Sam Ellis and her teammates on the Princeton University women’s lacrosse team were fired up to get a chance to compete in the NCAA tournament this May.
After falling to Dartmouth in the semifinals of the Ivy League tourney, the Tigers weren’t sure if they were going to be invited to take part in the chase for the national crown.
“We were on the edge of our seats for the weekend; we were excited to get in,” said attacker Ellis. “That week of practice was the hardest I have ever seen our team work.”
Facing Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament, that work showed as Princeton pushed the Blue Devils hard before falling 10-9 in overtime. “In the game against Duke, everyone gave their all,” said Ellis.
“The coaches were not mad at us afterward because they knew everyone played so hard. It was the luck of the draw that we lost, it was close the entire game.”
While Ellis was proud of Princeton’s effort, it was a disappointing way to close out her college lacrosse career.
“It was pretty sad; it was tough to lose, we didn’t want to leave the field,” recalled Ellis.
“They had to kick us off the field, everyone was hugging. I was sad for my family, I am the youngest kid so this is it for them. It was tough to say goodbye to college lacrosse.”
Although making that farewell was tough, Ellis will be getting back on the field this week as she heads to Canada to compete for the inaugural Israeli women’s national team at the 2013 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women’s World Cup from July 10-20 in Oshawa, Ontario.
For Ellis, the process of making the Israeli squad began this past winter. “I had a high school friend who played for the men’s team so I knew Israeli lacrosse was in existence,” said Ellis.
“My mom kept checking the website and found out about the tryout. The tryout was in January at Peddie. There were 20 spots but they were only recruiting 10 from the states. There were 50 or so girls, from high school players to after college.”
Putting her best foot forward in the tryout was a little tricky as Ellis had to show off her skills but also demonstrate that she could work well with her potential teammates.
“It was just three hours; it was interesting,” said Ellis. “I had never played with someone besides the Princeton players in college. I needed to learn what they could do and how to make them look good. You want to showcase your skills but you also have to show you fit in with the team.”
Ellis was thrilled to make the squad, which includes players from such high-quality college lacrosse programs as the University of Maryland, Penn, Dartmouth, James Madison, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, and Yale.
“I didn’t find out about it until March,” said Ellis, noting there was a Skype interview and a phone interview with the coach after the tryout.
“I thought oh my God this is amazing. I was raised Jewish and I am proud of it. Being American, I had to apply for Israeli citizenship. It is eye-opening to become a citizen. It is exciting to have this experience; it is the inaugural women’s team. I am thankful to be involved and hoping to make a name for Israel.”
Prior to the competition, Ellis and her teammates headed to Ashkelon, Israel from July 4-8 to put in their final preparations.
“We are going to be in camp for a week with 2-a-days and that fun stuff,” said Ellis, noting that she took a short break after the NCAAs to rest her body.
“I think we can come together. We will be living together so that should help. We all know what we have to do. You always want more time. I think we have some great players.”
Ellis’ special time at Princeton will hold her in good stead as she hits the world stage.
“I have definitely learned a lot about myself; it was quite an experience,” said Ellis, who scored 20 points on 16 goals and four assists in her senior year and ended her career with 70 points on 47 goals and 23 assists.
“I didn’t have a great freshman year. I had to work hard to get on the field. I had to go through a lot of injuries. I had surgeries and epidurals, I never wanted to give up. I never felt so passionate about something. Things fell into place. All that I had to go through was worth it. I am glad I never gave up.”
With Israel competing in Pool D of the tournament along with Scotland, Germany, and Korea, Ellis is planning to show her passion. “I want to do something equivalent to my senior year; I would love to make an impact and make a name for Israel,” said Ellis. “I want to score a lot of goals.”
A key goal of the World Cup effort is to grow the game of lacrosse in Israel. “Our marketing guys have said there is no sport that Israel is known for and this could be our chance,” said Ellis.
“You want to get as far as you can; it will be incredible however far we go. I think we have a lot of talent, I am excited about our chances.”
Noting that the World Cup will likely be her final taste of competitive lacrosse, Ellis is primed for an incredible 10 days.
“This is it for me, I think,” said Ellis. “I am definitely going to savor the whole experience. It is going to be cool going to the World Cup.”