Elizabeth Hillman said she jumped through the roof when she got the word. Maddie Jenner called it the biggest honor she’s had as an athlete. Emma Schettig was pleasantly surprised.
One by one, the three Baltimore-area lacrosse standouts got a phone call from United States under-19 women’s lacrosse coach Kelly Amonte Hiller in June with big news: Each are among the 18 players selected to represent the country in the World Lacrosse championship, set to run Aug. 1-10 in Peterborough, Ontario.
The U.S. plays its first game Aug. 2 against Australia.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, something you always dream about as a kid,” said Hillman, a Bel Air graduate and rising sophomore midfielder at North Carolina. “For me, personally, I never really truly grasped I was on the team until the final roster came out and then I was like ‘Wow, this is amazing.’ ”
For Hillman, Jenner, a McDonogh grad and rising sophomore draw control specialist/attacker at Duke, and Schettig, a recent McDonogh grad set to play midfield at Maryland, the coveted roster spots were earned after a year-long process that started with more than 100 players in the first three-day tryout last August.
In the past year, the candidates participated in several weekend training sessions to trim the roster, with 24 competing for the final time in early June before the team was picked.
“Just to make this final roster of 18 was a culmination of a lot of hard work and it’s really exciting and humbling,” said Jenner, a three-time All-Metro selection and 2017 All-Metro Player of the Year in her junior year at McDonogh. “For me, it’s the biggest honor for sure and really cool to play under Kelly, who has a legendary status in the lacrosse world. To also play with so many different girls from other schools, it’s a unique experience and then to represent the U.S. is really awesome.”
Amonte Hiller wasn’t surprised to see three Baltimore-area players make the cut.
“Obviously, the Baltimore area is so strong and it’s the depth of talent that is truly amazing,” she said. “So I think in high school, they definitely have a strong advantage because their teams are very competitive across the board and see that talent locally all the time. And then there’s so many strong colleges in the area as well, so they get to see that high level of lacrosse as well.”
All three players have taken their own unique path to make the U.S. squad.
When Hillman started playing lacrosse when she was 8, she made a travel team playing with girls that were far more advanced.
“I was definitely at the bottom of the roster. I couldn’t catch, I couldn’t throw, I was very bad at lacrosse,” she said with a laugh. “I got frustrated a lot and there were times when I [thought] it’s not my thing. But I stuck with it and as I started getting better, I started falling in love with the game and understanding it more.
"I started to love it more and more as I was able to play it the way it was supposed to be played.”
After leading Bel Air to its first state title in her junior season, Hillman was named the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2018 by Inside Lacrosse as a senior.
In August, Amonte Hiller will bank on her versatile skills and the valuable experience she gained as a key freshman contributor during North Carolina’s run to the NCAA tournament semifinals this past spring.
“She’s a real leader, relentless in her competitiveness and to have someone that’s played at the highest level as a collegiate is a huge thing and something we wanted to include,” Amonte Hiller said.
“She’s a glue player. She plays great defense and is strong offensively, too. She’ll just grind and do all the little things. She’s got great speed and a nose for where to be and the heart and hustle to get there.”
Perhaps no players in next month’s tournament have been in more pressure-packed games than Jenner and Schettig. At McDonogh, the country’s perennial No. 1 team for the past decade, the pair got every team’s best during the program’s national-record 198-game winning streak.
Jenner, who was the country’s top draw control specialist in high school, added a strong freshman season at Duke to build on her confidence as she prepares for wearing the red, white and blue.
Exceptionally agile for her 6-foot-2 frame, her role on the team is clearly defined: Get the Americans the ball.
“Maddie is obviously a force size-wise and for someone that size, she moves extremely well,” Amonte Hiller said. “Our biggest focal point with her is obvious — the draw control — and we feel she can help us dominate that area then we’ll put our team in position to be successful with having more possession.”
One of five recent high school graduates on the roster, Schettig, an All-Metro first-team selection for the No. 1 Eagles this past spring, came further than any other player to earn a spot on the team. During the final day of the first weekend of tryouts, she was in the lower group when the players were broken into three teams for scrimmages, but broke through to make a positive impression on the coaching staff.
“Emma is just a true fighter. She literally fought her way back by showing her speed, her tenacity and her fight and that moved her up,” Amonte Hiller said. “I just lover her tenacity, I love her fight. She’s going to be providing a more defensive role for us. She’s very smart on the field, she communicates well and she picks things up extremely well, so she provides that spark and fight.”
Set to play more of a defensive role, Schettig is looking forward to her latest challenge on the lacrosse field.
“I’m going to go at it in the same way,” she said. “Going to McDonogh and playing for my club, I always respected everyone around me so much and I’m not going to change — it’s just U.S. is bigger. I’m really super excited to wear the U.S. jersey.”
After winning four straight championships (1999, 2003, 2007, 2011), the U.S. team fell to Canada in 2015, leaving plenty of rare motivation.
“I definitely think this championship is going to be more special because we don’t have the trophy right now and there’s definitely a lot riding on this one,” Hillman said. “Playing with that added pressure I would say is fun and makes us all that much more hungry to want to go out and bring it home.”