportunity to play with different types of players and bring that type of style of play to William & Mary and then Clemson next year.”
Martire, who will use a final year of eligibility at Clemson as the Atlantic Coast Conference school begins Division I play next spring, said she would jump at the opportunity to be a tour guide for her Czech Republic teammates, already mentioning fireworks at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and the area loosely bordered by Towson, Johns Hopkins and Loyola Maryland as destination choices. But she also noted that they are on what essentially amounts to a business trip.
“I don’t want to get too ahead of myself. We are going to be playing a lot of lacrosse,” she said. “… We want to prove on the world stage that we are an incredible team. We will have plenty of time for team bonding and getting to know each other better.”