Newport co-captain Hayley Sofarnos will don the green and gold jersey for the first time in 10 years as part of the national squad that will compete at the Women’s Lacrosse World Cup in England this July.
The last time Sofarnos represented Australia on the international stage was in the under-19 world cup back in 2007, she was 16 at the time and considered a player to watch for the future.
At the time, Sofarnos envisaged a call-up to the open age team would follow shortly after those championships, but the months on the calendar turned into years.
It will finally become a reality when Sofarnos runs out for Australia at the world cup later this year.
“You don’t expect to be waiting 10 years for it,” she said.
“As frustrating as it’s been, it definitely makes me appreciate the selection even more.”
Sofarnos’ build-up to the world cup will be eerily familiar to a decade ago.
On that occasion, the attacker tore her ACL earlier that year and faced a race against time to be fit for the junior world cup.
Two weeks ago, Sofarnos went down clutching her knee in a club game for Newport, and she feared the worst.
“There’s been a few too many parallels in my preparation,” she said.
“Recently, I had a fall with my knee, and we were scared it was my ACL again.
“It’s been a very challenging time, physically and mentally, but very relieved that it is much less severe than initially thought.”
Sofarnos has stepped aside from club duty and could miss out on the honour of running out for Victoria at the national championships, but, more importantly, she has plenty of time to prepare for the world cup.
“I’m in a bit of rehab, non-impact mode at the moment,” the 26-year-old said.
“A lot of biking and swimming and a bit of off-leg work.
“There’s no use risking it this close to the world championships.”
Sofarnos, the daughter of former national team coach Sue, will be one of 10 Victorian players in the 16-member Australian squad.
She already knows most of her teammates as part of a close-knit Victorian state side.
Still, Sofarnos will not waste her time on the sidelines, further studying team tactics and teammates’ habits while nursing her injury.
“When I’m on the field, it will be continuing to gel with all my teammates, but if it’s off field [through injury], I’ll be working on those connections and taking advantage of seeing another view, the outside looking into the field,” she said.
Sofarnos, a young president of the Newport Ladies Lacrosse Club, is hoping to add some firepower to the Australian team on her return.
She will form a lethal attacking combination with the likes of Hannah Nielson, Sarah Mollison and Abbie Burgess.
“The variation that we all bring is really exciting,” Sofarnos said.
It will be the 10th world cup, which is held every four years, and every country other than the US will be considered underdogs.
Sofarnos is adamant that her team is not playing for second best.
“We’ve prepared as best as we can, we know the styles those teams want to play and we’ll be contesting for a medal, hopefully gold,” she said.
“Anything is possible in sport, so we’ll give it our best shot.”