U.S. U19 Team Rebounds with Dominant Win over Hill Academy

PHOTO BY JOE MAIORANA

Jake Naso was strong at the faceoff x and chipped in a goal for the U.S. in a 14-6 win over the Hill Academy.


* Familiar Faceoff Men
* The Pride of Eden Prairie

The U.S. U19 team huddled together in the Marriott University Area hotel ballroom on Saturday night. It wasn’t a film session.

Coach Nick Myers and his staff wanted to regroup with a 32-man roster that had less than six hours prior played their first game as one unit. The result was a 9-7 loss to Culver (Ind.) at Ohio Stadium, but it provided the type of adversity Myers craved for his U19 training team.

Using what they’d seen on Saturday against Culver, the coaching staff went about simplifying the offensive and defensive schemes. They also emphasized the three goals of the weekend: get better, ignite your love for your teammates, develop the identity of this team.

“We just gave them some keys after we watched the film as a staff,” Myers said. “The guys were very reflective in that hotel. I said ‘Wearing that USA jersey, you’re always going to have a bullseye.’ From our simplicity standpoint, we knew if they just processed a couple things, we could take a big step.”

Sunday morning, the U.S. U19 team that emerged from the tunnel at the Shoe was comprised of the same names, but it delivered a completely different performance.

Taking on Canadian powerhouse Hill Academy (Ontario), the U.S. kicked off the game with energy and rode the momentum to a 14-6 victory. Sounds of teammates cheering on goals and calling out plays reverberated off the seats inside Ohio Stadium throughout the game.

The U.S. ride was strong, routinely forcing turnovers that turned into high percentage opportunities. Brennan O’Neill and Brendan Grimes each had two goals to lead an offensive effort that included 12 different goal scorers.

Myers knew that his team had plenty of work to do in its first meeting since the summer. In a matter of 24 hours, with a few quick fixes from the coaching staff, the U.S. U19 team improved in all facets of the game.

“Having that adversity Saturday forced us to look into each other,” Myers said. “Coming out of that, I loved the way they processed that adversity. The way they responded today was exactly what you expect out of Team USA.”

The U.S. came out aggressively and it paid off. It jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and used its ride to generate turnovers throughout the first half.

What resulted was a five-goal run that helped the U.S. a 7-3 lead going into halftime. Pat Kavanagh started the rally with a slick rollback in front of the crease, Jack Monfort followed with a blast to the right side, Graham Bundy Jr. shook by his defender for a goal, O’Neill scored his first and Cole Herbert capped the run after the defense held strong.

O’Neill and Grimes added goals in the third quarter, and faceoff man Jake Naso went coast-to-coast to beat the buzzer and give the U.S. a 10-4 lead entering the final quarter.

“I checked the clock and there were 10 seconds left before the faceoff,” Naso said. “I was running down the field and their FOGO ended up running off, so I had no one on me. I peeked at the clock and there were four seconds left and I was at the 40-yard line. I was looking at Brennan [O’Neill] and just staring at him. The guy covering him wasn’t sliding so I just pulled it.”







Not to be outdone, fellow faceoff man Conor Calderone got a coast-to-coast goal in the fourth quarter. More on that below.

The U.S. delivered a recipe for success on Sunday morning, less than two days after players descended upon the Columbus area for training camp as part of the tryout process. Myers threw plenty of information at his 32-man training team during the weekend, but it emerged as a closer unit.

“[Sunday,] they came out with energy and enthusiasm, not just for themselves but for each other,” Myers said. “You started to see some team chemistry really start to develop, both of defense and offense, that you just didn’t see Saturday. It was great to see.”

Players will now return to schools — some college and some high school — but reconvene in San Antonio for Spring Premiere and another chance to serve the mission Myers has preached since Day 1.

Familiar Faceoff Men

Just over 10 minutes separated the childhood homes of this weekend’s U.S. U19 faceoff men. Conor Calderone (Smithtown West) and Jake Naso (St. Anthony’s) are two of a number of Long Island natives on the U.S. training team.

But it's not just island pride that connects both Calderone and Naso. The two rising faceoff stars regularly lined up against each other as they developed through high school lacrosse.

“The guys on Long Island, we all know each other and get together to keep each other sharp,” said Calderone, a freshman at Maryland. "It definitely helps both of us, having such a good group of guys to train with. Me and Jake will meet up on a weekend and we’ll rep against each other.”

Although Naso made the choice to join a St. Anthony’s powerhouse and Calderone attended public school at Smithtown West, the two still found time to meet for training. Neither could have imagined they’d be lining up together for the U.S. U19 team.

The Long Islanders dominated at the faceoff x throughout the weekend, giving the U.S. ample possessions with which to work. On Sunday, both took advantage of holes in the Hill Academy defense and scored in the victory.

“I thought it was great, especially being with Conor who I’ve known for so many years, growing and training together,” Naso said. “It’s a great opportunity and I’m glad we’re both at this stage now.”

The Pride of Eden Prairie

As the U.S. U19 team trotted onto the field on Sunday morning, the temperature hovered around 32 degrees.

Cold for many. Par for the course for Minnesota native Quentin Matsui.

“I’m pretty used to it,” he joked. “Right now in Minnesota, it’s 20 on a good day."

Everything about Quentin Matsui’s lacrosse background is nontraditional. He didn’t start playing the game until the summer of eighth grade — just over five years ago.

And more importantly, he first picked up a stick in Eden Prairie, an area not known for being a lacrosse hotbed.

Matsui honed his skills in Eden Prairie, moved to Team Minnesota soon after and then took his talents to Project Midwest in Missouri. Over the summer, he developed as a legitimate college recruit as a defenseman.

Matsui caught the attention of Lars Tiffany and the Virginia Cavaliers. He joined the defending national champions in Charlottesville this fall. Over the last few months, Matsui has grown stronger and learned more about his game with help from coach Bo Lori.

That experience showed this weekend, where Matsui helped lead a U.S. U19 defense that held the Hill Academy to six goals. One of few players to make waves out of Minnesota, Matsui is prideful of his state.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “I definitely don’t take it for granted. I love to represent Minnesota.”

He’s still getting used to the Mid-Atlantic weather, though.

“The first couple months in Virginia, it was way too hot,” he said. “It was 90 degrees in October. It was crazy.”

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