Gloster Living on Sweet Memories
Ashleigh Gloster, co-captain of the England lacrosse team who took the bronze medal at the World Cup in July, quotes a saying of American Mary-Lou Retton, the 1984 Olympic gymnastics champion: “A trophy carries dust. Memories last forever.”
Gloster has savoured those words as she looks back on the tournament in Guildford, which for England ended with a match of sustained and pulsating excitement. Played in teeming rain, with a raucous crowd sheltering below umbrellas and hooded anoraks, the home team trailed Australia 9-5, only to stage a memorable comeback. They levelled the scores and the match went through two periods of extra-time and one of a golden score, before Meg Whittle secured the decisive goal.
It was the first time in the 10 World Cups which have been held, that Australia, the only country apart from the United States to have won it, have failed to get on the podium and for England it matched the minimum target they had set themselves.
The game was the 50th cap for Gloster, who was captain for that third-place match, and afterwards Phil Collier, the coach, presented her with the ‘Heart of the Cross’ award for the person who best represents the spirit of the team. It was a suitable moment for the 32-year-old to retire from internationals.
Collier explains: ”Ash had quietly gone about her business during the tournament. She was a most deserving recipient of the award in the England camp. And on the field, she had some fantastic performances in defence, giving leadership to the players. Australia only managed four shots in that second half”.
Gloster speaks of her pride and satisfaction of being with such a close-knitted group of players. She says: ”We did not want to let ourselves down. People asked me if I were scared. But there was total belief in the team and the programme and we wanted to knock Australia out of third place.”
She had already represented England in the 2013 World Cup but the atmosphere and crowds of a home tournament provided extra incentive. In the pool games, England began well against Wales but then suffered disappointing defeats against Australia and the United States, who went on to win the competition for the eighth time, and it needed resilience from the English players to reach the podium.
Collier says: ”Our goal was to get a medal and it was such a dramatic and emotional finish that obviously we felt satisfaction with that. But in retrospect, there is some slight disappointment that we didn’t get to the final. Losing so badly (18-1) to the United States was like a punch in the stomach but getting a medal raises expectation for the future and we need to play the Americans more often to get towards their level. At the moment, they are a bit distant from everyone else, with Canada, Australia and ourselves all level pegging.”
Gloster knew that she was going to retire after the tournament. “I was the second oldest player in the England team and as we are not funded, apart from a few sponsors, I need to take a break financially. I also want to pass the torch to someone else.”
She is now teaching at Ashdown House School in east Sussex and planning to coach and develop the sport. She says:“Lacrosse combines skill and athleticism to a level that not many other team games do. It is a fantastic outlet to show how women can be at the same time, strong, dynamic and graceful.”