Changing of the guard: Mastroianni and Apuzzo win the gold medal

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Changing of the guard: Mastroianni and Apuzzo win the gold medal

Team USA midfielder Ally Mastrioanni exchanges high-fives with fans on his way to Unitas Stadium.

TOWSON, Maryland— Ally Mastroianni lined up against Kaylin Morissette. She looked over her right shoulder and saw Marie McCool. Then she looked ahead and saw Taylor Cummings.

She was in good hands.

“Those are exactly the two people I watched growing up,” Mastroianni said.

Now the next generation can watch Mastroianni. Or should we say Maestroianni?

The former North Carolina star led the draw on Saturday with flying colors, becoming an unexpected X-factor for the United States in its pursuit of its fourth consecutive world championship.

Mastroianni edged Canada’s Kaylin Morissette, a World Team selection, with a record seven ties in Team USA’s 11-8 victory in the World Lacrosse Championship gold medal game feminine. She mustered seven herself and otherwise placed the ball perfectly on the circle for a cadre of quick midfielders to gobble up the goods.

“Anyone on this team, I wish I had my back on the circle,” said Mastroianni, who finished with an American record 38 draws in the tournament. “I knew every draw they would do their job boxing to get the ball and they smashed it today.”

The pandemic has given this American team a fair share of adversity, but it has also given Mastroianni a gift. If the world championship had taken place in 2021 as originally planned, Mastroianni, who only clung to the team during last summer’s trials, probably would not have participated. (It was also Charlotte North’s first US team experience.)

“I was late to the party, but I’m just grateful to be here,” Mastroianni said. “I just take each day with gratitude. A year ago, two years ago, I didn’t know or thought I was in these shoes. I’ve always dreamed of it so it’s very cool to be here.

The United States has become the first country to win a Women’s World Championship on home soil. He has now won nine of 11 championships contested, his only silver medals being at the hands of Australia when the games were held here in 1986 (Swarthmore, Pennsylvania) and 2005 (Annapolis, Maryland).

“The very first thing our staff said to them when we got together: no one has ever won at home,” said American coach Jenny Levy, who took over the program in the fall of 2017. is something we have talked about very openly.

Levy is also very outspoken about leaving a legacy and inspiring a new wave of lacrosse players and fans. It has become a common sight after American games to see hundreds of young girls pushing against the steel barricades of Unitas Stadium in search of autographs.

So many stars. Not enough Sharpies.

This American team included six players who were with the team when it won the world championship in England and in 2017 and five who went on to represent the country in the first-ever lacrosse competition at the World Games in Poland. They were the pioneers of a movement. Four of them – Cummings, McCool, Alice Mercer and Kayla Treanor – made it around the world team. Cummings was named MVP.

Now is the time to pass the torch. Treanor, who became Team USA’s all-time leading scorer, said afterward it was likely her last run. His United States career dates back to the 2011 Under-19 team.

“I think so,” said Treanor, the 28-year-old forward who led the United States unbeaten with 34 points (20 goals, 14 assists) in eight games and set national team career highs for goals (44) and points (77). “Trying to take advantage of it.”

Cummings, 28, also appeared nostalgic in an Instagram post recalling when she and Treanor — varsity rivals from Maryland and Syracuse, respectively — first dressed for the United States at Unitas Stadium (“Johnny U ”) at an exhibition in 2013.

Saturday’s historic win felt like a passing guard. Cummings and McCool delivered the essential score that gave USA an early lead, but in the end Mastroianni and player of the match Sam Apuzzo played the most important roles in sealing victory.

Mastroianni won every draw after the middle of the second quarter. The U.S. has won possession in 14 of 18 ties with her under center.

Apuzzo took advantage of the sloping ground and defensive attention on attacking teammates Treanor and North. She rounded the corner from 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 give the United States a 9-5 lead.

And after USA went empty on their first four possessions of the fourth quarter, it was Apuzzo who threw the dagger with a sneak attack behind the goal to make it 11-7 with 3:12 remaining. .

“So many people stepped up, like Ally and Sam,” Treanor said. “There are some amazing young players in this squad who shone today.”

A two-time Tewaaraton Award winner at Boston College who led Team USA with 24 goals, North mimicked Treanor’s YouTube highlights when he learned the game in Texas. She also thanked Cummings, Mercer, Megan Douty and Liz Hogan for setting the tone for a team that has come together over the past five years and especially the past two weeks.

“These players, they’re all-time,” North said. “I have always admired them. They changed the game.”

With new stars like Apuzzo, Mastroianni and North emerging, the game – and the US national team – is in good hands.

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