By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 8/13/19
At first, Natalie Pansini says it was a shock to learn her Puerto Rico U-19 team would not be able to compete for a medal in the World Lacrosse Championships last week in Peterborough, Ontario despite its undefeated record.
But after her squad finished a perfect 8-0 by winning the consolation round and closing as the ninth-place team, the rising senior at Agnes Irwin said the experience may have been even more positive.
“I would say that this whole experience shows how the Puerto Rican spirit never dies,” said Pansini, who along with her older sister Maria (rising sophomore at Princeton) were standouts for a squad making its first appearance in the tournament. “Given all the disappointment, we came through by getting what we could.
“We never gave up for a second, even with all the adversity. For me, bonding with all the people on the team because of that experience brought me closer together than it would have if we had gotten further.
“It’s something you can’t put a price on.”
Team Puerto Rico, competing out of the lowest pool (Pool E), went 4-0 in pool play and then edged Pool B runner-up New Zealand, 12-11, in the first round of the playoffs (16 of the 22 teams qualified). The Puerto Rico players had heard rumors shortly after the thrilling win that they would not be able to compete in the medal playoffs (Final 8) but once they heard the news that New Zealand would go to the medal playoffs and not them, it stung.
A former World Lacrosse official explained to Phillylacrosse.com that as a first-year competitor, Puerto Rico was playing as an Associate Member and the bylaws state that Associate Members cannot compete in the medal round. The bylaws also state that once teams become full members they are restricted on the amount of players that do not live or work in that country (Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States). The Pansinis’ maternal grandparents were born in Puerto Rico.
In the consolation final on Friday, Puerto Rico edged Haudenosaunee, 8-7. Puerto Rico had defeated the Haudenosaunee, 12-8, in pool play.
“It was really disappointing especially because the New Zealand game was so hard fought and then to get the news that they would be the ones to advance was incredibly disappointing,” said Maria Pansini, who was a 2018 Phillylacrosse.com Co-Player of the Year. “It was a disappointing night. We had to deal with it and the emotions but after venting as a team we realized if ninth place was the best we could do we would need to fight for it.
“So we decided we were playing more than for ourselves; it was for our parents, grandparents, ancestors, and children on the island. So going 8-0 and being undefeated – and working so hard to do it – was everything we could have done, even though it wasn’t the finish we wanted.”
In the eight games, Natalie Pansini collected 20 goals, 9 assists, an amazing 38 draw controls, 15 groundballs and 11 caused turnovers. Maria Pansini had 22 goals, 4 assists, 15 draw controls, 3 groundballs and 1 caused turnover.
Three others from the region also helped Puerto Rico finish 8-0. Jordan Baerga (Ursuline Academy-DE) had 6 goals, 4 assists, 9 draw controls and 9 groundballs; Jordan Santana (Egg Harbor Township-NJ) had 4 goals, 2 assists and 3 draw controls; and Sophia Hernandez (Eastern Regional-NJ) had 2 goals, 1 caused turnover and 1 groundball.
Natalie Pansini said the team is confident it could have contended for a medal and could have defeated England in the medal round quarterfinals if it had the opportunity to play the game. England defeated New Zealand in that game, 10-8, and then gave Canada a tough game, 10-7, in the semifinals.
“When the coaches told us we weren’t allowed to play it really hit me hard,” said Natalie Pansini. “We knew we could have won the next game but we regrouped and put all our frustrations out on the field and into the next game.”
The Pansini sisters decided to try out for the Puerti Rican team after their mother suggested they consider it. They were not invited to try out for Team USA.
“I think being able to play with Natalie was awesome,” said Maria Pansini, who last played with her sister last year on the championship High School Team, Heather Leigh Albert at Vail. “I made bunch of new sisters and friends with all the girls on the team.
“I definitely never would have met these girls if not for this experience. Having one year of college under my belt, it was great to play with girls 15, 16 and 17 and see them grow as players throughout the 10 days.”
Puerto Rico roster – Name POS Grad year Club School
Jordan Baerga M 2019 Green Turtle Lacrosse Ursuline Academy (DE)/Liberty U*
Jolie Benabe A 2020 Queens of Lacrosse Northport Senior HS (NY)
Hanna Brindis Serrano D 2018 SuperNoVA Select Battlefield HS (VA)/Indiana U of PA
Julia Carreras D 2021 Revolution Lacrosse Lexington HS (MA)
Sarah Cedarstrand D 2018 T3 North Northern Highlands HS (NJ)/Rutgers U
Skylar Clarillo D 2021 Quest to Learn (NY)
Antonella Henson-Vendrell M 2018 SuperNoVA Select Paul VI Catholic HS (VA)/Monmouth U
Gabriella Henson-Vendrell M/D 2022 Cardinal Lacrosse Paul VI Catholic HS (VA)
Isabella Henson-Vendrell M/D 2022 Cardinal Lacrosse Paul VI Catholic HS (VA)
Sophia Hernández A 2019 South Jersey Devils Eastern Regional HS (NJ)
Chloe Herzog A 2018 Long Island Top Guns East Islip HS (NY)/Queens C
Talysa Jiménez D 2019 DEWLAX North Brunswick HS (NJ)/Georgian Court U*
Lindsay Mazzucco G 2021 T3 North Red Bank Catholic HS (NJ)
Raquel Nieves M 2020 Prime Time Lacrosse Lakeland Senior HS (NY)
Maria Pansini M 2018 Ultimate Goal Lacrosse Agnes Irwin (PA)/Princeton U
Natalie Pansini M 2020 Phantastix Agnes Irwin (PA)/Princeton U*
Arielle Ramírez M/D 2018 Liberty Lacrosse Kellenberg HS (NY)/U Hartford
Victoria Rankin M/A 2022 Cardinal Lacrosse South County High School (VA)
Delaney Rodríguez-Shaw A/M 2021 Lax Plus Longmeadow HS (MA)
Jordan Santana A/M 2018 United Lacrosse Egg Harbor HS (NJ)/Rowan U
Tiana Vázquez M/D 2019 Metro Magic The Storm King School (NY)/U Hartford*
Karina Vélez-Corretjer M/A 2022 Desert Heat Chaparral HS (AZ)
Tags: Agnes Irwin