Zoe Martin hasn’t started her Junior year in high school yet, but she is already making an international name for herself and turning the spotlight on the Israel Women’s Lacrosse Team during the 2022 World Lacrosse Women’s Championship.
Through all the attention this summer, the 16-year-old Denver native remains supremely confident about her love of lacrosse but pleasantly unassuming and humble about her achievements. At the first game in Pool B play for the championship, which was hosted by Towson University in Maryland, Israel played Republic of Korea, and Martin says she was not the least bit nervous—mainly because she never expected to play.
“I thought I would stand on the sidelines and that would be fine with me,” she says. “Just putting on the Israel jersey would be the pinnacle of my experience.
She did play and scored three goals in that game.
And just to prove that day wasn’t a fluke, in the next game against Norway, she scored five goals, had one assist, and was named player of the game.
But to Martin, the experience of playing for Israel is more than just a competition. It is a bridge to her birthright country, a bridge that she sees lined with sports equipment—especially lacrosse sticks.
Making the Team
Martin’s journey to play for Israel started in the fall of her Freshman year in high school. On a lark, she and her father emailed the Israeli team to see if she could start to get involved in their program.
Her family had to verify her right to play with a series of documents—a letter from a rabbi, her parents’ wedding certificate, and proof that her mother’s family is Jewish.
A year later, in September 2021, Martin traveled to Baltimore for tryouts, all the time thinking she would be lucky to be placed on a U18 team.
“It was a two-day try-out, and by day two I was sick with food poisoning so I couldn’t play,” she remembers. “I came home thinking I had no shot at making any team.”
But Israel Head Coach Shelly Brezicki knows talent when she sees it. Here’s what she told a reporter for the USA Lacrosse Magazine about Martin. “For her to be at her age and have the control that she does and the game IQ that she does, it showed right away at tryouts,” Brezicki said. “We were impressed and obviously excited.”
Martin got the news she had made the team—not a junior team but the Israeli national team—while having lunch with her Field Hockey teammates at Colorado Academy—yes, she is a multi-sport athlete. At first, she thought it was a joke. Then she was speechless. She was 15 years old, the youngest player ever to make Israel’s national team and selected to play in the World Women’s Championship which only occurs every four years.
Connecting to Israel
When Martin showed up for training camp this summer, she was playing alongside teammates who were more than twice her age.
“They were out of college, and some had families,” Martin says, with a laugh. “I was closer in age to their children than I was to some of them!”
The team was a mix of Israelis, Americans who had made Aliyah, and one very young American teen who was learning more than lacrosse from the women on the team.
“Listening to my teammates who have done amazing things for Israel inspired me to become more involved in the country,” Martin says. “I learned the Jewish community is tight-knit and open and loving.”
By the end of the competition, Martin had scored yet another hat trick against Mexico and Israel had placed sixth in the world. It’s an accomplishment that she can add to her most recent Colorado State Lacrosse Championship, CA’s seventh consecutive triumph at state, and being named the 5A Colorado Player of the Year as a Sophomore.
But perhaps the most important outcome of the summer was Martin’s newfound interest in deepening her connections to Israel and the Jewish community. Her family’s plans for a bat mitzvah were postponed during COVID restrictions. Now, she says, her family is considering a b’nai mitzvah for her and her younger brother at the Kotel in Jerusalem. It would be her first visit to a country she has represented with distinction, a country where she now sees herself in the future.
“It’s important to remember that there are so many ways you can help people in this world,” she says. “They are trying to grow the sport of lacrosse in Israel, and I could see myself teaching other young women to play a sport I love.”