Oliver Begins Quest For The Gold

July 20, 2012

By Katie Baran

Just one month into her tenure at the University of Cincinnati, first-year lacrosse head coach Gina Oliver already has gold on her mind. The latest Bearcats’ coaching addition who helped her U.S. World Cup Team win it all the FIL Women’s Lacrosse World Cup in 2009 is back at it again – this time, balancing her first head coaching position and her passion for playing.

Oliver, who was named the program’s second head coach on June 15, first made the U.S. National Team in 2004 as a junior at Ohio State. However, after reaching the pinnacle of success in 2009, Oliver took time off and had no intention of returning the field – until now.

“I made the team in 2004 when I was a junior in college,” Oliver said. “After we won gold in the World Cup in 2009, I said to myself, ‘I can’t take this anymore, my body is done.’ I decided to take the year off and retire. If knew if I got itchy, I would return, and I did. I wanted to go back and do it again.”

The first stop on Oliver’s journey was Buffalo, N.Y. and Canada, where she met up with former teammates to begin the journey all over again.

“We were in Buffalo for the first couple of days just practicing, doing two-a-days and getting reacquainted with the systems,” Oliver said. “We had a scrimmage with some local college kids, so we could get in the habit of getting up and down the field. When we got to Canada we focused more on playing, getting better, and having a dry run of what it’ll be like next summer.”

The World Cup takes place every four years, and after being held in Prague, Czech Republic in 2009, the games will be hosted by Oshawa, Ontario, on July 11-20, 2013. However, right now, the focus is on the final round of tryouts the weekend of July 28 and 29. Then, Oliver and other U.S. Team hopefuls will participate in drills and run tests to see who has what it takes to make the next cut.

“After the weekend, they announce the team of 36,” Oliver said. “The team of 36 will then practice and play in a couple of fall games and then the end of January after the Champions Challenge in Orlando, Fla., they announce the final roster of 18. When you make the team of 36, it’s not like you made the final cut, it’s more about putting yourself in the best position to make others better and to understand and execute how the coaches want things done. In the end they’re narrowing it to the 18 players that work best together.”

The majority of those 18 players will be current coaches and former student-athletes, many of which Oliver has established professional relationships with.

“90 percent of the players on the National Team are coaches, so a lot of them I see every weekend at recruiting tournaments or at camps,” Oliver said. “We’re pretty familiar with each other and see each other a lot, especially in the summer time. Many of us are good friends.”

One of the most familiar coaches for Oliver is current U.S. National Team and Georgetown head lacrosse coach Ricky Fried. After competing under Fried’s direction, Oliver is now getting used to the idea of actually competing against him in the BIG EAST Conference.

“We haven’t competed against each other yet, but it’s exciting because I respect him as a coach,” Oliver said. “For me, this opportunity is once in a lifetime. I’m a true competitor when it comes to anything, so for me, I’m already in the mindset of: I’m going to find a way to beat you. This league is one of the toughest in the country, so having the opportunity to continue to learn from him and the other coaches on the U.S. staff and compete at that level is going to be fun. We’re both sarcastic and pretty competitive, so we’ll see how that goes.”

Remaining both a player and a coach has its advantages for Oliver.

“The best thing is that I’m still playing, so I understand what it feels like to be tired,” Oliver said. “I know how to push through pain and tell your body to continue to compete. I have the advantage of playing with so many experienced coaches and players, we just shoot ideas off of each other. For me, it’s exciting because I can play, coach, and still understand when it’s time to push and when it’s time to back off.”

While her commitment is to the University of Cincinnati, Oliver has high hopes of rejoining the National Team and making another run at the gold.

“We win,” Oliver said. “It’s nothing but gold in our mind. It’s ours to lose. We are the best country and we have the deepest team and it’s proven. We don’t have any animosity and we aren’t looking forward to any one team. We just take it one game at a time and get better.  It’s just, we’re winning the gold and that’s it. That’s all we’re looking forward to.”

Follow head coach Gina Oliver as she blogs about her journey through National Team tryouts on July 28 and 29 on GoBEARCATS.com.