WWC Day 8 Wrap: It’s England vs. Canada, Australia vs. U.S. in Semifinals


WWC Day 8 Wrap: It’s England vs. Canada, Australia vs. U.S. in Semifinals

Goalie Brittany Read backstops an England defense that has allowed just 4.25 goals per game in its four wins.

TOWSON, Md. — Before becoming a lacrosse coach, Phil Collier was a mathematician. He studied probability and statistics at the University of Sheffield in South Yorkshire, England.

Collier understands better than anyone the unlikelihood that anyone unseats the U.S. as world champion.

But as the head coach of the England women’s national team, Collier allows his left-brained tendencies to give way to the harebrained idea that his team could win this thing.

“The U.S. is favored by a mile. Everyone knows that. But what’s the cheesy expression? Every champion was once a contender that refused to give up,” Collier said earlier this week. “The U.S. has never won on home soil before. That’s something I’ll throw in there. They’re favorites. But we’ve got to get to the final first.”

England is one step closer after defeating Israel 13-5 in the World Lacrosse Women’s Championship quarterfinals Tuesday at Unitas Stadium. Olivia Hompe had three goals and two assists to earn Player of the Match honors.

England plays Canada in the semifinals Thursday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2). Archrivals Australia and the U.S. will meet in the other semifinal (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

England has never won a world championship. It won silver medals in 1989 and 1993. After slipping to fourth place in 2009 and 2013, the team turned to Collier, previously an assistant coach on the men’s side.

Collier established a year-round evaluation and training regimen, creating opportunities to integrate U.S. college players like Megan Whittle (Maryland), Olivia Hompe (Princeton) and Emily Nalls (North Carolina).

“They have to be not just good, they have to be special,” Collier said. “Because we’ve got a lot of good players.”

Since defeating Australia in an epic double-overtime bronze medal match as the world championship host in 2017 to reclaim a top-three ranking, England has continued its momentum. Staples like Laura Merrifield, Ruby Smith, Emily Gray and Torz Anderson remained with the team — Merrifield has played sparingly in this tournament due to injury — as it compiled a 19-1 record against mostly European competition over the last five years.

The one loss in that span came against the U.S. at the 2019 USA Lacrosse Spring Premiere at Stanford. The 14-8 result was the closest against the U.S. since Collier took over.

England validated its standing with a 12-4 win over Australia in to open the world championship last Thursday, followed by an 18-7 win over Scotland in a shortened game last Friday.

Then came the juggernauts.

New goalie Brittany Read (Louisville/Oregon), who resurrected her career last summer in Athletes Unlimited, was unbeatable in the first quarter against Canada. But England yielded a four-goal run to end the second quarter and a six-goal outburst spanning the third and fourth quarters in a 13-8 loss.

England also showed some spunk against the three-time defending world champion U.S. in pool play, pulling within one shortly before halftime before the Americans pulled away for a 15-9 victory.

In both defeats, England struggled to win draws especially in the second half, going a combined 4-for-21 in the center circle in the third and fourth quarters.

According to Collier’s calculus, England can spring an upset on Canada or the U.S. if it can come up with stops on seven out of every 10 defensive possessions and convert on five of every 10 offensive possessions — operating at 70-percent and 50-percent efficiency, respectively.

It’s a tall order, especially on defense, which is where the addition of Nalls, Read and English national gold medal-winning gymnast Charlotte Wilson come into play. Collier also added Penn State and former Towson defensive coordinator Mike Mollster to his staff.

“Our defense is better than was in 2017. That’s our strength as a team,” Collier said. “And that gives us a platform the other way. When you look at some of the attack players we’ve got, that gives us a great chance.”

England has allowed just five goals combined in its championship bracket wins over Wales and Israel. Merrifield’s return to the lineup also gives England another option on draws. She can spell Olivia Wimpenny at center and at 6-foot-1 has the reach to complement the speed of Nalls and Whittle on the circle.

AUSTRALIA HITS STRIDE AT RIGHT TIME

With half its team in the U.S., strict pandemic protocols at home and the tragic death of general manager Sue Sofarnos, Australia’s preparation for the world championship has been anything but ordinary. Travel delays only added to its troubles.

But after an 0-3 start to the tournament, Australia has hit its stride, outscoring its last three opponents by a combined 42-11 margin while playing its way back into medal contention.

“They’ve found that rhythm now,” coach Trish Adams said. “Getting to a medal game was our aim. We talk about enriching the Australian legacy and that’s part of that, competing for a medal and showing we can punch well above our weight on the world stage.”

Hannah Nielsen had three goals and two assists and Stacey Morlang Sullivan corralled five draw controls to earn Player of the Match honors in Australia’s 17-3 win over the upstart Haudenosuanee, who advanced to the quarterfinals as the No. 12 seed.

