The 2019 US women’s Under-18 national team, which will compete next winter to extend their unprecedented string of gold medals to five consecutive years, is beginning to take shape.
On Wednesday, it was announced that Minnesota Duluth head coach Maura Crowell would serve as head coach of the team, replacing Minnesota assistant Joel Johnson, who led the US women to gold in each of the past four seasons. Crowell served as an assistant under Johnson for two of those four gold medal runs, including last season.
Serving as one of the assistant coaches on the team will be Josh Sciba, who served as an assistant coach at Colgate, helping to recruit the core group that led the Raiders to the national title game this season, before becoming head coach at Union, where he has performed an impressive turnaround for a program that went winless in the season prior to his hire. The second assistant coach is women’s national team member Brianna Decker, a gold medalist, former Patty Kazmaier award winner, and a superstar in the women’s professional game.
With the coaching staff in place, on Thursday, the roster was announced for the upcoming U18 Select Player Development Camp, which will be held in Biddeford, Maine, June 23-29.
The camp will feature the best players in the country and is used as one primary decision-making tools in selected the roster for the U18 Women’s Series against Canada in mid-August.
A few notes on the roster:
:The age breakdown: Girls born in 2001, 2002, and 2003 are eligible for next year’s tournament. This year’s camp breaks down like this: 41 2001s, 29 2002s, 0 2003s. For sake of comparison, last year’s camp had a 31/30/5 age breakdown.
Those numbers kind of correspond with my feeling that the ‘01 birth year is solid, with not many superstars, while the ‘02 birth year is incredibly strong, and, while it’s early, at this point, there doesn’t appear to be many high-end players in the ‘03 age group.
-The forward group should be the strength of this team. It helps that the US is returning Casey O’Brien, Makenna Webster, and Abbey Murphy, which formed what was essentially the top line for the US at last year’s tournament, and all three were among the tournament’s leading scorers.
Add in Dominique Petrie, who is already a two-time gold medalist at the U18s, and who should anchor a strong second line like she did in the last tournament, and three other forwards returning from last year, and there are already a lot of good pieces in place.
-The defense is more of a question mark. The US went with an older defensive group last year because there weren’t many options at the younger age group, which means a lot of open spots and news faces this year. Hadley Hartmetz and Maggie Nicholson are the only two returners on the blue line.
From the new group, there’s definitely some very good players, but there’s not going to be a big star on the blue line like the US has had over their gold streak with players like Gracie Ostertag, Madeline Wethington, Cayla Barnes, and Jincy Dunne.
-The US is starting over in goal as well after Lindsay Reed aged out. Makayla Pahl was the third-string goalie last year to gain some experience, and is presumably the front-runner. JoJo Chobak recently committed to play for Crowell at Minnesota Duluth, which may tilt the odds in her favor as well. It’s likely at least one of the ‘02 gets a chance with the national team, if only in a third-string capacity like Pahl last year, simply for the experience in preparing for next year’s tournament.