April 14, 1997
Aussome - Terrapin Lacrosse Gets its Strength from Down Under
Maybe it's not such a small world after all. When All-American lacrosse players Sarah Forbes and Sascha Newmarch tell friends from their native Australia where the University of Maryland is located, they can be somewhat general. "I tell them I'm just out of D.C.," Forbes said.
Newmarch is a bit more vague.
"Four hours south of New York," she said. "When you try and explain Maryland, they're like, 'Is that a state or a town?' "
It's reminiscent of the British Invasion, when the Beatles were asked how they found America and John Lennon answered, "Turned left at Greenland."
Maryland coach Cindy Timchal is just glad her "LacrAussies" are here.
"The Australians as a whole have a very healthy attitude about competition," Timchal said. "They certainly love the sport, love to play. That's why they're so successful."
Forbes' enthusiasm for the sport is apparent. Before a game, she will bound onto the field, trying to fire up her teammates during player introductions. Once the game is under way, watch out. She gives new meaning to the basketball expression "coast to coast."
The senior captain midfielder will often pick up a ground ball and barrel 50-plus yards past or through defenders. She's easy to spot: always around the ball, her shirt untucked.
Newmarch, also a midfielder, describes her role as low-key.
"I try to settle certain situations and not force things," she said. "I try and be a role model for the team and be there for them."
Forbes is the first Australian to play Division I women's lacrosse. Newmarch, a junior, is the second. The duo was on the 1992 Australian national team, which toured the East Coast of the U.S. and even stopped by Maryland's Byrd Stadium.
"We were offered a scholarship to come over here and play here," Forbes recalled. "An opportunity came up, and I grabbed it."
The two showed their dedication to the university last April when they opted to forgo the World Cup and stay with the Terps.
"I guess [Australians] were disappointed, but there were other people to replace us," Newmarch said with a touch of regret. "It would have been good to go. It was in Japan, and lacrosse over there just goes crazy - you get more crowds, and it would have been a great experience."
Their dedication to Maryland has paid off, as the team capped its second consecutive undefeated season last year with another NCAA title. This season, the Terps had already beaten all three ACC foes - including No. 2 Virginia - and won 40 straight by late March.
Asked about Australian expressions, the mates were less chatty. The only Australian lacrosse term they volunteered was calling the cage a "cooker."
Last season, Newmarch scored 30 goals and Forbes 27. The team is without Kelly Amonte and Karen MacCrate, who racked up 95 goals and 67 assists - more than one-third of the team's offense last year. But Forbes had 14 goals in her first four matches of 1997, so she's been going to the cooker with greater frequency this spring.
"I'm more offensive this year," Forbes said. "Last year, I concentrated more on marking a player, trying to shut her down. This year, I have more freedom to go offensively."
Though Australia may look small on a globe, it's roughly the size of the U.S. Forbes and Newmarch didn't exactly grow up in the same neighborhood.
"We're totally on the opposite sides," Forbes said. "I'm from California [Perth] and Sascha's from Florida [West Lakes]."
The two did, however, know of each other growing up.
"We'd been competing against each other since we were pretty young," Forbes remembered. "There was definitely a rivalry, but it stayed on the field."
If you listen closely, they speak differently. Forbes' parents are from Scotland, so she has more of a British accent. She noted that people who live on the country's east coast speak in a stronger Australian accent. Forbes doesn't mind Americans asking about her accent, but beware: Newmarch likes to have fun with Yanks.
"Americans are so naive," she said. "When they hear a funny voice, they're like, 'Wow, where are you from?'
"I tell them we jump on kangaroos and they take us to school and deliver the mail."
"Some you can go far with, and others will tell you straightaway to shut up."
Newmarch has found Americans to be hospitable.
"You go to anyone's house, and their parents just want to cook for you. They just love to cook and make you eat," she said. "At home it's like, 'Here, help yourself.' "
If you're planning a snack for Newmarch, she favors Vegemite on toast with butter.
"Vegemite is a yeast extraction," Newmarch explained, probably for the five hundredth time since moving to the United States. "It's the disgusting-looking black paste that smells really bad but tastes so good. It's really salty. You couldn't compare it to anything.
"People that try it here hate it," Newmarch said. "To get people to try it, I tell people it's something else. After they bite into it and realize it's Vegemite, they spit it out."
Vegemite probably got its best introduction to this country by a 1982 Men at Work Song. "We love that song 'Down Under,'" Newmarch said. "It reminds us of home every time they play it."
Each goes home once a year. West Lakes is 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. Since phone calls to Australia cost roughly $3 a minute, they tend to keep in touch with friends and relatives by e-mail and the Internet.
Two years ago, Coach Timchal piled up frequent-flier miles en route to Australia to see prospective players. The Terrapins since have added another Australian - freshman Trisha Adams - to the squad.
Like her countrymen before her, Adams will have to adjust to life in the USA and its brand of lacrosse.
"Where Sascha's from, you can kick the ball and wear helmets," Forbes said. "It's a lot different."
As long as she doesn't tell you they use kangaroos as goalkeepers, you can probably believe her.