'What Happens at the End?' U.S. Men's Training Team Battles in Final Showcase


Rob Pannell and Michael Ehrhardt are two of the veterans from 2018 fighting for a spot on the 2023 world championship roster.

Standing with his offense on the freshly groomed Bermuda grass field at Windermere Academy on Saturday afternoon, U.S. national team assistant Seth Tierney offered the final message before his men took the field for a Blue-White scrimmage in Orlando, Fla.

Hours before the final chance for the training team to stand out for his U.S. national team coaching staff, Tierney made the mission clear.

“I don’t care about being tired,” he said. “I don’t care about being sore. I don’t care about what’s going on on the sidelines. Tonight, you have to play like you’re on the bubble.”

Seconds later, the sounds of fellow U.S. assistant Joe Amplo rang out from the far side of the field. Amplo, who handles the U.S. defense, was delivering a similar speech to the men fighting for a chance to represent their country in San Diego next summer.

“Guys this is it. You have 60 minutes,” Amplo said emphatically. “Do your job. Are we clear?”

After the two speeches, head coach John Danowski pulled his 50-man training team together to set the stage for Saturday’s Blue-White scrimmage — one that could mean making the roster or just missing out.

Danowski harkened back to the car ride to practice with Amplo and Tierney — one in which he called former Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. Saturday, Danowski wanted to learn from his former colleague (and former U.S. men’s basketball coach) about how appropriately address a group of men waiting on some of the biggest news of their lives.

“What happens at the end?” Danowski asked Krzyzewski, simply.

The U.S. men’s tryout process came to a close Saturday, and the energy met the occasion. As part of the IMLCA Players Summit in central Florida, the U.S. men’s training team met for one final time before the roster announcement.

After a scrimmage on Friday night and two walkthroughs, the 50 men wearing red, white and blue this weekend looked toward the Blue-White scrimmage at Northeast Regional Park — where they could potentially play their way onto the final roster.

Team White won both scrimmages, held in front of hundreds of college coaches, youth players and lacrosse enthusiasts in the Sunshine State. The score certainly mattered, but the individual performances carried as much significance, amounting to a pair of scrimmages that had the intensity of a world championship match.

Logan Wisnauskas scored what amounted to the game-winning goal for Team White on Saturday, which held off Team Blue in the fourth quarter for a 10-8 victory. As soon as the scoreboard read 0:00 and Team White had finished celebrating, Danowski pulled his men in for a final debrief.

“I submit my resignation as head coach,” Danowski joked. “Because this is going to be a difficult decision. You brought it tonight and I thank you for everything.”

Danowski and his coaching staff will meet to finalize a world championship roster that will look significantly different than the one that made the trip to Israel in 2018. Only six players remain on the training team from the group that took the gold medal back home.

The veterans of this training team have made efforts to help a wave of new American talent emerging from the college and professional lacrosse scene. Players like Rob Pannell, Marcus Holman and Mike Ehrhardt were vocal throughout the weekend, hoping to motivate a young and hungry generation below them.

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the cancelation of several U.S. training events, veterans will be looked upon to prepare the newcomers for the rigors of international lacrosse in an even shorter timeframe.

“There are a lot of new faces from the last go-around,” said 2018 MVP Michael Ehrhardt. “To be able to give the younger guys little knowledge about how the international game is played is important. We have a little less time than we did last time to get geared up for this tournament.”

“I’ve been fortunate enough to do this for 10 years. My first event was in 2012 and this could be my last,” said 2018 gold medalist Rob Pannell. “For me, it’s been great to be part of it for so long, and now be one of the veterans and show these guys what it takes to win the gold medal and be part of the U.S. national team.”

With such turnover from the 2018 team, the U.S. coaching staff had a virtually clean slate from which to build — leaving plenty of spots up for grabs and giving everyone on the training team reason to believe they could make the roster.

The intensity of the two Blue-White scrimmages in the Orlando suburbs was unlike any this version of the U.S. national team has experienced. The noise from the sidelines, the cracking checks, and the tension of each clear left little to the imagination. Danowski and his staff got their wish on Saturday night — players competed as if their standing on the 23-man roster depended on it.

“When you have the atmosphere that we did here, with guys knowing that the 23-man roster is going to be announced, we want to do everything we can to make it,” Pannell said. ‘It was intense, but with that intensity, guys were still making selfless plays. Every time I come to these events, I leave a better player.”

Unlike the process in 2018, this U.S. men’s national team roster will compete as defending world champions. However, the core of this team could feature players that have little experience playing against teams like Canada and the Haudenosaunee Nationals.

The stars of college lacrosse have now graduated into the U.S. player pool, and many will push for spots on the 23-man roster.

“This has been an awesome experience,” said Cannons LC SSDM Zach Goodrich on his first cycle. “You play against these guys all summer and then you get the opportunity to be on the same side with them, and to be with this coaching staff, it’s been incredible. This is the last one. Everyone is flying around trying to earn those last few spots, so it becomes great lacrosse players getting after each other.”

For Goodrich, the honor of suiting up in the red, white and blue takes on a different meaning. His brother, Ben, is a former Navy men’s lacrosse player currently serving in the military.

“It would be a once-in-a-lifetime honor,” Goodrich said of representing his country and paying homage to his brother.

Shortly after the U.S. national team training camp concludes, Danowski and his staff will make the final decision for who will head to San Diego in late June, and who will have to wait until 2027 for another chance. Some will witness the highlight of their lacrosse career and others a valley.

As the end of the U.S. national team trout process nears, the task becomes even more difficult for the coaching staff, and the differences between players more minute — a testament to the development of American talent over the past four years.

“It’s been amazing to see the way USA Lacrosse has advanced over the years, really making this a team atmosphere,” Pannell said. “They’re building a system where whoever doesn’t make this team will make it in four years, and they’ll know the system.”


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