Emily Leitner has been to this stage of the game before, but this time, she knows what to expect.
After advancing past the first round of tryouts for the U.S. National Lacrosse team for the second-straight year, the former Penn goalkeeper will head to Baltimore for the second round at UMBC from July 27-29, in an effort to make the national team and earn a spot on the 2013 Federation of International Lacrosse World Cup roster.
“I want to take at least one more crack at it, to see if I can get on it,” Leitner said. “I kind of know what’s coming a little bit, as opposed to not knowing before, but the thing of it is you’re still playing against the best lacrosse players.”
Of the 143 players who competed in the first round in Stony Brook, N.Y., 38 were chosen to move on. Four were goalkeepers.
“There’s a bunch of goalies for a small number of spots,” Leitner said. “But hopefully the experience of already trying out and another year of playing good lacrosse will help me, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Joining Leitner and the 37 others in the next round will be members of the current national team, as well as players who were unable to participate due to concurrent competition in the Final Four over Memorial Day weekend, when the first round was held.
Four goalies will earn a spot on the national team, but it is likely only two will make the final 18-woman World Cup roster. With three of four incumbents returning, it will be no easy task for Leitner to make the cut. Penn coach Karin Brower Corbett believes her former keeper has a good chance.
“They want their goalkeeper to be vocal and to be another defensive player, and Emily has that,” she said. “She’s very confident in what she’s saying, she’s very confident outside the net, taking a player or coming up and going for interceptions, marking a player when they’re down a man, kind of taking risks outside the net.”
Corbett described her two-year starter as a great athlete and added that, in addition to being left-handed, consistency may be her biggest strength.
“Sometimes you have goalies that are just hot and cold — the one day they’re just awesome and the next day they’re not,” Corbett said. “She was consistent all year, every game. Did she have better games on some days? Yes. But she never had a bad game.”
The 2012 unanimous first-team All-Ivy selection started all 17 games for the Quakers, leading the team to a 9-8 record and a regular season Ivy championship. The Red and Blue were ranked as high as seventh in the country twice and were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA championships in overtime by No. 6 Loyola.
Though Leitner’s goals against average slipped slightly — from 8.38 two years ago to 9.44 this past season — her overall numbers increased: a .437 save percentage and 36 ground balls as a junior to .444 and 49 as a senior. She led the Ivies in ground balls both times.
But her confidence and added experience, Corbett said, is the biggest development in her game.
“It’s a brutal tryout, and I think that your first year going through it, it’s an eye-opening experience,” she said. “She learned a lot and gained a lot of confidence. She saw some amazing shooters and goalies. I think a lot of times goalkeepers don’t really get to see other goalkeepers in action as much and see what they can do, so I think being around that many goalkeepers, she saw what she needed to try to aspire to.”
Though she didn’t make the final cut a year ago, the national team did have Leitner practice with them in the fall. The Ivy League just doesn’t compare to national-level competition.
“Not only is it the best teams in the country right now, but it’s also the best players in the history of the sport,” Leitner said. “You’re playing against everyone who’s ever been good — the best ever.”
The Connecticut native labeled her chances of making the team as “pretty decent,” and was thrilled at the prospect of helping the U.S. defend its gold medal at the FIL World Cup.
“It’d be awesome,” Leitner said. “It’s the highest you can go with women’s lacrosse, so it obviously would be a huge accomplishment.”