Dartmouth lacrosse alums join U.S. national team

By Greg Berger and Bianca Zlatea

The Dartmouth, Dartmouth College via UWIRE

After one of the most competitive tryouts ever, Dartmouth lacrosse veterans Colleen Olsen and Devon Wills were named to the U.S. lacrosse women’s national team for the 2010-2011 season.

The roster was finalized after a highly selective three-day tryout period at U. Maryland from July 30 to Aug. 1.

Though the tryouts ran similarly to those in previous years, changes in the U.S. program’s format shrunk the squad down from the usual 48 members to only 36 for this year’s team, Wills said.

Previously, the women’s national team consisted of two 24-member teams — one elite and one developmental, according to Wills.

The smaller roster placed additional pressure on the athletes and made for stiffer competition among newcomers and veterans alike, Wills said.

Having been a member of the team since 2007, Wills said that it was refreshing to return to the competitive setting as a veteran.

“Even though there were World Cup team members there, this was a new staff and new system so nothing was ever promised,” she said.

Olsen, a defender, joins the national team this year after playing on the developmental squad last year.

“There were going to be fewer people who were going to make [the team this year],” Olsen said. “[Tryouts] were more competitive, but it was pretty cool because you know when you made it, you made the national team, instead of developmental or elite.”

U.S. head coach Ricky Fried — who also serves as women’s lacrosse head coach at Georgetown U. — and other collegiate coaches whittled the final roster down to 36 after evaluating 80 potential players in scrimmages and drills, Wills said.

The U.S. team program has four primary squads — a men’s and women’s national team as well as a men’s and women’s under-19 team, according to the U.S. Lacrosse website. Athletes try out annually for their spots on the teams. U.S. players will prepare for the upcoming 2013 Federation of International Lacrosse World Cup, although no spot is guaranteed because the U.S. roster changes every year, according to Olsen.

The United States will look to defend its title in 2013 after winning the 2009 World Cup — the most recent championship — with an 8-7 victory over Australia. No stranger to the international stage, Wills led the 2009 team and was named Player of the Match after the cutthroat final against the Aussies.

Instead of playing games against international teams this year, the U.S. national squad will play elite Division I schools, according to Olsen. These games are “challenging,” Olsen said, because the players practice together on a daily basis, while the U.S. national squad does not hold practices nearly as often. While at Dartmouth, Wills — a three-time All-American and four-time All-Ivy League goalkeeper — led the Big Green to the national championship game during her senior season.

Wills ranks second on the Big Green’s all-time list in saves with 538 and started 70 of a possible 71 games during her undergraduate career. She has since built upon the fundamentals learned at Dartmouth, she said, and credits her international success to the efforts of Big Green head coach Amy Patton.

“Dartmouth has always been where it all started,” she said. “[Patton] always gave me the preparation and support needed to make the squad.”

Like Wills, Olsen also cited her experience playing lacrosse at Dartmouth as a key to her success on the national competitive level.

“We have some of the best defensive coaches in Division I,” she said. “I learned so much from them in game sense, communication, discipline — all the right things to do on defense that I think a lot of the other players haven’t been taught. I think I was one of the best-prepared players [at tryouts].”

Olsen added that the high caliber of her teammates’ playing ability also prepared her for national success.

“Going against [other Dartmouth players] every day in practices makes me feel like I can go against anybody,” Olsen said.

During her career at Dartmouth, Olsen combined for 120 ground balls and 90 draw controls while generating 68 caused turnovers. Olsen led the Big Green as captain during the 2010 season and ended her senior year with a scoring defense of 7.93, fifth best in the country.

The FIL has not yet announced the location and dates of the 2013 World Cup.

Read more here: http://thedartmouth.com/2010/08/10/sports/lax/
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