Their friends and family members have referred to this as the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, but that's not entirely accurate. Crista Samaras and Randall Goldsborough never dreamed this, because what's happened now was beyond even their greatest imagination.
It feels, they said, more like something out of an unrealistic Hollywood script: Two women, lacrosse stars from rival high schools, grow to become two of their sport's superstars. They make lacrosse's most prestigious team and play in its most prestigious tournament -- which is then held in the town where they were raised.
For Samaras and Goldsborough, the 2005 Women's Lacrosse World Cup -- a 10-country tournament that runs through Saturday at the Naval Academy -- has provided a rare full-circle experience. Goldsborough (a 1992 graduate of St. Mary's) and Samaras (a 1994 graduate of Annapolis) are both midfielders for the 16-player U.S. women's team. In their lacrosse careers, both have already won a World Cup and played in an NCAA Division I championship game. But this experience, both players said, has provided a new high point.
"About a month ago, I decided that I needed to get in touch with my roots and really experience this whole thing," Samaras said. "I went and trained for a day at Annapolis [High]. Then I trained for a day at Princeton, where I went to college. Then I trained at the Naval Academy. This sounds so cheesy, but at the end of it, my eyes flooded with tears. I don't think too many people get to have this sort of experience. It's pretty lucky."
It's also well-earned. Both Samaras and Goldsborough trained exhaustively for more than four months to prepare for the World Cup tryouts, held last month. The two played together on the U.S. team that won the 2001 World Cup in England. Four years later, though, making the team again hardly felt like a given.
Goldsborough, the women's athletic director at the Bullis School in Potomac, squeezed in workouts before and after school. She would wake up before 5 a.m. and head to the school's gym to lift weights. Then she'd stay long after school to run on the track or bike.
"I just had to be more creative to find time," Goldsborough said. "It was stressful. The last [World Cup] wasn't too stressful to train for, because I had the time. With this one, training was kind of the fifth or sixth thing on my list to get done for the day. That made it even more of a challenge."
Samaras, meanwhile, devoted almost eight hours each day to her training. She lives in New York City, where she developed a multifaceted training regimen that left her in the best shape of her life. She boxed every day at a gym in the Financial District. She underwent acupuncture therapy. She ran on the West Side Highway. She lifted weights with a personal trainer at a local gym.
"This is probably the most important tournament I'm ever going to play in," Samaras said. "So I wanted to make sure I was in the best shape possible."
They both did. Because for Samaras and Goldsborough, the challenge of the World Cup is the pressure of performing on an intensely local stage, not an international one. Both players expect their friends and family to pack the stands -- "It's going to be like a reunion," Samaras said -- and they hope to show off Annapolis to the rest of their teammates.
The roster is loaded with players associated with Maryland: Lauren Aummiller (Virginia, 2003) is from Baltimore, and Kate Kaiser (Duke 2003) is from Cockeysville. Five players on the roster -- Jess Wilk, Kristin Sommar, Kelly Amonte Hiller, Quinn Carney and Goldsborough -- graduated from Maryland.
Samaras and Goldsborough, though, know Annapolis intimately: They've already planned where they want to eat particular meals and at what hour they want to give their teammates a tour of Church Circle. For them, Annapolis is filled with a collective history, too. They played basketball and lacrosse against each other in high school, then faced each other again on the lacrosse field in college. During summers, they sometimes trained together.
"We always gravitate to each other. That's the way we've always been," Samaras said. "We might not talk for a long time, but as soon as we're in the same place, we're like best friends."
Said Goldsborough: "It's just amazing to be going back home to play in the biggest tournament. And then on top of that, I get to share that experience with [Samaras]. That's pretty perfect."