Mendham graduate Lauren Dykstra was living a lacrosse player’s dream a few weeks ago when she played for Israel in the Federation of International Lacrosse World Cup.
Dykstra, who graduated from Mendham in 2007 and Lehigh University in 2011, was selected to play for Team Israel in its first appearance at the World Cup, which was held from July 8-20 in Toronto. Dykstra had 20 goals and two assists and helped lead Israel into the quarterfinals where it finished with a 5-4 record. Israel, which finished eighth in the tournament, is now ranked No. 8 in the world.
“I haven’t played in two years, but the opportunity was just something that you couldn’t give up,” Dykstra said. “And playing again and not even playing, just learning more about my heritage had a special meaning so that’s what steered me to do that.”
Dykstra said she made the team without even having to try out. A player from Lehigh tried out for the team last year, and the Israel coach Lauren Paul Norris found out about Dykstra during a conversation with Lehigh head coach Jill Redfern. At Lehigh, Dykstra averaged 5.06 points per game, which ranked her second in the country. As a senior she scored 72 goals, led the nation in goals per game at 4.24 and finished her career with 257 goals, which ranks among the top 10 in NCAA history.
“Obviously I was very fortunate and happy and grateful,” Dykstra said of being chosen. “It took some back and forth conversations with my coach and the director, and I know my Israel coach had talked to my college coach and my lacrosse coach from high school, so she did her homework.”
Dykstra traveled to Israel to train with the team for a week before heading to the World Cup. She said that even though the team practiced twice a day, she also got to travel and take in the historic sites and learn more about her Jewish heritage and help spread awareness about the sport of lacrosse.
Dykstra also explained that each member of the team represented a local charity in Israel, and Dykstra represented a children’s shelter.
“We gave back to Jewish charities and homes and shelters and every player represented a charity of some sort and I represented a children’s home,” Dykstra said. “Myself and a couple of other players met the girls at the shelter and it was a really nice day.
“Obviously lacrosse is new out there so we got to show them the sport and tried to raise awareness of the sport out in Israel.”
Once the team finally got to the World Cup, it was time to get down to business. Israel opened the tournament with a 12-1 win over the Netherlands in a scrimmage then defeated Germany 15-6 in the pool play opener. Israel then defeated Scotland 13-6, South Korea 19-2, Hong Kong 19-4, then lost to Japan 12-11 in overtime. In the first round of the playoffs, Israel defeated New Zealand 12-9 then lost to Canada in the quarterfinals 17-5. In the consolation bracket the team lost to Scotland 9-7 in overtime.
“Overall it was just an incredible experience,” Dykstra said. “It’s just so awesome to see so many different countries and all these different teams and girls with different backgrounds and nationalities come together and be able to play a sport that we all love. Playing in the World Cup, it doesn’t get much better than that, it’s the best competition that you’ll see and the sense of pride that you’re playing for a country is really special.”