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Sophomore attacker Michaela McMahon starred for Team USA at the Women's U19 World Championships this summer in Canada.

Credit: Son Nguyen

As classes start, many Penn students will begin sharing summer break stories about their internship or family vacation. But not many can say that they won a gold medal over their summer break. 

For the first two weeks of August, 22 national teams gathered in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada for the 2019 Women’s Lacrosse U19 World Championships. Penn sophomore midfielder Michaela McMahon helped lead the United States team to its fifth gold medal. McMahon notched six goals and seven assists throughout the tournament as the Americans went undefeated in seven games. The seven assists were more than McMahon tallied in her rookie season with Penn.

Tryouts for the team took place last summer, and 30 players were selected to compete for a spot on the 18-person roster.  After the initial round of trials, the coaches held training weekends throughout the year where the 30 players would compete against other teams and train together. After those weekends, 12 players would be cut from the team. 

McMahon was actually cut after one of the training weekends, but the coaches liked what they saw during the beginning of her play at Penn and decided to bring her back to the team. Midway through her season at Penn, McMahon learned that she was given another chance, and she made the final 18-person roster in June. 

“Playing for Team USA wasn't something that I really thought was going to be an opportunity for me,” McMahon said. “After making [the team], I was taking in every single training weekend that I got to be able to compete and play with the best girls in the nation.”

The championship brought together the most talented under-19 high school and college players from around the world, and the team went head-to-head with squads from Australia, England, Canada, Hong Kong, and Wales. The time spent at the championship surrounded McMahon with some of the best players in the world. 

“Sometimes throughout the weekend, I would just step back and remember 'I’m here and I’m playing for [Team USA].' I was just so grateful to be in the position that I was in,” McMahon said. “The teams that we played against were all so amazing and were so proud and happy to be there. Being around that energy is really contagious, and it was so fun.”

The national team also had plenty of fun on the field, as the Americans outscored their opponents 128-20 in their seven games. It was McMahon’s first trip to Canada, and she enjoyed herself off the field as well. Before the competition began, the team took a boat tour of Niagara Falls.

“It was also nice to be able to take time away from lacrosse and just spend time together," she said. “Our coaches and the rest of the staff really allowed us to bond like that."

McMahon’s gold medal win was a huge accomplishment for her personally, but it was also a great learning experience for when Penn’s lacrosse season begins. 

“The best part about being on this team was being able to play with girls from different programs who have such different types of play,” McMahon said. “I’ve grown as a player from playing with that team this summer, and I’m just really excited to take what I learned and bring it back to Penn and share it with my teammates and my coaches.”

In her freshman year at Penn, McMahon finished the season with 22 goals and three assists. With more experience under her belt and a gold medal around her neck, McMahon is bound to take a huge leap in her sophomore season. 

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