Guadalupe Oliva Escudero Boosts Spirits of Team Argentina

When Guadalupe Oliva Escudero arrived at Lindenwood Belleville in January 2018, she knew she wanted to play a sport.

The Lynx’s volleyball coach suggested that Oliva Escudero try out for the lacrosse team — a sport she had previously never heard of. After Googling “lacrosse,” Oliva Escudero decided to give the sport a shot.

“The coach was like, ‘If you can pick up the sport in a few weeks and you like it, maybe you can join the team,’” Oliva Escudero said. “Two weeks in, she came and gave me a jersey.”

Oliva Escudero started playing lacrosse just four years ago. Now, the sport has taken her all over the U.S. and her home country of Argentina. A midfielder-turned-defender, Oliva Escudero will play for Team Argentina in the country’s first trip to the World Lacrosse Women’s World Championship on June 29 in Towson, Md.

While Oliva Escudero was a natural at lacrosse, growing up with a growth hormone deficit initially posed challenges to her athletic journey.

Oliva Escudero was receiving treatment for this condition when she began playing volleyball at 10 years old. She carried the hormone around with her in a cooler at tournaments, and a coach had to supervise her when she injected it at night.

“It was hard,” Oliva Escudero said. “Of course, you want to be tall, you want to be the best hitter. It was tough understanding that I was just smaller than the rest.”

Oliva Escudero said her teammates and mother were especially supportive.

Despite her size, Oliva Escudero found success on the court. She made the first league of her club team at 15 and began playing beach volleyball then, too. Oliva Escudero said she practiced alongside “high level” athletes and played under a coach whose athletes were on the Argentine national team.

With her success on the court, Oliva Escudero initially thought she would play beach volleyball at an American college. Plans changed, however, and she arrived at Lindenwood Belleville on an academic scholarship. By the end of her freshman year, Oliva Escudero picked up lacrosse and volleyball on top of her studies.

Kali Bills began coaching at Lindenwood Belleville during Oliva Escudero’s sophomore year. Oliva Escudero was still learning the game at that point, Bills said, but her passion for the sport was clear.

“She had a fire that was different than any of the other players because the sport was brand new to her,” Bills said. “She fell in love with it.”

After her first college lacrosse season, Oliva Escudero returned to Argentina for the summer. Determined to find a women’s team in her home country, she said she scoured the Internet looking for fellow Argentine women to play with. Eventually, she found a women’s team two hours from her hometown and drove to practice with them.

The players connected her to Team Argentina and provided information about tryouts. Oliva Escudero attended and made the team, calling it the “best decision” she’s ever made.

Her first international experience came in December 2019, playing at the Pan-American Lacrosse qualifiers. It was the first time Team Argentina competed on an international scale as well. Argentina finished sixth, earning its berth to the World Lacrosse Women’s World Championship — an “amazing experience” for the players, Oliva Escudero said.

Team Argentina coach Holly McGarvie Reilly first met Oliva Escudero at the qualifiers. Oliva Escudero’s calming presence on the field immediately stood out to her, McGarvie Reilly said.

“I remember her being in the center circle and looking to her and being able to trust her to step up and make a play,” McGarvie Reilly said. “That was a comforting feeling for everybody because we had very little team time together [before].”

Since then, Oliva Escudero has remained involved with Team Argentina. The pandemic was challenging, she said, as Argentina had strict COVID-19 restrictions that banned outdoor exercise for months.

But she rejoined her fellow players at the PALA Sixes Cup in 2021, earning bronze in the tournament — Argentina’s first medal on the international level. Argentina won by just one goal, and it was especially thrilling taking the draw during the matchup. She said it ended up being one of her favorite moments within the sport.

Now, Oliva Escudero is balancing World Championship preparation with her job as a clinical research coordinator at Washington University in St. Louis. She’s been fitting workouts into her busy schedule and has felt more motivated as the tournament nears.

Looking toward the World Championship, McGarvie Reilly said Team Argentina has no illusions about its standing. The Argentines rank 35th out of 36 teams, and they will have to “claw and fight” to establish themselves. She expects Oliva Escudero’s leadership and calming presence to prove key to Argentina’s efforts.

“Guada will bring a nurturing and motherly leadership role to the team, where she brings everybody in,” McGarvie Reilly said. “[She] boosts their spirits and reminds them how good they are in plays that she’s seen them make and also makes those plays and leads by example as well.”


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