The End of an Era – A Q&A with USA Lacrosse Legend Michelle Tumulo

By Maggie Jent

Photo via USA Lacrosse (@usa_wlax)

On September 16th, 2021, USA Lacrosse shocked its followers with the announcement of Michelle Tumolo’s retirement from the National Team.  Tumolo, a Syracuse women’s lacrosse alumni and arguably one of the most successful athletes to go through the program, has been one the biggest names in women’s lacrosse since she stepped foot on campus at Syracuse University in 2010. As a freshman, she was named to the 2010-2011 U.S. Lacrosse Women's National team and went on to lead Team USA to a gold medal at the 2017 Federation Lacrosse World Cup. Following her retirement announcement, we were able to sit down and talk to Michelle about some of her favorite experiences with the National Team and what the future holds for MT35!

1. Was playing lacrosse at a national/professional level always a goal you had set for yourself?

Once I had played lacrosse for about 1-2 years, I started to realize that I may actually be good enough to play this sport at the collegiate level. I began to set goals, those goals started small. Make my HS team, make the club team, go to camps and clinics that will help me excel my game. Those small goals led to bigger ones like getting a scholarship to play at a D1 powerhouse, tryout for national team, etc. I had coaches along the way that made me believe that I could do all of these things, and they pushed me to be my best every step of the way.

2. What do you remember from your first National Team tryout?

I remember feeling really nervous but having the mindset of “do your best and that’s all you can control.” I met a lot of amazing people who I’ve been friends with ever since. Going through a 3-day grueling hot tryout brings you closer to people in more ways than you’d think – haha. I also remember being in awe of the talent and high caliber lacrosse being played. It made me want to be better, to continue to work on my craft. I’ll never forget the feeling of seeing my pinny number up on the wall after they posted who made it.

3. What was your favorite memory from your first season with U.S.?

It seems like a lifetime ago!! I would have to say it’s a combination of meeting & playing with the incredible players (who are legends!!) & putting the USA jersey on while hearing the National Anthem for the first time. It is an unforgettable feeling.

4. Were there any major takeaways from your earlier experiences with the National team that helped you prepare for the 2021 tryouts?

I learned something every time I stepped on the lacrosse field as a USA player. Whether it was a mentality, a lacrosse play, or a friendship, I did my best to take away learning moments to prepare me for the next tryout or training. As I got older, my body didn’t get younger (I wish lol) and 2021 was different from all other years. I (most of us) hadn’t played in an organized lacrosse event in quite a while. I had to trust my preparation and experience. It’s always an honor to have a tryout no matter if I am 19 or 30 years old.

5. Overall, which year do you feel tryouts were the most competitive and why? 

Can I say all? Ha – the talent in the women’s lacrosse game gets better and better each year. The game has grown so much since I started playing. I can’t say 1 distinct year, but I can say that each time, every single player is giving it their ALL. It is inspiring.

6. What was the biggest hardship you faced while playing with Team USA and how did you overcome it?  

Being cut from the 2013 World Cup Team and then tearing my ACL a few short months later. It made me train harder and want to make the next one that much more.

7. What is your favorite play from your 2017 gold-medal winning game in England? Favorite game ever played with Team U.S?  

A play that did not count 😊 our defense produced an awesome caused turnover, led by Becca Block, and Meg Douty came up with the ground ball and heads up play to hit me in the midfield. I knew there was seconds left in the half, so I chucked it at the net…it went in but too late to count as a goal. I love this because of how fast a play can be made by multiple players doing their jobs. Teamwork makes the dreamwork!

8. When did you decide you wanted to retire from the National Team and what were some of the driving factors in your decision?  

It was not an easy decision, but it had been weighing on me for a bit. I knew the time was coming. As much as I would love to play forever, this timing felt right. After talking with Lara, our families and a few of my close teammates, their support allowed me to be confident in whatever decision I made. I don’t want to say that there’s any factors that drove me to retire, but when you have a gut feeling, you follow it.

9. What are you most excited for or looking forward to the most in this next chapter of your career? 

Workouts that don’t consist of field sprints 😊, coaching my team at Army, and to be a spectator at US events to cheer on all my teammates!

10. Can we expect to see the return of MT35 in the 2022 Athletes Unlimited season?  

We will see 😉



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