By Brad Fauber - firstname.lastname@example.org
At a time when many athletes from around the world were descending upon London for the start of the 2012 Summer Olympic games, three female athletes from Shenandoah University also jumped on a flight bound for the United Kingdom.
The three women -- rising senior Sydney Anderson, and juniors Ashley Cross and Samantha Sisson -- are members of Shenandoah's lacrosse team, but they weren't on their way to compete in the XXX Olympiad, although they were certainly asked as much by the locals in England.
Instead, the trio spent 10 days traveling throughout Scotland, England and Ireland as a part of the American International Sports Teams' UK Lax Tour, an event that pitted an American women's lacrosse team, made up of college players, against various club teams from the UK and Ireland. It proved to be quite the learning experience both on and off the lacrosse field for the squad from the U.S.
"The first game was kind of an eye opener for how they play over there. They play differently than we do in the U.S.," Sisson said recently in a phone interview. "I was glad that we had the freedom to not just play. We spent three days at each place, went to the most of the castles and things over there."
The team from America competed in eight matches over the 10-day period, including a four-game tournament hosted by the Oxton Sports Club in Wirral, England. Anderson, Cross and Sisson all said there was definitely a learning curve that came with competing against their foreign counterparts.
"The rules were definitely different, even the lines on the field were different," said Cross, who played every minute as the goalkeeper for the Americans. "I play in the goal, so I base my position off the crease, but the crease was three feet off.
"I think the officiating was probably the hardest to adjust to."
Anderson echoed that sentiment, saying that the officials were much more lenient when it came to calling certain fouls and infractions, and goggles weren't required to be worn during play.
"I think the international rules are kind of like two years behind what the U.S. women's lacrosse rules are," Anderson said. "It was definitely a different game. It was a lot rougher with less restrictions."
The rules on the field weren't the only things that the Americans had to adjust to.
Sisson said it also took the team a while before it caught on to the proper post-game sportsmanship ritual, which involved both teams facing each other and thanking the opposition for playing before cheering 'hip, hip, hooray' three times. She said the Americans didn't realize that they were supposed to respond with the same cheer until halfway through their tour.
The Americans ended the trip with a 4-4 overall record, which included splitting the four games of the tournament in Oxton, as well as a 2-2 record in four exhibition matches. Sisson led the team with 20 goals, and Anderson added seven points for the AIST squad.
But the trip wasn't all about competition. For Anderson, Cross and Sisson, the opportunity to compete with the AIST also meant that they would be stepping out of the country for the first time. They took full advantage of the chance to take in the sights.
Players were free to venture out and explore the different cities in which they stayed in, and the trio visited such places as the Edinburgh Castle in Scotland and Manchester United's soccer stadium in England, among many others. And they did some shopping, of course.
"I probably should say playing lacrosse [was my favorite part] because that's what I went there to do, but the best part for me was playing with girls you don't know, and shopping and spending time with the girls and going out," Cross said.
While the team was made up of women from a variety of Division II and Division III schools, a few familiar faces joined the three women from Shenandoah. The team was coached by Randolph College lacrosse coach Alexis Wagner, and Ashley Edwards and Courtney Kellogg, also of Randolph, competed on the squad. Shenandoah and Randolph are both members of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.
Membership on the AIST team was by invitation only, and players were chosen based on stats accrued during the 2011 season. The three women from Shenandoah said that they first learned they were selected to compete with the AIST during the fall of 2011.
It was an invitation they were quick to accept, and certainly the experience is one that will stick with them long after they leave the lacrosse field for the final time.
"It was a lot of fun getting to know girls from all over the world and, specifically from my team, girls from all over the East Coast that we get to play against and girls from teams that we don't get to play," Anderson said. "It was definitely a fun experience."