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Vol. LXIII, No. 28
 
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
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COACH ON THE FIELD: Michele DeJuliis yells out encouragement in her role as an assistant coach for the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team. Wearing another hat, DeJuliis starred in the midfield as the U.S. national team recently won the Women’s Lacrosse World Cup in Prague, Czech Republic. DeJuliis served as the captain of the team and scored nine points in the tournament, including the game winner in the U.S.’s 8-7 win over defending champion Australia in the gold medal game.

Persevering to Become National Team Captain, DeJuliis Helps U.S. Win World Cup Lax Gold

Bill Alden

Failure is not a word associated with Michele DeJuliis and her lacrosse career.

DeJuliis headed to Penn State in 1994 and emerged as one of the greatest players in program history, earning All-American honors in her last three seasons and scoring 203 points, sixth best all-time at the school.

After graduation, DeJuliis joined the Baltimore City Police Department where she was member of its SWAT team and earned a Meritorious Conduct Award and the Police Commissioner’s Award of Excellence.

Moving into coaching in 2004, DeJuliis joined the staff of the Princeton University women’s lacrosse program the next year and has helped the Tigers go 62-27 and make the NCAA tournament each season.

But in 2005, DeJuliis suffered a rare setback as she failed to make the main roster for the U.S. national team for the Women’s Lacrosse World Cup, getting named as an alternate to the squad.

The disappointment left DeJuliis at a crossroads. “I would say it was tough for me; you go through a lot to get to that point,” said DeJuliis.

“I could have retired right there but didn’t feel like I was ready to give up.”

Moving to midfield from attack and whipping herself into the best condition of her life, DeJuliis made the U.S. squad for the 2009 World Cup.

Earning the respect of her teammates due to her will and varied experience in the game, DeJuliis was named as the captain of the team for the competition that took place in Prague, Czech Republic.

Sparked by DeJuliis’ leadership and productivity in the midfield, the U.S. went on to win the World Cup title, edging defending champion Australia 8-7 in the gold medal game.

For DeJuliis, the moment of triumph triggered some deep emotions.

“From the count down of 10 seconds, the tears were rolling,” recalled DeJuliis.

“I set out after this four years ago and there were so many emotions. I am so proud of my team and that we were able to do this.”

The team’s unity proved to be a main factor in the team’s title run, according to DeJuliis.

“This is a special group, we do small things, like e-mails, to motivate each other,” said DeJuliis of the squad which included recently graduated Princeton star Holly McGarvie.

“On and off the field, I have never seen a group that is so tight. Everybody is together all the time. We always manage to stay connected even though some players are playing, some are coaching, and some are working in business.”

DeJuliis’ coaching experience helped her lead the team on the field.

“From coaching, my outlook on the game has changed,” said DeJuliis, who found out that she was going to be captain at the team’s training camp this June.

“It is always nice to play and do what the coach says. But on the field, you have those talks where you can’t hear the coach. I can say those things in the team huddle.”

The U.S. needed an on-field pep talk from DeJuliis in its World Cup opener in Pool A play as it struggled in the early going against England.

“We had nervous jitters but at no point did I feel that we weren’t going to win the game,” said DeJuliis of the U.S.’s 17-8 win over England.

“We had slow starts in each of our first three games. England came at us hard, we had to play well and get over the jitters.”

Amazingly, the U.S. team didn’t feel jitters as it trailed powerful Australia 9-4 at halftime in the teams’ clash in pool play.

“In the game of lacrosse, things can change so quickly,” said DeJuliis.

“We were saying ‘we got it, no problem.’ We were confident; you feel on this team that everybody has your back. We just needed to focus on the little things and chip away.

The U.S. did just that, outscoring the Australians 6-0 in the second half to pull out a 10-9 victory.

“We were so excited, the second half boosted us to another level,” said DeJuliis, who had a goal and an assist in the win.

“We knew we still had to focus on one game at a time and that we had the playoffs coming up.”

Building on the momentum from that superb second half, the U.S. team rolled past Ireland 22-5 in the quarterfinals and then routed England 20-3 in the semis to set up the title game rematch against Australia.

In the gold medal game, the U.S. once again found itself in a tight contest with the Aussies.

“There was so much emotion on the field,” said DeJuliis. “It was 3-3 at half and we were very calm. That is something special about this team because a lot of teams would get antsy and nervous in that situation. We felt like we were in control of the game and we just needed to change a few things.”

After intermission, the U.S. took control of the game, going on a 5-0 run and holding on to win 8-7.

DeJuliis scored the final goal of that run which turned out to be the margin of victory.

“At the time, I didn’t realize that it was going to be the winning goal,” said DeJuliis.

“I remember getting the pass from Katie Rowan and thinking shoot low because their goalie was really good on the high shots. I made one quick fake and fired it low. It was sigh of relief when I saw it go past her.”

Having reached the summit of women’s lacrosse, DeJuliis is going to make that the final memory of her playing career.

“This is it,” said DeJuliis, who scored five goals and had four assists in the tournament. “I am 34, the oldest player on the team by seven years and I am still sore. They made me feel young.”

And in finding success on the world stage, those younger players gained some valuable lessons in perseverance from DeJuliis.

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