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Syd Smith guards Madison Epke

U.S. U20 Hopefuls Find Added Incentive in National Team Opportunity

July 8, 2023
Jake Epstein
Mason Perricone

SPARKS, Md. — After a midsummer downpour delayed Friday’s tryout nearly an hour, an eager group of red, white and blue-clad athletes inundated a cloud-covered Tierney Field, vying for a coveted shot at representing the United States at the 2024 World Lacrosse Women’s U20 Championship in Hong Kong.

“It would mean the world to be able to represent my country,” Duke defender Sydney Smith said. “I have two brothers in the military, so they represent their country every single day. It’s a great opportunity for me to do the same in a different way.”

When the July sun suddenly emerged and swiftly shone down on some of the nation’s top high school and collegiate prospects, coach Kelly Amonte Hiller couldn’t help but grin as she started her second world championship cycle at the helm of the junior national team.

After watching the U.S. U19 squad fall 8-7 to Canada in the 2015 gold medal game, Amonte Hiller took the job before the 2019 tournament in Ontario, Canada, vowing to return the country back to its gold standard.

A two-time gold medalist as a U.S. senior team player, Amonte Hiller did just that, leading the Americans to a 7-0 record and a 13-3 championship victory over Canada.

“Kelly has been in the game for so long [and] has so much knowledge,” Northwestern attacker Abby LoCascio said. “Having her here and getting coached up by her is a great thing for our country.”

Fresh off winning her eighth NCAA championship as the coach at Northwestern, Amonte Hiller has one goal in mind: building a bona fide winner fit to capture the country’s sixth junior championship.

Tasked with assembling another gold medal squad, Amonte Hiller and her staff began evaluating 98 invitees from 17 states Friday. And with an expanded age field from U19 to U20, the evaluators have even more star power to select from.

“This is something I’ve always dreamed about since being a little girl — just having USA across my chest,” said Maryland midfielder Kori Edmonson, who previously competed for USA Select U16 and U18 teams in 2018 and 2021. “Being able to play with all these 98 amazing athletes and being on one field together is something you can’t make up.”

From high school All-Americans to collegiate all-conference honorees, talent permeated across the complex, but only a select few will officially don the stars and stripes in Hong Kong next August as members of the U20 national team.

Players didn’t hold much back from the opening horn, as offense-versus-defense drills pitted premier attackers against tenacious defenders at a lightning pace emblematic of the thunderstorm earlier.

“We were able to showcase our talents, play together, meet new people and it’s been an unbelievable experience so far,” said Boston College goalie Shea Dolce, who also has USA Select experience.  In all, there are 37 players who participated in USA Lacrosse’s National Team Development Program. “I can’t wait for the next couple of days.”

Once the day sessions turned into night, invitees regrouped and battled in an intense series of 30-minute scrimmages under the lights, awaiting their time to shine.

Players returned to Tierney Field for Saturday morning sessions in designated groups before an afternoon session, goalie and draw trials and evening scrimmages to cap off day two.

Come Sunday, there will be one last chance to make a push for the training team, which will be selected at the morning session’s culmination and announced later in the afternoon.


Seated side-by-side several yards beyond the sideline, the numbers draped across the back of an attacker and a midfielder’s pinnies adds up to a perfect 100, encapsulating their strength as a collective unit.

Throughout the camp, players spoke of the tremendous honor presented in front of them. Three days in front of Amonte Hiller’s staff that could punch their ticket to Hong Kong. The phrase “best of the best,” echoed throughout the facility.

But for two Colorado natives seeking to prove their prowess among the nation’s elite, the three-day tryout period gives them a shot at something bigger — a chance to represent the U.S. as sisters.

Hailing far from the country’s traditional lacrosse hotbeds, Tess and Eliza Osburn look to show the sport’s caliber out West.

“When we first got the opportunity, a lot of people had the same reaction like, ‘They’re from Colorado. There’s not as much talent there,’” said Eliza Osburn, a 2024 midfielder who committed to North Carolina in September 2022. “In Colorado, there’s some really strong talent, and we’re growing.”

As the Osburn sisters made the trek into Maryland on Thursday with their father, Tim, he kept remarking on the unique opportunity in front of them.

Tim Osburn told his daughters to work together and “pump each other up,” instead of succumbing to the high-pressure scenario a tryout presents and bringing one another down.

The pair last played together at Valor Christian High School in 2022, where Tess Osburn captured all conference honors in each of her four seasons playing for the Eagles.

When it came time to choosing a school, Tess Osburn chose an up-and-coming Big East program in Marquette. Her decision paid immediate dividends, as she scored 34 goals and dished out seven assists as a freshman.

Fresh off a 15-win season and NCAA tournament appearance, Tess Osburn returned home to a familiar training partner in Colorado — her now-rising senior sister, who swiftly rose to the peak of the region’s game.

Once the pair reunited, the Osburns immediately went to work, putting no time to waste considering the prospects within their grasp.

“We wouldn’t take it for granted,” Tess Osburn said. “High school was the best time ever and having the chance to play with her together is amazing. [Since] we play different positions, we’re not competitive with each other — we get to work together.”

Although Eliza Osburn has one more year of high school before she officially sets foot in Chapel Hill as a Tar Heel, she’s gotten to play alongside a bevy of future teammates and challenge herself against proven players at the college ranks during tryouts.

“I’m getting the chance to actually compete with girls who have already played in college and get coached by the top coaches in the country,” Eliza Osburn said.