BEVERLY, Mass. – Endicott women's lacrosse student-athlete LZ Olney (Freeport, Maine) recently traveled to Israel to compete in the 2019 Women's European Lacrosse Festival as a member of the U.S. Elite squad. Here's what LZ had to share about her experiences in Israel.
ECGULLS: Please describe the overall experience of your trip.
LZ: From July 13-21, I was in Israel exploring the country and playing lacrosse with the U.S. Elite team. Israel hosted the European Tournament/Championship this year and there was a festival within their tournament. The festival was only a week, so that is what my team was entered into. We played Germany, Greece, and Israel and ending up winning the festival. The sport of lacrosse is starting to grow outside of the country, however, it is still fairly new. The idea of these trips is to expand the sport of lacrosse and to create new relationships with teams all over the world. In some cases during our games even though we were competing for the top spot we would give advice to the other teams on how to strengthen their game. In the World Cup and the European Tournament, they play with international rules, which means: no shot clock and no free movement (with a few other rules, but those were the big ones) so they also would keep us in check too! I specifically went because I think that the sport of lacrosse is making a huge impact on girls' lives all over the world and I wanted to share my love for the sport with new people from different countries and make new connections and relationships.
Aside from lacrosse, we got to travel into Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, and Ashkelon. We were mostly in Netanya which is where we stayed, as well as where we played most of our games. All of these places were very different from one another and we learned so much even if we were only there for a few hours in a day. Our adventures consisted of visiting the Baha'i gardens in Haifa to the Church of Holy Sepulcher in the old city of Jerusalem!
ECGULLS: What was/were your favorite spot(s) you visited?
LZ: My favorite spot we visited overall was the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea used to be connected to the Mediterranean Sea, however, it is not anymore. Over the years the water has been slowly evaporating, making it extremely salt-based. The bottom is just chunks and chunks of salt. Since there is such a high salt percentage in the Dead Sea when you swim in it, instead of sinking down like you usually would in the ocean, you float above the surface. The Dead Sea isn't going to be around forever, so I would suggest if you have the opportunity to travel to Israel you must go to the Dead Sea.
ECGULLS: Do you have a favorite moment from the trip?
LZ: My favorite moment from the trip was when we got to go to Ashkelon and play the first-ever game on the Ashkelon field with Israel's developmental team. This field is the first-ever field built just for lacrosse in the Middle East. The European Championship is going to be held there this year and it will continue to grow and develop as a training field for the Israeli National Team. Even though the game was just a scrimmage we were the first teams to get to play on the field, which to me made the trip even more special.
ECGULLS: How was the level of competition/what did you learn from playing out there that you will bring back with you?
LZ: The level of competition varied. Since lacrosse is a newer sport in Europe and we were playing against all European teams there were many players we played with that had just started lacrosse and others who had been playing for years, but they usually were from the States. Something I took away was that many of these girls were not the best players there, but they were constantly smiling as they were running down the field and they were just happy to be on the field and that really left an impact on me. I am so grateful to be able to play lacrosse at the next level and just being around girls who were so happy to be there on the field made me realize how special the sport truly is to me as well. Every time I touch the field now I will forever have the memory of playing with the girls from Greece, Israel, Scotland, and Germany in the back of my mind and how happy they were no matter what the outcome was.
ECGULLS: Where were your teammates and coaches from?
LZ: All of my teammates and my coach were from the States, mostly from the East Coast but we did have a few girls from the Midwest also.
ECGULLS: What would be your advice to someone who is in consideration to go on a trip like this?
LZ: Do not go into this expecting that everything is going to go as planned. The thing I've learned from traveling in different countries is sometimes something comes up and you're going to stray away from the plan, but it usually ends up with you experiencing something really cool that you did not expect to experience.
(Photo Credit - LZ Olney)