LEWISTON — Independence Day may be over, but Niagara University is still decked out in red, white and blue.
Team USA has taken over the campus for the weekend.
The national women’s lacrosse team is staying in the institution’s apartments and practicing on Niagara Field as it prepares for the 2013 Federation of International Lacrosse World Cup. The squad will compete July 11-20 in Oshawa, Ont., hoping to earn a record seventh world title and defend the gold medal it earned in 2009 in Prague, Czech Republic.
Team USA manager Wendy Stone (Nichols) is the women’s lacrosse head coach at Niagara, and she helped coordinate the team’s travel accommodations in Western New York.
Carol Cantele, an assistant coach, explained the location is a perfect stop on the team’s trip to Ontario.
“This just happened to work out fantastically because we’re heading right up the road,” Cantele said.
Nineteen countries will take part in the World Cup. The squad is practicing once more this morning before taking off for Oshawa, where it also competed last year in the North American Challenge Cup.
Cantele is clear about Team USA’s aim.
“We’re going to look to take it all, for sure,” she said. “We’re certainly looking to improve with each game we play and play the U.S. way, which is an aggressive, attacking style with everyone contributing and playing with endless energy and stamina because we have speed, quickness, strength, power. We’re just very confident.”
Taylor D’Amore graduated from Canandaigua High School, about an hour and a half east of Buffalo, and is entering her senior year with Johns Hopkins University. The attacker is just finishing her first full year with Team USA and is an alternate for the World Cup, but Cantele said D’Amore will fill in seamlessly if her number is called.
“Fast is how we want to play,” D’Amore said. “It’s a privilege, a treat to play with this many good players, and it makes it that much more fun in that environment.”
Team USA prides itself on speed, athleticism and dominant stick skills.
Last year, the team hosted a girls lacrosse camp at Hamburg High School. With the World Cup approaching, the squad didn’t have time for a camp this year – but they still made time to visit with some young lacrosse players.
Amherst’s Hot Shots Lacrosse Camp – full of area girls lacrosse players 18 and under – was on hand to witness the Saturday morning practice. The team also practiced in the afternoon.
Katie Rowan, an attacker on Team USA, is an assistant coach at Syracuse University and grew up in Bethlehem – which is a short distance south of Albany.
“We do our best to act as role models and we do a lot of clinics throughout the year,” Rowan, who was on the last world championship team, said. “We love meeting younger players and encouraging them to keep practicing and stick with the game. It’s just a really good experience.”
Stone called the entire team “wonderful ambassadors for the sport.”
“They represent everything you want your athletes to represent,” Stone said.
“They’re wonderful role models. They embody everything that you want your athletes to be. It’s a really fun group; they enjoy what they do.”
The team went out to dinner Friday night at Lewiston’s Water Street Landing – celebrating head coach Ricky Fried’s birthday – and spent Saturday night with Stone’s relatives on their farm in Eden.