Three US Women's World Cup lacrosse players have been reunited after helping team USA win gold in July, 2001. This time they come together to guide the Stanford Women's Lacrosse team to national prominence. The recent decision of US defender, Jo Connelly, to join Head Coach, Michele Uhlfelder and second year assistant, Quinn Carney, made lacrosse history as the staff became the first in the country to boast three World Cup players as coaches. The attack, midfield, defender connection became official last month and may be the only national team player/collegiate coaching threesome, in any sport, in the country.
"We are all very competitive people who know what it takes to be successful at the next level. I think we make a great team. Between the three of us is a lot of passion about the game, and about how we do our jobs."
Stanford's athletic director, Ted Leland, is very proud of this unique coaching situation. He said, "the women's lacrosse staff has been a powerful and exciting addition to our department and to our coaching ranks. They have raised many eyebrows because of their vision and their own concentration of talent. They are some of the most visible and respected people in the game."
The threesome's unique balance of specialties, and their respective strengths on the field, promises to canvas the field like a web. While Uhlfelder has a broad perspective of the field due to her combined eight years of Division I coaching experience, as a player she brings the ability to score goals and an understanding of timing and off-ball movement. This will be fortified two-fold by Connelly's threatening quickness, real-time communication, and tough-minded defense, and by Carney's impressive ball possession skills, midfield prowess, and ability to finish. "We think our athletes stand to learn a lot just by watching us do it," said Carney. "Many people, myself included, learn by watching. If there is a question or a point we need to make, we have the ability to step in and show them."
Watching was something that Uhlfelder, Carney, and Connelly didn't do much of during World Cup 01 in England. Of the top three scorers on the team, Carney and Uhlfelder were two of them, finishing 2nd and 3rd overall, respectively. Carney filled in the World Cup stat book with 13 goals and seven assists, while Uhlfelder recorded 11 goals and four assists. In the gold medal game, Carney (3g) and Uhlfelder (2g) collectively scored a little over a third of the US goals in route to the US's fifth consecutive world title, defeating Australia 14-8. Also in the title game, Connelly came up huge in the hustle categories, digging out 5 ground balls and a key draw control. Not only did Connelly shut down some of the world's best attackers during the week long World Cup, but she was also an integral part of a very stingy US defense which only gave up 20 goals over six games, averaging out to only 3 goals a game.
In addition to the technical aspects of the game, this staff brings an abundance of passion and enthusiasm for a game that has given them so much. Uhlfelder says, "one of the strongest binds between us is that we all love this sport and we all have a special relationship with the game. Collectively we come from the same place--where our competitive spirits drive us to be the best, drive us to keep improving and expanding our games, and drive us to want to give others the opportunity to play the game at the highest level." Connelly, as the newest member of the staff, identifies strongly with this too. "We'll be able to not only give the team a lot of great on-the-field knowledge and skills, but also convey the full range of emotions that goes into being a champion at any level."
Because of the trio's experience as teammates, it is likely that the 2002 Lacrosse team will see their coaches function on a sixth sense level at times. It is also likely that the team will be entertained by many "war stories" and colorful historical accounts of what it's like to be on the field with each other. As usual, it's all compliments about each other and their roles. On the field, Carney gives Connelly a lot of credit for bringing her up to speed on the defense of the US Team. "I basically got a crash course and Jo had a huge roll in preparing me. As much of a jump as I made from college to US, I think Jo will help our players make from high school to college."
"One of our overall goals is to help young players play beyond their experience level, and help the most talented players reach a new level of athleticism and impact."
"We think players around the country will recognize this unique opportunity, not just because we are all World Cup players, but because this is symbolic of the commitment, quality, and vision of the program. It's also symbolic of the atmosphere of excellence that is here in every aspect of life at Stanford," Uhlfelder said.