Local players ready to keep US on top of the world
The odd ritual in the Ferguson household started a few weeks back, when Diane Ferguson presented her daughter, Christine, with an American flag.
The banner was a bit more than a familial show of patriotism. Diane is hoping that on Aug. 13 in Hanover, Germany, her daughter will take a victory lap with the flag - and a gold medal - in tow after winning the Federation of International Lacrosse Under-19 World Championships.
“When she brought it up to me, she said, ‘This is so when you win the gold, you can run around the field holding it like when you see on TV when one of our national teams win,’ ’’ Christine Ferguson said. “I’ve been running around the house with my sister with the American flag, joking, practicing for when we win.’’
The Weston teen will not be the only Bay Stater making the trip to Germany.
She’ll be joined by Madison Acton, a rising senior at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional, along with Beverly’s Kelsey Duryea, a senior-to-be at The Governor’s Academy in Newbury.
Flush with remarkable resumes, Ferguson and Acton head to Germany as expected starters for the US team.
Ferguson, who has prepped the last four years at St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H., will start her freshman classes at Cornell University five days after returning from Germany.
The 5-foot-8 defender was a first-team Independent School League all-star in both of the last two seasons, and among her stops this summer have been the
Acton, a high-scoring midfielder who has committed to Duke for the fall of 2012, powered Lincoln-Sudbury to the Division 1 North sectional title last spring with 68 goals and 37 assists. She was a Dual County League all-star for the second straight season, and earned first-team Eastern Mass. honors. She’s also been a DCL all-star in soccer every year since her freshman season.
Ferguson and Acton have known each other since they were 10, and have played for the Revolution club organization - albeit on different squads, because they’re a year apart - for a number of years.
Both players made the U-19 squad after an arduous tryout process that began nearly a year ago. Acton and Ferguson were among 200 players invited to try out last August at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
“That was the hardest three days of my life,’’ Acton said. “The evaluators were just watching us from the stands. They didn’t know our names, just our jersey numbers. It was a really intense set up.’’
Both players made strong-enough impressions - “I can still tell you her jersey number, No. 1,’’ US U-19 coach Krystin Porcella said of Acton - to clear the first two rounds of cuts, leaving camp as members of the 24-girl roster that would eventually be reduced to 18.
The squad met a few more times in the fall, including a get-together in Boston. After a training session at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex in Florida over the winter, the final roster was announced.
The experience was eye-opening and beneficial to both young women.
“Since a young age, I’ve always been one of the better players wherever I played, so I wasn’t always so challenged,’’ Acton said. “Being with the US team makes me work that much harder. With other teams, it’d be automatic that I’d get playing time and get to start. I had to work my butt off to get a starting position with the US team.’’
The US team is considered one of the tournament favorites, backed by three consecutive U-19 world championship wins.
The expectations are weighing on the players’ minds, but only to an extent, they said. The world championships occur every four years, creating a “disconnect’’ from the 2007 team that last won, according to Porcella.
Still, the players are aware of the pressure to continue America’s dynasty.
“A lot of girls have adopted the saying, ‘We didn’t win silver, we lost gold,’ so I think that’s the attitude we have going into it,’’ Ferguson said, citing the US women’s soccer team’s response to losing in the World Cup finals. “While we’re all going to love it, this is a business trip, and our goal is to come back with the championship.
“I think we all know, it’s not really pressure on us, but we’re all really hungry to be one of those teams that continues the tradition or dynasty for the United States. We don’t want to be the team that doesn’t win,’’ she said.
America’s biggest test will likely be the Australians, who have faced the US squad in each of the last four finals. Canada also figures to be one of the better teams there, though the US women had little trouble with a freshly assembled squad earlier this summer.
The United States will get cracks at both the Canadians and the Aussies, with Australia scheduled to face America in the last game of round-robin play.
First, though, the players will get a chance to avenge their soccer-playing compatriots in a showdown with Japan on Thursday.
Ferguson feels confident this year’s squad can make it a four-peat for the United States, based on their commitment, work ethic, and passion for the game.
“I think everyone on our team just loves lacrosse so much,’’ Ferguson said. “They’re not going to want to come home with anything less than a gold medal.’’
And then she’ll be able to prance around the field in Germany with the American flag, just like she’s practiced with sister Caroline.
Jake Seiner can be reached at email@example.com.