Michelle Tumolo travels the world with U.S. team, winning gold at 2017 World Cup and World Games
According to Mullica Hill resident Carol Tumolo, at the age of three her daughter Michelle could roller skate and had learned to ride a bike. She knew her little girl had a gift, but never could have predicted it would lead her to travel across the world competing for the U.S. Women’s Lacrosse team, bringing home gold medals at this year’s Women’s Lacrosse World Cup and 2017 World Games at the age of 26.
When Michelle was a freshman at Clearview Regional High School, the girl’s lacrosse team was in its infancy, having been created one year prior. As soon as she picked up the stick, she said, she fell in love. Since then, she’s never looked back.
“I loved the pace of the game; it’s the fastest game on two feet,” Michelle said. “I love the creativity you can have with the game, it’s a team sport — seven people on offense with you, 12 people on the team — and you really have to work together. You have to be on the same page to be successful and you have to build on the chemistry of your teammates.”
At the end of her freshman year at Syracuse University in 2010, Michelle said her coach encouraged her to try out for the U.S. team. Never imagining she’d actually make the team, Michelle said she attended merely for the experience.
“I showed up and it was the hardest three days of my life,” Michelle said.
At the time, anyone could attend the try-outs, now being limited to those who request to participate or who are invited. The first day is a two-a-day practice, focusing on skill drills and scrimmages, while the second day is a three-a-day format. The final day concludes with two sessions and a scrimmage, followed by the selection of the team.
“At the end, they posted the numbers on the wall; I saw mine and thought I was seeing things. I had to keep going back and checking,” Michelle said. “When I have the U.S. logo across my chest, it’s the greatest feeling. It’s so humbling being next to some of the best of the best and now we’re all on the same team. It’s an amazing feeling and I never would have thought I’d be here.”
Carol said her daughter’s biggest quality on the field is her selflessness, always wanting to make others look better and giving to her teammates.
“She’s an inspiration to me, to other people, and I hope she continues on this path,” Carol said. “I hope she never gets discouraged. I remind her all of the time, ‘God gave you this gift, you have to take it and do what you can with this.’”
The team begins with 36 members and over the span of three years players are cut to 24 and at last, such as this year, 18. This year, Michelle was lucky enough to be one of the four attackers to make it to the reigning champion team, chosen to play in the World Cup in July, a first for her career.
Eight games within 10 days, competing against top teams from England, Australia and Canada, the U.S. Women’s Lacrosse team came out on top, taking gold with a 10–5 win in England. Cheering from the stands was Michelle’s family.
“We are so excited to see her live her dream out,” Carol said. “Watching her represent her country, it’s a chilling experience. We were all crying.”
According to Michelle, typically after the World Cup games, everyone returns home for rest and relaxation, however this year, the U.S. Women’s Lacrosse team was preparing to make history. For the first time, the team was invited to the 2017 World Games in Poland, a championship for sports who are not yet in the Olympics, but trying. After four games within four days, the U.S. team brought yet another gold medal home.
“To win another gold medal for the first time ever in the U.S. program was an amazing feeling,” Michelle said. “Just being with my teammates, my coaches — it was the best feeling ever.”
According to Michelle, the World Games is a trial process and she hopes their success and exposure will help create a larger global interest in the sport. She said although it may not be an immediate entry into the Olympics, she’s hoping the sport may be accepted in time for the 2028 games.
Approaching her off-season, Michelle will return to her home in Eugene, Ore. as an assistant coach for the University of Oregon’s girl’s lacrosse team, making the trip by car with her dog Flanders to satisfy her love of adventure and exploration.
“I tell kids if you have a dream, whether you think you’re good or not, go after those dreams because you never know when your time will come,” Michelle said to those who dream of following in her footsteps. “Follow your dreams no matter your skill level and always have your stick in your hand to make sure you’re practicing. Put yourself out there and do the best you can.”