May/June edition of US Lacrosse Magazine. Although the WPLL season has been canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are running this story as it originally appeared in print. Don’t get the mag?

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PHOTO BY KEITH LUCAS

Enter At Your Own Risk


This article originally appeared in the May/June edition of US Lacrosse Magazine. Although the WPLL season has been canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are running this story as it originally appeared in print. Don’t get the mag? Join US Lacrosse today to support the positive development of the sport.

As a Maryland women’s lacrosse fan, Julia Braig loved watching Megan Douty play for the Terrapins. From 2012-15, Braig was a standout defender at St. Paul’s School in Brooklandville, Md., just as Douty was making her mark as one of the top players in the sport an hour down the road in College Park.

The season after Douty graduated and moved on to the U.S. national team, Braig joined Maryland’s defense. They would finish their Terrapin careers with remarkably similar resumes: Both All-Americans. Both IWLCA Defenders of the Year. Both two-time Big Ten Defenders of the Year. Both national champions. 

Braig never imagined, however, that they would one day play on the same defense.

Braig and Douty comprise half of the backline for the WPLL Command. Together with two-time league all-star Katie Hertsch and current U.S. national team member Becca Block, they are the league’s most fearsome foursome.

“If you want to have a great team, you have to work from the back to the front, so I’m really happy with the defense that we have,” said Lindsey Munday, the Command’s first-year head coach. “Watching them play in the past, they’ve done a great job, so it’s exciting to have such a strong anchor in the back like that.”


“If you want to have a great team, you have to work from the back to the front, so I’m really happy with the defense that we have.”


Each member of the Command’s backline brings an impressive resume to the table. 

Hertsch, a Hofstra alum who played for the U.S. national team from 2010-15 and is now an assistant at USC, and Douty are league veterans, having earned all-star honors in each of the two previous seasons with the Command since the WPLL began in 2018. 

Block, a former Syracuse standout and current Harvard assistant, joined the Command through the 2018 Fall Draft. She and Douty are also teammates on the national team, where they won the then-FIL World Cup and the IWGA World Games in 2017.

That experience playing together, whether on the professional or national level, has helped the three form such a strong unit for the Command.

“We know what each other is thinking without even communicating,” Block said. “That’s just when you can really take your game to the next level, knowing that someone else is going to have your back if you make a mistake.” 

Braig, now an assistant at Saint Joseph’s, was selected by the Command with the 18th overall pick in the league’s Spring Draft last April. After capping her college career with an NCAA title in 2019, “Big J” was hesitant about hopping right back into playing the sport, and it took some time to adjust to the WPLL’s fast and aggressive pace. 

Joining such a veteran, tight-knit defense made the transition to the professional game easier.

“They really helped me learn the new game and what to expect,” Braig said. “They just guided me through it and made it such a fun experience, while being super competitive.”

Trust and chemistry, Block said, separate the good defensive players and defensive units from the great.

It can be hard to develop those things on the WPLL circuit. The league’s barnstorming format — “professional pick-up” is how Douty described it — doesn’t allow for the same kind of training and constant interaction that typically produce team camaraderie.

But this group has managed to develop it on its own. Despite the distance during the offseason — Douty in New Jersey, where she co-runs a youth program, Block in Massachusetts with Harvard, Braig in Pennsylvania with Saint Joe’s and Hertsch with USC — they stay in touch with a group chat and frequent email updates from coaches about schemes and strategies.








With start of the season in peril due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the built-in familiarity will become an even bigger factor.

“The strongest teams know each other and have fun with each other and connect,” Hertsch said. “Having a platform where we can text and group chat and stay connected in any capacity makes you a little tighter and a little stronger.”

In season, they’ll share goals throughout the week about staying in shape — Douty and Hertsch’s muscle-popping Instagram posts are enough to make even the hardest of hardcore gym rats blush — or working on individual tactics. Knowing what everyone is working on individually pays off when it comes time to take the field as a unit.

“What makes it really special is how we work within our strengths and our weaknesses and just knowing that about each other,” Douty said. “Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of Katie or Becca or Julia really gives us an advantage of how we can complement each other on the field.”

As the league restructured its landscape this winter, downsizing from five teams to four and changing roster sizes, the Command were lucky on the defensive end: Their unit stayed entirely intact. 

“Part of the challenge of the league is just kind of getting that consistency and that chemistry on the field, knowing that we’re not getting those practices and the training in together,” Hertsch said. “It’s hard to show up on a game day and click and have that chemistry, so maintaining that unit was huge, because we have a good sense of how each other plays.”




PHOTO BY KEITH LUCAS


They’ll also return defensive midfielder Katie O’Donnell and goalie Bridget Bianco, who led the WPLL in saves in 2019. The Command finished last season with a 1-4 record, but took the Fight — the eventual runners-up — to the wire in a close 13-10 semifinal loss. 

Fight midfielder Taylor Cummings had to face the Command’s defense in that semifinal game last July. Having played with Hertsch and Block in national team settings, and with both Douty and Braig at Maryland, she knows how fierce an opponent this group can be.

“Individually, they’re all incredible players. They each bring something really unique to that defensive unit,” she says. “And then together, you combine their strengths, and there’s really no weakness.”

It wasn’t that long ago that they were the WPLL champions: The Command took home the crown in the league’s inaugural season in 2018. Hertsch and Douty were both on that title-winning team — Douty has even watched tape of that year’s championship game with the youth players she currently coaches.

With a high-caliber defense powering them from the back, the Command could find themselves in that spot again this year.

“Being able to have the experience of playing with them just gives us that trust factor, and that’s something you need defensively,” Douty said. “It just brings the entire team’s game up a level, and having that backbone is huge. It helps propel our team in general.”