When defender Alice Mercer tried out for the U.S. women’s lacrosse national team during her career at Maryland, she certainly wanted to represent her country at the highest level the game has to offer.
But Mercer wanted to travel, too. She had never been out of the country and didn’t even have a passport. She figured international play would be her ticket to traveling abroad, and she was right, at least at first. Mercer got to play in the Women’s Lacrosse World Cup, now known as the World Lacrosse Women’s World Championship, in England in 2017. The U.S. defeated Canada, 10-5, in the final that year.
In 2018, World Lacrosse, then known as the Federation of International Lacrosse, announced that the next world championship would be held in Maryland in 2021. (The COVID-19 pandemic forced the event to be postponed until 2022.) For Mercer, a native of Woodbine, Md., and graduate of Century High School, the announcement was amusing.
“I almost saw that and kind of laughed, joked with my family who knew that [traveling] was one of the original things that was important to me,” Mercer said. “Huh, I join the team to travel. I get to go to England and now I’m playing in Maryland.”
To be sure, playing at home will be a big deal for Mercer, too. The 2022 World Lacrosse Women’s World Championship will be hosted by Towson University from June 29 to July 9. There have been 10 such tournaments since 1982, with the U.S. winning eight of them. This will mark the second tournament held in Maryland. The other was in Annapolis in 2005, with Australia winning that one.
Teams from 30 countries will descend upon the area to compete for the gold. It all kicks off with the U.S. facing Canada at Johnny Unitas Stadium June 29 following the tournament’s opening ceremonies. All teams will compete in pool play before splitting off into bracket play.
U.S. star midfielder Taylor Cummings, the three-time Tewaaraton Award winner at Maryland and current girls’ varsity lacrosse coach at McDonogh, explained that this event will create plenty of opportunities to grow the game.
“I just think from a pure excitement standpoint of getting fans on site, packing stadiums, showing the world that there are so many people that love our game and who want to watch it and participate in it I think is step one,” Cummings said.
A big part of that equation is exposure. In late May, World Lacrosse and ESPN agreed to a multi-year deal, showcasing Women’s World Championship games on ESPN platforms. Six games will air on ESPN2 or ESPNU, with most of the other games available on ESPN+.
|June 29 7 p.m.||USA vs. Canada||ESPN2|
|July 2 8 p.m.||USA vs. Australia||ESPNU|
|July 7 7 p.m.||Semifinal No. 1||ESPN2|
|July 7 9 p.m.||Semifinal No. 2||ESPN2|
|July 9 10 a.m.||Bronze Medal Game||ESPNU|
|July 9 Noon||Gold Medal Game||ESPN2|
World Lacrosse CEO Jim Scherr is excited about the coverage the tournament will receive.
“It will be unprecedented coverage for our women’s world event,” Scherr said. “We’ll have coverage of 112 games, and that kind of exposure will help us continue to grow interest in the sport around the world, in particular women’s lacrosse around the world.”
“That’s so huge for our sport,” she said. “We at the college levels and the professional levels have been fighting every year to get more eyes on our game and have the ability to showcase our game on television because that’s how it grows.”
The sport can grow through the event’s footprint in Towson, too. The Women’s World Festival, a competition for youth and high school kids as well as players 18 and over, is taking place at Goucher College from June 30 to July 8 as part of the World Lacrosse Women’s World Championship. The amount of young fans who will be in attendance for the World Championship isn’t lost on Cummings or Mercer, especially considering that some of the great lacrosse players of tomorrow could be on hand.
Mercer remembered watching high school games while growing up in Carroll County and looking at those players as role models. This event marks a unique opportunity for young lacrosse players to watch the best players in the world, according to Mercer.
“People are looking up to us,” Mercer said. “Fans can follow our lives inside and out [on social media], but to be able to see us in person and almost feel the energy and excitement that is surrounding the field while we’re playing, I think it’s a really, really cool experience. It’s truly humbling to be a part of.”
Then there’s the World Championship competition itself, which will be “the highest level [of play] that we’ve seen before in the game,” according to Scherr. That is especially true in Pool A, which is comprised of the top five teams in the world: Australia, England, Canada, Scotland and the U.S. The Americans will play the four other teams in pool play from June 29 to July 4. All five will advance to the Championship Division bracket later on in the tournament.
Five countries will compete in the event for the first time: Argentina, Jamaica, Norway, Puerto Rico and Uganda.
“To be able to have all of us on the same field playing together, really uniting the lacrosse community across nations, is really empowering,” Cummings said. “It just grows this lacrosse community that we all love so much. I’m really excited this year to go watch other countries compete and meet them and learn about their cultures.”
Though the U.S. has won the tournament eight times, it has never won on home soil. In fact, no team has won on home soil. Cummings and Mercer have a chance to not only win in their home country but their home state.
Not a bad consolation for Mercer, considering she doesn’t have to travel very far for this one.
“It’s an extremely high honor to have so many amazing countries coming in and really showing Maryland natives how [much] the sport has grown,” Mercer said. “… To be able to host it not far from where I grew up is even more of a privilege, really, for me.”
Photo Credit: Courtesy of USA Lacrosse
Originally published June 15, 2022