TOWSON, Md. — The home soil hex no longer haunts the U.S. women’s national team.
Marie McCool and Sam Apuzzo scored three goals each and Ally Mastroianni pulled down seven draw controls to lead the United States to an 11-8 win over Canada in the World Lacrosse Women’s Championship gold medal match Saturday at Unitas Stadium.
The U.S. led from start to finish, though never by more than four goals, in a closely contested final. Apuzzo also contributed two assists to earn Player of the Match honors.
The Americans finished the tournament 8-0 and became the first host country ever to capture the gold medal. The U.S. has won 30 straight games and four gold medals dating back to 2009, its last loss in international competition coming in the 2005 world championship final just 45 miles south of here in Annapolis.
“The very first thing our staff told them when we got together: No one’s ever won at home,” said U.S. coach Jenny Levy, who took over the program in the fall of 2017. “That’s something we talked about very openly.”
Touted for its explosive attack, the U.S. leaned on its midfield early. McCool and Taylor Cummings each scored two goals in the first quarter, including Cummings’ shorthanded tally with seven seconds left as the U.S. took a 4-2 lead.
Playing a slower pace while ahead, the U.S. cashed in on four of seven possessions in the first quarter.
“We just started to play a little bit smarter valuing the ball,” Cummings said. “When we’re up with shot clock [in international rules], we can be pickier about the shots we’re taking.”
Mastroianni took over draw duties almost exclusively from there. The U.S. won possession on 14 of 18 draws with her under center.
As usual, the slick-sticked Canadians were efficient with their few opportunities. Erica Evans led the way with four goals. Maddy Baxter scored twice in the second quarter to pull Canada within 6-4 at halftime.
Apuzzo took over in the third quarter. Perhaps overlooked on an attack unit that includes U.S.’s all-time leading scorer in Kayla Treanor and the most popular player in the game in Charlotte North, Apuzzo turned the corner off a restart to score 69 seconds into the third quarter. Then she fed McCool for an assist on her spinning finish and converted a free position from the center hash to stake the U.S. to a 9-5 lead
And after the U.S. came up empty on its first four possessions of the fourth quarter, it was Apuzzo who delivered the dagger with a sneak attack from behind the goal to make it 11-7 with 3:12 remaining.
A yellow card on U.S. goalie Liz Hogan in the last minute made things interesting. Canada converted quickly with a man-up goal to make it 11-8 with 58 seconds left.
But Mastroianni flung the ball out to Emily Parros on the ensuing draw. Parros tracked it down and the U.S. held on for the victory.
“It’s all about the players,” Levy said. “We have a great mix of veterans who have been here before and young guys who are exciting and electric and going through this for the first time. Everyone was open to developing relationships, rally getting to know each other and having fun.”
“It was our selflessness,” Cummings said. “It would be hard to imagine that an offense of Apuzzo, Treanor, North, Molly [Hendrick], Kylie [Ohlmiller], all of the middies — there’s a lot of alphas but we all just shared the ball and celebrated each other’s successes.”