One of the most decorated players in women’s lacrosse history, Nielsen has been quiet until now. The two-time Tewaaraton Award winner playing in her fifth world championship had just one goal on 1-for-7 shooting in lopsided losses to England, the U.S. and Canada. She had two goals and three assists against Scotland but did not play in Australia’s first-round victory over Ireland on Tuesday. She could be seen sporting an abdominal brace after Wednesday’s win.

Adams said Australia is managing Nielsen’s workload.

“She’s fine. We’ve got a very deep bench and we trust our personnel. Today she feels a hundred percent,” Adams said. “She’s starting to connect, One of the difficulties with Hannah over here [coaching at Michigan] is she’s not playing club ball. It takes time to find that connection. We’ve started to see that, some beautiful on-field chemistry.”

CANADA DEFEATS CZECH REPUBLIC

Tournament leader Belle Martire of the Czech Republic scored five goals in an impressive effort, but Canada proved too potent in a 15-7 victory over one of the upstart teams of the world championship.

The Czechs trailed just 9-5 early in the third quarter, but Canada scored four unanswered goals and played nearly its entire roster in a game that never truly seemed in question.

Hannah Morris and Erica Evans scored three goals apiece to lead the Canadians, who will play England in the second semifinal Thursday.

UNITED STATES ROLLS PAST JAPAN

The rain came and the floodgates opened.

The top-seeded United States unleashed a six-goal barrage in a downpour at Unitas Stadium, turning a slim early margin into a comfortable lead in an 18-3 victory over ninth-seeded Japan in the World Lacrosse Women’s Championship quarterfinals Wednesday night.

Kayla Treanor scored four goals and added two assists to lead the U.S., while Charlotte North and Sam Apuzzo each netted hat tricks.

Read more on the U.S. win here.

NOTABLE

In the championship consolation bracket:

  • Sophy Coombs-Roberts and Amy Martin scored four goals apiece to lead Wales to a 17-6 win over Mexico.

  • Scotland, which came into the world championship as the No. 5 seed, rallied from a three-goal deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat Ireland 9-8. Hannah Whitely scored the game-winner on a free position with 1:19 left.

  • Puerto Rico picked up its biggest win yet, upsetting Germany 10-8 thanks to a four-goal run spanning the third and fourth quarters. Two sets of sisters led the way. Bri and Sky Carrasquillo, who play at Yale, scored three goals apiece. Natalie and Maria Pansini, meanwhile, combined for six points and seven draw controls.

  • Four different players scored hat tricks and New Zealand shut out Hong Kong in the third quarter en route to a 15-8 victory. Sarah Butler led the way with three goals and three assists. New Zealand outshot Hong Kong 32-20 but Hong Kong made the most of its limited opportunities, shooting 80 percent. Vanessa Yu (Yale) scored a game-high five goals in the loss.

In the platinum bracket:

  • Netherlands standout Sarah Sweerts de Landas Wyborgh scored five goals in a 15-2 win over Spain. Goalie Lyndsey Munoz (Stanford) made 19 saves in the loss.

  • Shannon Brazier (Cornell) had two goals and three assists and Runying Wang made 10 saves to lead China to an 8-5 win over Korea Republic.

  • Jamie Lasda (Ohio State) scored her fifth goal with 4:02 remaining, as Latvia held on after a late surge by Sweden to win 12-11.

  • Steph Colson (Gettysburg) scored with 1:37 left in overtime to lift Italy to a 7-6 win over Norway. 

CHAMPIONSHIP BRACKET

QUARTERFINAL SCORES

England 13, Israel 5
Australia 17, Haudenosaunee 3
Canada 15, Czech Republic 7
United States 18, Japan 3

SEMIFINAL SCHEDULE (ESPN2)

Australia vs. United States – Thursday 7 p.m. ET
England vs. Canada – Thursday 9 p.m. ET

CONSOLATION SCORES

Wales 17, Mexico 5
Scotland 9, Ireland 8
Puerto Rico 10, Germany 8
New Zealand 15, Hong Kong 8

CONSOLATION SCHEDULE

Mexico vs. Germany – Thursday, 10 a.m. ET
Hong Kong vs. Ireland – Thursday, 1 p.m. ET
Puerto Rico vs. Wales – Thursday 4 p.m. ET
New Zealand vs. Scotland – Thursday 7 p.m. ET

PLATINUM BRACKET

QUARTERFINAL SCORES

Netherlands 15, Spain 2
China 8, Korea 5
Latvia 12, Sweden 11
Italy 7, Norway 6 (OT)

SEMIFINAL SCHEDULE

Netherlands vs. China – Thursday 11 a.m. ET
Italy vs. Latvia  – Thursday 2 p.m. ET

CONSOLATION SCORES

Argentina 14, Colombia 3

CONSOLATION SCHEDULE

Austria vs. Switzerland – Thursday 9 a.m. ET
Argentina vs. Jamaica – Thursday 12 p.m. ET
Korea vs. Spain – Thursday 3 p.m. ET
Norway vs. Sweden – Thursday 6 p.m. ET

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