PETERBOROUGH, Ontario — The long-anticipated matchup at the 2019 World Lacrosse Women’s U19 World Championship almost didn’t happen.
Host Canada, the defending champion at the event, trailed England 7-5 entering the fourth quarter of its semifinal on Thursday night. With its back against the wall, Canada responded.
The Canadians scored five straight goals, the last three of them, including the game-winning goal, by Stony Brook’s Shonly Wallace to be beat England 10-7 and set up a title game showdown against the United States on Saturday at 3 p.m. (Eastern). The game will be live streamed on both Lax Sports Network and the Olympic Channel.
“I thought the English game plan was excellent,” said Canada head coach Scott Teeter. “They executed and we had our opportunities, but we didn’t finish our shots. The stat sheet shows we controlled most of the game, but I don’t think we played the smartest lacrosse.”
The comeback victory for Canada sets up a rematch of the 2015 U19 world championship game when Canada stunned the United States 9-8 to end a string of four straight world titles for the U.S. women’s U19 program.
The United States had cruised through the 2015 event, including a 15-9 pool play victory over Canada, but a three-goal, two-assist effort from eventual Tewaaraton finalist Selena Lasota carried the Canadians to the improbable victory.
The U.S. similarly has rolled through the 2019 tournament to earn the No. 1 seed, but knows there is a big challenge ahead.
“I’m really excited,” said U.S. head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. “That’s what you want, you want the best challenge that you can get. We know that they’re going to be hungry. We beat them not long ago and they’re going to come in all guns blazing. They have a lot of weapons. We have to play our best.”
In an event where the U.S. has outscored its six opponents by a combined score of 115-17, Canada gave the Americans their sternest test.
With Maddie Jenner and Greta Stahl in the draw circle and Bri Gross gobbeling up seemingly every ball those two don’t corral, the U.S. is winning nearly 75 percent of the draws in the tournament. That will be a critical component in the championship game.
In the pool play game, Canada won the first three draws of the game and controlled possession for much of the opening quarter. The score was tied 1-1 through over 14 minutes of play until Izzy Scane gave the U.S. a 2-1 lead with just 18 seconds left in the first period.
From there, Jenner took over. The 6-foot-2 attacker from Duke helped the U.S. win the next seven draws to ignite a U.S. rally that eventually reached eight straight goals. The 7-0 scoring advantage in the second quarter gave the U.S. a 9-1 halftime lead.
The teams played even in the second half, both squads scored four goals, but the damage had been done. The U.S. ended up winning 15 of 22 draws in the game, a 13-5 U.S. victory.
Goaltending will be another huge factor on Saturday. The U.S. tandem of Madison Doucette and Rachel Hall has been lights out the entire tournament.
Hall was the Pac 12 Freshman of the Year this spring after leading the nation in saves at Oregon. She has since transferred to Boston College and has been the U.S. starter in all six games in the tournament, making 19 saves while allowing just nine goals.
Doucette was a back-up at Northwestern this spring and has closed out all six U.S. victories. She leads all goaltenders in the tournament with a 73.3 save percentage, making 22 saves while giving up just eight goals.
Cassidy Eckert has been Canada’s primary keeper in the tournament. She’s made 18 saves while giving up 29 goals, but Paige Pagano, a Jacksonville commit, has also seen extensive action. Pagano played the second half in the first game against the U.S. and made five saves while allowing just four goals.
Since the day the 18 U.S. players tried out for the team last August, they’ve been reminded of what happened in 2015. They’re ready to embrace the opportunity to bring the championship back to the United States.
“This is something we’ve dreamed of since we were little kids, being in the World Cup championship,” said Kasey Choma, a U.S. midfielder headed to Notre Dame later this month after leading Eastport South Manor to a New York state championship in June.
The atmosphere promises to be electric. A sold out crowd was on hand for the pool play game between the two teams and the crowds at Trent University have been large and vocal throughout the tournament.
“Having the hometown crowd and the city of Peterborough behind us is definitely going to energize the girls,” Teeter said. “This has been an 18-month process for the goals and to win the gold medal, you have to be in the gold medal game.”
U.S. defender and co-captain Ally Murphy, who as a rising junior at Massachusetts is the oldest player on the team, has also long been waiting for the championship game. The U.S. team held a training camp at Niagara University in Buffalo beginning July 28 before crossing the border to Canada in anticipation of this moment.
“It felt like it would never come,” Murphy said. “We’ve been here like 10 days and it feels so good that the next game we’re playing is the championship game.”
“It’s going to be awesome,” said Scane, a second team All-American at Northwestern this spring. “We have to go in with our heads up and know that it’s not given just because we beat them before. It’s their home turf. I think we’re all going to be excited. I’m super excited to play another really challenging team and see how it turns out.”
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