Former Tiger Lax Great Samaras Aims to Use Power To Help U.S. Team Earn Gold at World Cup Tourney
By Bill Alden
She dabbles in acting and writing. She is also an entrepreneur who runs three businesses.
She is Crista Samaras and nobody can doubt that she is getting the most out of the liberal arts education she received at Princeton University as a member of the Class of 1999.
For the next few weeks, however, Samaras will be immersed in the pursuit that earned her the most recognition at Princeton the art of scoring goals on the lacrosse field.
The powerful midfielder, who holds the all-time marks in both points (270) and goals (189) for the Tiger women's lax program, is a member of the U.S. team that will play in the upcoming International Federation of Women's Lacrosse Associations' (IFWLA) World Cup.
Taking a break from the three-a-day training sessions for the competition which will take place from June 23 to July 2 in Annapolis, Md., Samaras is chomping at the bit.
"We're all antsy, we want to be perfect by today," said Samaras. "We're working on rationing our energy; we're looking to peak at the right time."
Samaras has experienced peaking at international competitions since she was on the 2001 U.S. team that won the World Cup.
"The 2001 World Cup was a relative blur in a sense," recalled Samaras. "I was wide-eyed and I didn't know the other players as well. It was great to get the experience of representing our country. It was a learning experience for me. It was a stepping stone to this year's world cup."
The U.S. team has won four straight World Cup championships and five of the six played. This year's event will feature a record 10 countries.
Samaras, an Annapolis native, plans to savor the upcoming competition. "This experience will resonate more for me," maintained Samaras. "It's in the U.S., it's in my hometown, and I know the players better."
And for Samaras, playing in the competition provides her with another platform to help spread the now-booming sport of lacrosse.
Her three businesses are devoted to promoting the sport. Her Stampede company runs lacrosse camps while her XTeam is a national club team that includes 120 kids from 27 states.
She also runs Bounce Entertainment which features instructional lacrosse DVDs and provides consulting services for groups from the Darien, Ct. youth league to the University of Virginia.
"We have kids all over the country who want to play," said Samaras, noting that her XTeam started with 12 players from just three states.
"I like providing an outlet. Just because you live in Kansas doesn't mean you can't be exposed to the game. There is an explosion going on in the game in the hearts and heads of these kids and we are providing the virtual backyard."
In the view of Princeton women's lacrosse coach Chris Sailer, the 5'7 Samaras provided Princeton with a special jolt.
"She has a powerful build," said Sailer of the three-time All American who was named the Ivy League Player of the Year in 1998 and 1999.
"She was an explosive player with a quick first step who also had soft hands. She has a great stick; she played with a lot of flair. It was an unbeatable combination."
Samaras, though, provided more to Princeton than points. "She was such a dynamic person," recalled Sailer. "She was one of those kids who everyone wanted to follow. She was a star but she wasn't isolated. She worked hard with the younger players. She wanted everybody to feel like they were an important part of the team."
Sailer expects Samaras to be an important part of the U.S. team. "I think she is clearly one of the top players in the world," asserted Sailer.
"At Princeton she was a cut above the rest. It's great for her to be playing on the national team with players at her level who see the game the way she does."
Samaras, for her part, knows she is a big presence for Team U.S. on several levels. "I can't get around being the girl with the biggest legs on the team," said a giggling Samaras, who was legendary in the college game for her bull-in-the-china shop style on the field.
"I'm a go-to player because of my power. I'm here to provide a burst for the team. On offense, I'm looking to get the ball into the back of the net. I also need to provide defensive support in transition situations."
In Samaras' view, the team is getting in sync more and more everyday as it chases its dream of winning a fifth straight World Cup.
"We're absolutely going for the gold," declared Samaras. "That's why we are all here and that's what we dream of. We need to get better each day and become a well-oiled machine. It comes down to mind, body, and heat. It's great to see people putting that together and getting on the same page."
For Samaras, that process hits at the crux of what she gained from her Princeton lacrosse experience.
"Princeton created roots for me in the idea that you totally embrace what you are fighting for," said Samaras.
"That is no more relevant whether you are fighting for your country or fighting for your school. I also gained a broad-based passion in whatever I'm doing. You do what you can to be the best and you want to be the best at what you do."
If Samaras can tap into her considerable passion and perform at her best, the U.S. squad should end the World Cup at the top of the podium.