TOWSON, Md. — Lacrosse has taken Marie McCool a million places. Still, there’s always a new thing for her to experience.
The Moorestown native is in the center of the lacrosse world as the 2022 World Lacrosse Women’s World Championship got underway on Wednesday. McCool scored three goals in a 16-11 win over Canada to lead the three-time defending champions to a win in a rematch of the 2017 final in England.
McCool was playing in her first World Cup then. The experience has only gotten better.
“I think it's an honor and something that I've worked for my whole life to be able to represent the country, McCool said. Obviously, I've been here before. I've been very fortunate to play in a World Cup in the past. It just never gets old for me. Every time I get to put on the red, white and blue — that USA jersey — I get butterflies. It's just a really exciting feeling.”
McCool is one of six returning players from the 2017 championship team. In her first appearance, she was still a year away from graduation at the University of North Carolina. She was one of two active college players on the roster then. She was in the familiar position of being one of her team’s youngest players. Because of her birth date, McCool has almost always played with older teammates.
“In the World Cup in 2017, I was surrounded by so many leaders and players that I looked up to as a kid,” McCool said. “I really just embraced the moment and was so excited to learn from them. Now I'm just hoping to do the same.”
Among the younger players on this year’s team are two of McCool’s Carolina teammates. Emma Trenchard and Bridgewater-Raritan graduate Ally Mastoianni were freshmen the year McCool graduated. They’re just two of the players who benefit most from McCool’s experience.
“I've been just trying to be that leader that the players before me were for me,” McCool said. “That is something that I'm really trying to take pride in and embrace.”
McCool remembers well the feeling of being surrounded by the best players in the world. No matter who good you are, it’s hard not to be intimidated.
“I remember being shy,” McCool said. “I mean, if you know me, I'm not a shy person. When I was the youngest one on the team, I was definitely shy and a little bit intimidated. I remember that feeling that I had, and I think about the amazing leaders that helped guide me through that and build my confidence.”
The best players in the world are at Towson University, playing for the United States and for the 28 other countries in the tournament. Good as they all are, it is easy to forget that many of them have never played on this big a stage.
McCool had help adjusting to the moment in England. Now she returns the favor.
“I'm really just trying to do the same for our younger players,” McCool said. “It's funny, I’m considered a veteran now and it's a great feeling. I just want to I want to make sure that the younger girls out there are having an amazing time and being confident because they're all incredible players.”
Between graduation and the delayed start of the 2022 championships, which were bumped by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, McCool knew she wanted to return to Team USA. The question was, how?
“It's definitely something that I will never take for granted ever again,” McCool said. “The resources we have in college and the opportunity to play the collegiate level made it a smoother transition for me in the last World Cup. It's been five years since the last World Cup and four years since I graduated. The transition after graduating college was definitely like one of the tougher periods of time in my life.”
McCool has balanced her life with lacrosse admirably, all in the service of continuing to chase her national team goals. Sponsorships, short-season professional leagues and coaching opportunities help keep McCool on track.
She’ll join many of her USA teammates for the second season of the Athletes Unlimited professional league on July 21. In between, she’ll spend some time at home in Skaneateles, N.Y. and her support system there. Fortunately, she has the full support of her fiancé Kevin Rice, a former All-American player himself at Syracuse University.
“We have a little household rivalry going,” McCool said. “There’s a lot of orange and Carolina blue in the house. I'm going to say this in the nicest way possible, but he deals with me. He's a good person.”
McCool overstates things a bit. While her life is anything but typical, it helps to have someone there who understands.
“We're both super competitive people,” McCool said. “He played MLL for a while then in the PLL. He's also a lawyer at a firm in the City. He's definitely a super hard worker and he understands you know, my life. He knows how much I put into lacrosse so you understand why I need to be away. He just needs to be a dog dad for a couple of weeks.”
Team USA returns to action on Friday against Scotland, plays Australia on Saturday and closes out pool play on July 4. The playoffs begin on Tuesday and conclude on July 9. The United States is the favorite to win its fourth consecutive title and ninth overall.
Now a veteran player, McCool is completely dedicated to making that happen.
"The one thing that really keeps me going are my teammates,” McCool said. “Knowing that we're playing for a gold medal. I tend to look at it as playing for something much bigger than ourselves. That's been our motto for this World Cup. ‘More than a medal’ is something that we're really trying to fully embrace. We're playing for gender equity and sport we're playing for the future generations of our sport, making sure that we're inspirations for them as well.”
This article originally appeared on Burlington County Times: Marie McCool taking on role as USA Lacrosse veteran