Holly McGarvie Reilly has been busy on many fronts since helping the U.S. squad win the gold medal at the 2009 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women’s World Cup.
After the tournament, former Princeton University standout Reilly ’09 headed to England where she taught and coached at a small private school, Berkhamsted School in Hertfordshire. She returned to the U.S., teaching and starting the girls’ lacrosse program at Ballou High in the inner city of Washington, D.C.
Off the field, she married Princeton classmate Brendan Reilly, a Tiger men’s lax tri-captain, in 2012. Her husband, a Marine, is stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County and the couple now lives in southern California where Reilly works from home on the sales team of TroopSwap, an online military marketplace.
But as the 2013 World Cup approached, Reilly cleared her calendar to go on another run for the U.S. Despite having trained sporadically over the last four years, Reilly made the squad as a defender and will be in action at the tournament which runs from July 10-20 in Oshawa, Ontario.
“For me, this is my team now,” said Reilly, who was a two-time lax All-American during her Princeton career and also made All-Ivy in field hockey for the Tigers.
“I never felt like that when I was at Princeton. I was focused on field hockey and lacrosse because that only lasts four years. It doesn’t replace the other teams but it is the team I focus on now.”
Since moving to California, Reilly has been able to focus more on lacrosse. “This past year, I have been able to play more,” said Reilly.
“There is beautiful weather out here. I work with a trainer on my speed. I am also working with Glen Miles who used to play on the U.S. men’s lacrosse team way back when. He played at Navy in the 1980s and retired as a pilot in 2006. I work with him on stick skills. I can go one-on-one against him and work on game situations.”
Reilly needed to have her skills up to snuff in order to survive the arduous tryout process which began with a training camp last August with 36 players on hand. There were games in October and more training in December. Then 24 players went to the Champions Cup in Orlando early this year from which the final squad of 18 was selected.
“I knew what was at stake,” said Reilly, reflecting on the selection procedure.
“I was committed to training hard and making the team. I am so fortunate and humbled to make this team.”
Reilly counts herself fortunate to have had the experience of winning the gold medal in 2009 when the U.S. edged Australia 8-7 in the championship game in Prague, Czech Republic.
“It seems so far away; I feel like I was still such a baby,” said McGarvie Reilly, reflecting on the competition where she tallied five points on three goals and two assists and ranked second on the U.S. team with 17 draw controls.
“I am at a different stage of my life now. I am one of the veteran players. I have a level of experience. I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in 2009; I would do anything they asked. I am still enthusiastic but I have more of a sense of what is going to happen. I know what the next 20 days entails. I continue to get better. The move to defense from midfield has been a big help. I was always more of a defensive player. My mindset is more of a defender.”
The U.S. squad will be working hard to regain that winning mindset as it girds for the tournament.
“We are in Baltimore from June 30 to July 2; we are in Buffalo from July 2-8 and then we go to Canada,” said Reilly.
“We will have 2-a-days. In Buffalo, we will start tapering off. We need to prepare for more than you have to play. We need to peak at the right time. We need to have the endurance to do game, break, and game. We know what we have to do to get ready.”
Reilly acknowledges that the U.S. has to be ready for a battle as it looks to successfully defend its title.
“I think we have a pretty big target on our backs,” said Reilly. “The teams gear up for you, they want to knock you down when you are the champions. We played Australia and England in the fall; they played us hard.”
But the U.S is less concerned about its foes than simply playing its game and staying in the moment. “We need to focus on our mission,” said Reilly.
“We need to stay passionate. The talent we have is so impressive. But collectively we are the biggest threat. We also need to enjoy it. We will play hard but we need to enjoy the great plays and the great moments. I remember laughing on the field in 2009.”
While Reilly may have learned to savor the highlights, she hasn’t lost the feistiness that has made her great since her high school days at Shawnee High in Medford, New Jersey.
“I think it is about being a public school kid,” said Reilly. “I am scrappy and tough. I have a Jersey girl attitude; I fight to the last.”