U19 ENGLAND LACROSSE TOUR TO CANADA - JULY 2019

 

 

On the 27th July 2019 we arrived at Heathrow airport in preparation to fly to Toronto, Canada for the 2019, U19 World Lacrosse Championships. 

The preparation for this competition has be 3 years in the making and each player has gone through a gruelling training regime.

Having arrived in Toronto we waited for a coach transfer to the town of Peterborough, where we travelled to Trent University, our home for the next couple of weeks.  We arrived on the Sunday night, and with the competition not starting till the Thursday, we had a few days to acclimatise to the heat and time zone, so that we could be 100% prepared for our first match. 

On the Monday we split off into groups and explored what the town had to offer (it wasn’t a lot), however we met lots of lovely people who were very interested in the world championships and it was lovely to know that we had lots of Canadian support. On the Monday afternoon we had a training session which included lots of match play to try and get used to the heat that we were going to have to experience throughout the coming weeks. 

On Tuesday we had a similar training session followed by a stretching an aqua session which involved aerobics in the pool to try and stretch out our muscles from the day before. 

On Wednesday morning we had our first official Team meeting which involved a scout for our first match against New Zealand. A scout is a piece of paper that we fill out, having been given information on the team we are playing, this is to help us target certain players and be prepared for anything the opposition will spring on us. Wednesday evening was the opening ceremony, an experience that I will never forgot. In teams we each had the opportunity to walk out onto the field in front of hundreds of people including our friends and family. Peterborough has a very strong history with indigenous communities, and this was demonstrated throughout the opening ceremony. 

We woke up Thursday morning for an early training session in preparation for our match against New Zealand that evening; this was to be a tough match as we hadn’t completely shaken off the jetlag and were playing at 8pm in the evening. Not something we were used to doing. The session included lots of stick skills to get our eye in and footwork drills, so we were raring to go. Luckily the temperature was perfect, however we hadn’t prepared for the swarms of flies throughout the match. We headed down to the pitches and were welcomed by a large crowd full of our friends and families, we started our warmup, had our sticks checked and then lined up for the national anthem for the first time. The game was very tough, and I think we underestimated the speed and agility of the Kiwis, and unfortunately after a tough and tiring math we lost 17-3. Following the game, we had ice baths, a debrief and headed to bed to get a good night sleep as we were playing Japan the next day. 

Waking up Friday, we were all a little stiff and tired, but we had a pool session to loosen us up followed by a strength session. The team meeting was really important for this match because we had never played Japan before and we knew they were going to be extremely speedy and have excellent footwork. This match was at the other venue, Flemming college, so we hopped on a bus to the pitches and started warming up for our match. The match was at 3.30pm so the temperature was around 32oC, the hottest most of us have ever played in. We had to make sure we were hydrated with water and cold flannels. The match didn’t necessarily go to plan, as we struggled to work as a team and a few struggled to play their best in the heat. Japan were a lot speedier and more tactical than we had prepared for, but a tough loss just spurred us on even more to try and win our final pool match. We carried out our normal post-match routine and had a tough team talk about the reality of being at such a big competition and the need for the whole team to step up our game. 

We had the Saturday off, so had a pool and stretch session and were free to see our families for the remainder of the day. We met back up in the evening to discuss the match the next day and talk through what we needed to do to perform at our best. The match on Sunday was our last pool match and was against Scotland. We had a lot to prove in this match as we still had the disappointment of losing to them by one goal the last time, we played them at the Home Internationals. We started off the match really well, finally starting to work as a team which was reflected in the half time score which was 8-4. The talk at half time was super important as we needed to make sure we didn’t become complacent, especially against a team that were so similar to us. The second half was even better for us as we stepped up our game and played the best we have played as a team for a long time. We won our final pool game 12-5. 

Following our pool games, we had around a day and a half to stretch and recover and beating Scotland meant that we were to play the Czech Republic. For many of my team mates this was a re-match from the European Championships the year before, where they had lost by one goal. The Czech’s were a very physically strong team, so it was important that we had to do all the basics correctly and make sure that we took advantage of every scoring opportunity. We were very lucky to have so much support for this game, as it was a late evening game at Flemming College, therefore lots of other teams came down to support us. For me personally, this wasn’t my best game, and I didn’t play a large proportion of the game. However, the team played amazingly, and we did everything we were asked to and came out on top winning a tightly fought contest 12-10.  

