Upon joining the Ireland national women’s lacrosse team for last summer’s European Championships, Good Counsel midfielder Caroline Peters quickly erased any concerns about how she’d fit in on the field. The youngest player on the squad, the two-time All-Met paced the Irish in Amsterdam with 19 goals in eight games.
Representing her maternal grandfather’s homeland, Peters left her international debut with more than a gaudy stat line. From learning the Irish national anthem in Gaelic and serenading fans with a postgame rugby song to exploring the city with her family and cheering on the men’s team in the championship game, the Vanderbilt recruit with dual citizenship made the most of a memorable trip.
“Without lacrosse, I wouldn’t have been able to meet all these new people or go to these places,” Peters said. “I just try to take it all in because you know you’re only going to [play against international competition] a couple times, if you’re lucky.”
Peters will represent Ireland again next week when the FIL Women’s Lacrosse World Cup kicks off in Oshawa, Canada. She’ll use Saturday’s Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Classic at Towson University as a tune-up for her return to the international stage, joined on the South team by 11 other local players. The boys’ game, broadcast at 8 p.m. on ESPNU, will include four area players, notably Bullis two-time All-Met defender Nick Fields (Johns Hopkins).
Bernie O’Rourke emigrated to the United States from Ireland with his parents through Ellis Island when he was 12 years old. In the mid-1960s, he became the first member of his family to attend college when he received a lacrosse scholarship to the University of Maryland.
Peters had grown up on her grandfather’s stories about his native country but had never been there until October 2011 when she arrived in Dublin to try out for Ireland’s national women’s lacrosse team for the first time.
By that time, Peters had already put in an application for dual citizenship along with her mother Kathy and two siblings. About a dozen family members, some of whom she’d never met before, were on hand to watch her try out when she became the lone high school player to earn a place on the 18-woman team from a pool of 33 players.
When the Rockville native had to go back to Ireland for tryouts again last October, Peters and her father, Jeff, got stuck there for an extra week with the East Coast of the United States getting battered by Hurricane Sandy.
After Peters again secured her spot on the team from a slightly larger group of hopefuls, the father and daughter made the best of their delay. The pair took several days touring the countryside around Dublin with stops to visit more of her mother’s aunts, uncles and cousins.
“It’s honestly been beyond what we could have ever expected,” Kathy Peters said of her daughter’s international experience. “I could get emotional talking about it. She’s become a part of this really incredible [lacrosse] family.”
The sport continues to grow in Ireland, but it’s popularity still lags well behind the U.S. About half of the current Irish national players are based in either the United States or the United Kingdom, and Peters, who started the sport in sixth grade, stood out right away at tryouts with her aggressiveness at both ends.
Sarah Walsh, an Annapolis native and current St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes assistant, played alongside Peters last year before suffering a broken leg at the European Championships and will be an assistant this time around. She said it felt natural for the youngest player on the field to take on a leadership role.
“She has this fierceness about her, the will to win,” said Walsh, whose grandparents on her father’s side were born in Ireland. “When times get tough and the other players are feeling down, you see this fire come out in her.”
Though Peters tied for fifth among all players at the 2012 European Championships in goals, the Irish team struggled to an eighth-place finish in the 12-nation event. She’s hopeful for a better showing from the team in Canada. (She’s also no longer the youngest player with the addition of American University recruit Schyler Neale, a recent graduate of Patrick Henry High School in Ashland, Va.)
After playing Saturday’s game with high school teammate Meagh Graham (Virginia Tech), Peters will catch a plane for Toronto on Sunday to meet the Irish national team. She’ll then have a few days of training before the team begins pool play on Thursday against Latvia.
Peters is unsure of when she might play with the Irish as the international schedule is light on major competitions until the next European Championship in 2016. Before heading to college, she plans to make sure she appreciates the chance to wear the green, white and orange alongside a group of players with whom she’s become close.
“I’m always laughing when I’m with [my Ireland teammates],” said Peters, who finished her career No. 6 on Good Counsel’s all-time points list. “I could sit and listen to them and their stories forever. They’re not too serious [off the field]. It’s always fun.”