PHOTO BY SCOTT MCCALL

Sarah Bullard is the first player in Team USA history to serve as captain of the U19 and senior teams.

Sarah Bullard and Ally Carey: From U19 Stardom to World Cup Wonders


One of the happiest days of Ally Carey’s young life left her in tears.

On a sweltering hot day in the summer of 2006, she walked toward her mother’s car, having just completed an exhausting series of tryouts for the U.S. U19 team that would compete in the following summer’s world championship in Canada. As one of the younger players, Carey tempered her expectations.

“I’d come home every day and say, ‘Mom, I don’t know, don’t get your hopes up,’” Carey said. “I didn’t think I was the type of player they wanted, because I’m not flashy. I do the little things.”

But when the tryouts concluded, her number was called. She climbed into the car and delivered the good news.

“My mom was telling me how proud of me she was and then I just started bawling,” Carey said. “I thought about how much more work there was to be done. Every day for the next year would be that exhausting.”

A decade later, Carey is still training, still working hard and still the wearing red, white and blue. This summer she’ll represent the United States at the Federation of International Lacrosse Women’s World Cup in Guildford, England. She’ll be joined by Sarah Bullard, one of her teammates on the 2007 U19 team that captured gold.

“That they still have the passion, that’s what’s incredible,” said Wendy Kridel, coach of the 2007 team.


“When the national anthem plays, I close my eyes and take a moment to appreciate the opportunity.” — Sarah Bullard, co-captain of the U.S. women's World Cup team


For Bullard, you could describe the passion as addictive.

“It was such an incredible experience, I wanted to get into the senior system as quickly as possible,” Bullard said. “So in the summer of 2008 [after her freshman year at Duke], I tried out. I’m a little bit addicted. I just absolutely fell in love with it.”

Bullard was the youngest member on the 2009 team that won gold in the Czech Republic, returning the World Cup to the U.S. after watching Australia win the event in 2005 from the stands at the U.S. Naval Academy as a high school student. She now owns three gold medals (the U19 in 2007 and World Cup titles in 2009 and 2013) and is part of a vision for the U.S. national teams program — bridging the connection between the U19 and senior team programs. Recently named co-captain of the 2017 World Cup team (along with Devon Wills), Bullard is the first player in Team USA history to hold that position with the U19 and senior squads.

PHOTOS BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Bullard, left, and Carey, were high schoolers when they first donned the red, white and blue for the U.S. U19 team in 2007.








Kridel coached the 1999 and 2003 U.S. U19 teams that won gold medals. She wasn’t planning to coach again in 2007. Then-U.S. senior team coach Sue Heether coaxed Kridel out of retirement. The two envisioned a pipeline between the U19 and senior teams. This year’s World Cup roster also includes former U19 star Kayla Treanor, whose 2011 teammates Cortney Fortunato and Shannon Gilroy were on the training team.

It’s an important connection that helps continuity. Ricky Fried was an assistant on Heether’s 2009 U.S. staff, and is now the head coach for his second World Cup. His aggressive full-field pressure approach has been embraced and understood by the players. As midfielders, Bullard and Carey play a key role.

“They’ve definitely bought into our system of running lines and not focusing on their [playing] time,” Fried said. “Most women’s lacrosse players are used to playing all the time and taking breaks [on the field], and our system doesn’t allow for that.”

Bullard currently lives near San Francisco where she works full-time as vice president of sales for Wheels Up, and also helps Kridel coach a high school team at Sacred Heart Prep. This fall, she’s headed to business school at Harvard. Finding time to work out and work on stick skills with that schedule requires commitment.

“It wears on you mentally and emotionally to continue to motivate yourself every single day,” Bullard said.




PHOTO BY SCOTT MCCALL

Ally Carey stepped away from the U.S. program after 2013, but the lure of competition brought her back.


Carey, who starred collegiately at Vanderbilt, stepped away from the program after winning a gold medal in 2013, but the lure of competition brought her back.

“I thought I was retired,” said Carey, a marketing manager for Marolina Outdoor. “Something was missing, and I knew I must not be done. But if I was going to come back, I had to come back stronger than I had ever been.”

It didn’t go unnoticed.

“Her fitness level is at the top on a team with a really high level,” Fried said. “She didn’t just want to be there, she wanted to make sure she was fully in. She’s got a full-time job, but she makes time and pushes herself to the extreme limit.”

Kridel called Bullard one of the best leaders she worked with on the U.S. teams. Fried echoed those thoughts, saying Bullard goes full speed in every drill and encourages teammates to do the same.

She does so because of what representing the country has meant to her for the last decade.

“It’s not something that ever gets old,” Bullard said. “When the national anthem plays, I close my eyes and take a moment to appreciate the opportunity. It’s easy to get lost in the competition and nerves of playing a game, and doing that helps me go into a game remembering what’s important. It’s really special, every single time.”