Because we won our game against the Czech Republic, we had to play the winner of our pool which was Japan again. We knew now what was needed to beat such a speedy and tactical team and we had the weather on our side. The temperature was around 20oc, with a light drizzle, a climate we were much more suited to. We had a brilliant start, slowing down the Japanese players and taking advantage of a few yellow cards they received. However, just as we were starting to overpower the Japanese the weather took a turn for the worse bringing thunder and lightning. A rule of lacrosse is that when lighting strikes, all players must wait inside, and you must wait 30 minutes, unless lightning strikes again until you can come back out. So, after 90 minutes we were allowed back out onto the pitch to restart the match from 7-7. However, sadly for us the break meant our concentration had slipped and a few tired legs meant that Japan scored a few goals in quick succession. After playing as hard as we could unfortunately Japan were too good for us and the final score was 13-9. A bonus for me was that this was my best game of the tournament and I was awarded MVP. This was a huge improvement on the last game that we had against them, however, this loss meant that our next game was against the greatest team in the World the USA. 

Our penultimate match (unless we were able to beat the USA) was against the US, the greatest team in the world. Preparation to play a team like the USA is virtually impossible but we knew that we would probably never get this experience ever again so therefore we were to make the most of it. We had a visit from the Wales Women’s Lacrosse head coach Remi Steele, who came to help with the scout, and advise us on what to do against such an incredible team. We were given the starting line-up and fear set in, when my name was read out. This was to be the hardest game we would probably ever play as a team but also one of the most amazing as were playing girls that we have looked up to over the years. It was an evening game and walking onto the pitch was one of the most surreal experiences ever. There were nearly 3,000 people in the crowd to watch this game. The national anthems were done, and everyone was ready. The pace of the game was incredible, and their physicality was admirable. The crowd spurred us on the whole way and although we suffered a heavy yet expected loss, the experience was one I will never forget. This loss meant that we were in the 7th/8th play off the following day against either Germany or the Czech Republic again. 

Our final match at the U19 World Championships was against Germany. We had played the Germans and beaten them in the Home Internationals in the April prior to the World Championships, therefore it was important to remember that they were still a very tough team and our scout showed us that they had acquired a few new strong players in the months leading up to the world cup. We stepped out onto the pitch for the final time and sang the national anthem as loud as we could. All our friends and families were there, and we wanted to do them and our coaches proud for one final time. 

This was a game of 2 halves (and some extra time); we played brilliantly in the first half, using our speed in the midfield and our tactics in the attack to demonstrate to Germany that we were the stronger team, with the half time score being 7-2 to Wales. However, we became complacent and, began to try and do things very individually. Frustrations started to show, and both our attack and defence broke down. Germany were too strong, and the final whistle blew, and the score was 8-8. As this was a play-off game, we had extra time which was 5 minutes each way and if the score was still a draw it goes to golden goal. In typical Wales fashion we were able to hold off Germany but equally they were able to hold us out too. For our poor coaches they had to stand on the side-line, to watch the game go to golden goal. I was subbed on at this point and told by one of the coaches (in language I can’t repeat) that I had one job and that was to win the centre draw and get it into our attack. With that in mind I stepped onto the pitch for one final time at these championships and did the job I was told to do. It is all a blur to me now and at the time it went in slow motion, but I was able to win the centre draw and get it to our captain who scored the golden goal, meaning that Wales had won 9-8 to come 7th out of 25 + teams. However, unfortunately for me whilst celebrating, I twisted my ankle and ripped some of the ligaments, meaning that I was unable to play Lacrosse for 3-4 weeks. Luckily as this was our final match, I was able to rest up and go with the rest of the team to watch the last couple of games in the following days. We flew back to London on the 13th August, all super happy with our performance and super grateful for the experience. 

Looking back now, this is an experience I may never get again and am very grateful for both my parents and Calne Foundation Trust for enabling me to go. I look back and realise that I am very lucky to be in this position, although it took 3 and a half years of setbacks and determination to even be considered for this team. Without trying to sound too cheesy, I want girls younger than me to understand that the road to any international sport will never ever be easy but that anyone can do it. I, like any girl at St Mary's Calne first picked up a Lacrosse stick in LIV, and had the same coaching and training, but had a different mindset, one that said, if I am committed and determined to do well at this then I will. In October of 2016, I never wanted to play Lacrosse again, but with support from coaches, friends and family, here I am at the start of 2020, training with the Senior Wales Lacrosse team, hoping to go to a Senior World Championship in the future.

 Caroline

 The Calne Foundation Trust

 

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