It was a feeling unlike any Sophia DiCenso has ever had before.
The Foxboro native proudly stood on top of the podium with her United States Women’s Lacrosse U-19 teammates. She was draped in an American flag while her parents, grandparents, friends and cousins filled the stands. Some of them were wearing the same red, white and blue garments that they had for the seventh time in eight days. And while some washed them, DiCenso said others could not bring themselves to due to superstition.
While looking at her supporters in the crowd and teammates by her side, that’s when it all hit her. DiCenso bowed her head as a gold medal was placed around her neck.
The 18-year-old was a world champion.
Not only did that moment follow a 13-3 victory over defending champion Canada in the U-19 World Championship title game on Saturday, but it followed a decade of commitment to the sport of lacrosse and the past year of sacrifice and honor in representing the United States.
“It was just like you see at the Olympics,” said the former Foxboro High standout and two-time Hockomock League MVP. “It was just the craziest feeling I’ve ever experience in my life.
“I feel like right when we were getting ready for the game, we didn’t expect it, but we just believed so much that we could do it. So, when the buzzer finally went off, we were, we knew we could do it — beat Canada, win gold — then the feeling after was just, it was kind of like, it’s hard to put into words. But it was just so rewarding.
The World Championship title marks the first since 2011 and fifth overall for Team USA.
“And it was just so cool that my family was there,” DiCenso continued. “It was just the best feeling in the world. We had finally done what we had been trying to do for the past year.”
DiCenso has now won her fourth Davenport Division title, the Division 2 East Sectional crown and, of course, the biggest of all highlights, a gold medal in a matter of months.
“It’s pretty awesome to look back at like the success that my teams have had, you know?,” DiCenso said.
“Even in high school and going forward, (I’m) hoping to keep up a winning streak somehow. But it’s been really cool looking back at the accomplishments that different teams and different players I’ve gotten to work with, like what we’ve done.”
What’s not to be forgotten is that the process started with 500 applicants all hoping for a shot on the nation’s U-19 team. Approximately 100 of them got the call to try out and DiCenso was among the final 18 to earn the right to travel to Peterborough.
DiCenso and the US Women’s team were absolutely dominant in the tournament. They finished a perfect 7-0 and outscored opponents 128-20 in seven games. The midfielder DiCenso scored seven goals of her own with one assist for eight total points in the World Championships.
Following a perfect pool play round with wins over Australia (12-4), England (18-2) and Canada (13-5), the US took down Hong Kong (25-0) in the Round of 16 and Wales (26-0) in the quarterfinals. They advanced to defeat Australia (21-6) in the tournament semifinals before the win over Canada in the title game.
“I believed we could win, but I didn’t really know what the competition would be like,” DiCenso said. “I don’t think other teams, it’s not like other teams were not as skilled or like connected as a team, I just think we were so close and had been playing for so long together that we just came out on fire. We were just so ready to compete and it really showed in our scores.”
In the contest against Canada, their dominance continued until the final buzzer sounded and they stormed the field. After possessing a mere one-goal lead in the opening minutes of the second quarter, the US scored eight unanswered goals to pull away, taking a 7-2 lead at the half and never looking back.
DiCenso had five draw controls, four ground balls and a pair of caused turnovers in the final game.
“We went out and just did what we said we were going to do,” DiCenso said of the team’s mentality during the stretch, allowing a mere one second-half goal. “I feel like every single time we scored it kept pushing our momentum. We truly saw we could win this thing and that just kept motivating us. And then everyone just played the best game they’ve probably ever played in their life and we took off.”
In addition to the support she received from those in attendance on Saturday, including her parents Adam and Amanda, as well as siblings Julia and Alex, DiCenso said she was overwhelmed by the support she received from afar. She said she had balloons and flowers left from her neighbors and friends at her home when she arrived back. That was before the 14 hours of sleep she got as soon as she got home.
“The support that I received was like, unmatched,” DiCenso said. “It was so cool to see Richmond, like future teammates who I’m not even that close to yet, were supporting me. And it was so nice, back home, people went above and beyond what I expected.
And now she’s off to the next adventure. Of course, she will do that one with a ball and stick in hand, as well. DiCenso will leave for the University of Richmond in about a week. She will play Division I lacrosse for the Atlantic-10 Spiders.
“I’ve been trying to like get ready for school and say goodbye to people, and still enjoy this moment,” DiCenso laughed. “It’s just overwhelming, but I couldn’t ask for my high school career and this summer to end any other way.”