The USA Women’s National Team (WNT) is gathering in France to begin an ambitious development camp as they gear up for the Pan Am Games qualifier against Canada tentatively scheduled for December 2018. Recognizing how closely matched the two countries have been in recent years, Head Coach Christian Latulippe is wasting no time to prepare.
An optimistic Latulippe remarked, “This camp is critical in our development. Since January 2017, we have gathered on several occasions to practice as a team, we have competed successfully in the Pan Am Championships Qualifier, the Pan Am Championships, and an international tournament in Busan, South Korea. This series of friendly games will really help us in that many of our newer players will be getting their first experience in international competition. Wearing the USA uniform will be a thrill for them, and playing against teams of a variety of skill levels will challenge all our players, including the best of our veterans. Our goal is to qualify for the 2019 Pan Am Games and then achieve a podium finish. Continuous development of all our players is a priority for the WNT during the next 12 months.”
Although the WNT will be visiting France lacking several elite American stars, due to injuries and prior commitments, the squad promises to be competitive. They will play a blend of club teams of various levels, as well as Belgium. The WNT will be led by Captain Sarah Gascon and her veteran Auburn Residency Program teammates Kathy Darling, Jence Rhoads, and rookies to international competition, Ashley Rominger, Lohane Thuel, Christina Raiford, and Monaye Merritt. Domestic players joining with the residency athletes will be veterans Zoe Lombard, Elizabeth Hartnett and newcomer Elina Linner. European-based veterans participating will Julia Taylor, Bryana Newbern, as well as Shani Levinkind who will be responding from Israel.
Along for her first competition with the WMT will be Latulippe’s new Assistant Coach Cheng Fen He. Fen, as she is called, joined the Auburn Residency program in October. She is a former star player on the Chinese Women’s National Team, as well as one of the most highly regarded coaches in China. Fen has a reputation built on many years of developing the most superior provincial teams in China. Her players provide a consistent flow of talent to the Chinese Women’s National Team. Her athletes are among the best conditioned and most fundamentally sound players in China.
Also traveling with the WNT is Assistant Coach Julio Sainz. Julio recently coached the Auburn-based Team Rogue to the US Club Championships. Coach Sainz is one of the most highly regarded coaches in the USA and serves in a variety of special assignments for USA Team Handball, the International Handball Federation, and has provided essential support to the Puerto Rican Women’s National Team program as well as several other programs. Coach Sainz has coached many of the WNT players in a variety of circumstances and has served as the WNT Head Coach on several occasions.
Joining the WNT for this trip is former WNT player Diana “Dee” Miller. Dee has begun to bring former teammates back into the program with an eye toward assisting the WNT in the often-daunting challenge of raising funds to afford the essential travel to play against better competition as they seek to become a Western Hemisphere power. Dee is working her magic as a volunteer marketing director and is a tremendous asset to the program. In reaching out for assistance in raising funds for the WNT, Dee has established a YouCaring page, “Help Us - WNT Handball Residency – Booster Program” which can be found here. The WNT will of course appreciate all contributions.
A busy schedule awaits the WNT as Coach Latulippe has lined up games against a division 4 level team from Paris on Saturday, in Paris. The WNT will be leaving the city to play the Belgium National Team on Sunday and Tuesday, before finishing their schedule against a division 2 team and a division 3 team on Wednesday and Thursday.
Updates from the team will be posted on the USATH website and social media.