U.S. Offense Finds Groove in Win over Inspired Iroquois

PHOTO BY ADAM SCOTT

U.S. midfielder Matt Danowski dodges against Iroquois midfielder Jerome Thompson in the first half of Team USA's 17-9 victory in the FIL World Championship opener Thursday at Netanya Stadium.


NETANYA, Israel — In the land where David defeated Goliath, the Iroquois Nationals almost added to their own giant-killing lore Thursday.

But Goliath didn’t have Rob Pannell and Ryan Brown on his side.

Trailing 7-5 at halftime, the United States opened the third quarter with five unanswered goals en route to a 17-9 victory over the Iroquois in both teams’ Federation of International Lacrosse Men’s World Championship opener at Netanya Stadium.

“We scored on the first four possessions of the third quarter, and I think everybody took a deep breath,” U.S. coach John Danowski said. “We were pressing a little bit in the first half. We didn’t seem to press as much [after that].”

Pannell and Brown each scored twice during the five-goal spurt, with Pannell assisting both of Brown’s goals. Pannell, the U.S. team’s top scorer and FIL’s Most Outstanding Attackman in 2014, picked up where he left off with three goals and four assists for a team-high seven points. Brown added a team-high four goals on just six shots, including two extra-man tallies.

Add in Jordan Wolf’s two goals (including an explosive dive shot from behind) and two assists, and you get the sense that offensive coordinator Seth Tierney has found something with the trio the U.S. trotted out on attack Thursday.

“Ryan’s the best shooter in the world, so when he’s out there, you’ve got to know where he is,” Pannell said. “He does what he does, and most impressively, he’s doing it with his left hand and right hand both. The more we play together, the more chemistry we’re going to build. Add Jordan into the mix, and the three of us, I hope we trend upward throughout this tournament.”







Thirteen of Team USA’s 17 goals were assisted, which Danowski called “a great sign.” The U.S. put up 50 shots, compared to 28 for the Iroquois (nine in the second half), and benefitted from a dogged pursuit of ground balls (33-16 advantage).

But it took a while for the U.S. to get untracked. The Iroquois came out strong despite being delayed two days due to complications with their Haudenosaunee passports. The team arrived at its hotel in Netanya just six hours before opening faceoff, appearing none the worse for the wear as Austin Staats, Lyle Thompson and Tehoka Nanticoke staked it to a 3-0 lead.

The U.S. twice climbed back to tie the game, but Thompson and Randy Staats gave the Iroquois the two-goal lead after the first 40 minutes. Contrary to the U.S., the Iroquois leaned heavily on the isolation wizardry of Thompson (team-high three goals) and the blunt force of Tehoka Nanticoke (two goals, one assist).

“A lot of talent out there,” Iroquois coach Mark Burnham said. “To do what we did and put those numbers against USA, best in the world, coming in with no rest, the emotional aspect of it — I definitely have confidence in this team. We’re going to be back.”

Coming out of halftime, the U.S. scored four goals in a span of 5 minutes, 43 seconds. Faceoff specialist Trevor Baptiste added fuel to the fire with five consecutive faceoff wins as part of a masterful 17-for-19 performance.

Danowski liked the balance he saw in the U.S. offense. Marcus Holman had two goals and two assists while running as the fourth attackman and on the man-up unit. Both midfield lines — with Tom Schreiber, Matt Danowski and Paul Rabil in one group; John Haus, Drew Snider and Ned Crotty in the other — were productive.

“It was a function of everybody being in the right spot,” Danowski said. “In the All-Star Game (a 15-14 U.S. loss June 28), it was hard, because of the shot clock. But now we’re a little bit more settled, and I think guys are starting to understand the spacing.”

The U.S. has off Friday and will resume pool play Saturday against Australia (ESPNU, 7:30 a.m. Eastern) at the Wingate Institute.

Israel Starts Strong

A record 46 teams are competing in the FIL Men’s World Championship. It’s the first time the event has been held in the Middle East or in a country whose official language is not English.

Opening ceremonies started with a spirited performance by a local percussion group, vocalist and color guard. After the parade of nations, the ceremonies continued with remarks by Dr. Michael Oren, Israel’s deputy minister for diplomacy; Miriam Fierberg-Ikar mayor of Netanya; and Sue Redfern, president of the FIL.

Oren, who said he grew up playing lacrosse, called it “a sport of great skill, of speed, of grace, of beauty” that “took off” in Israel since former National Lacrosse League executive Scott Neiss brought it here in 2010.

The tournament officially started Wednesday, when Hong Kong defeated first-time participant Luxembourg 20-1. Pool play began in earnest Thursday.

Before the Iroquois-USA showdown in the top-flight Blue Division, host Israel opened with a dominant 11-3 victory over Jamaica, which is making its world championship debut.

The Jamaicans looked strong out of the gate, leading 2-1 after former Syracuse standout Hakeem Lecky split a double team and scored early in the second quarter.

But it was all Israel from there. Josh Offit (Duke) tied it at 2 and then Israel scored three goals in the final 6:07 of the first half to take a 5-2 lead.

Offit and Max Seibald (Cornell), the former Tewaaraton Award winner and two-time U.S. team midfielder, led Israel with two goals apiece.

FIL World Championship Pool Play
Thursday, July 12

Blue
United States 17, Iroquois 9

Red
Israel 11, Jamaica 3

White
Norway 14, Netherlands 6

Green
Germany 19, Korea 5

Orange
Sweden 13, Argentina 5

Plum
New Zealand 9, Spain 5

Turquois
Finland 11, Austria 7

Grey
Czech Republic 15, Belgium 8

Gold
Switzerland 10, Slovakia 6

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