Bundy, Stathakis Fuel Strong Offensive Showing for U.S. U21s Against England


Faceoff specialist Alec Stathakis went 19-for-23 in the U.S team's 17-3 win over England in a World Lacrosse Men's U21 Championship preliminary Thursday.

LIMERICK, Ireland — Pat Myers kneeled in front of the offense and asked a simple question.

“What does on-field character look like?” the U.S. U21 team’s offensive coordinator asked the players. “It’s taking what we talk about in film and doing it on the field.”

Just over 24 hours after topping Canada in a tight opening match in which both the offense and defense had their share of triumphs and struggles, the U.S. took to the field in Limerick, Ireland, to battle and England with a raucous fan section.

The mission? Play a complete game, pressure England all game long and emerge with a second victory in as many days.

After an opening 15 minutes that saw turnovers from both teams and more than a few ground ball battles, the U.S. found what it was looking for — a complete effort from offense, defense and special teams.

The end product was a 17-3 victory over England in which the U.S. poured in 36 shots and eight different scorers found the back of the cage. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but a step in the right direction.

“I challenged you at the half and you guys responded,” Myers told his team after the game. “That was a complete effort.”

When the U.S. offense needed a boost, it turned to two players that brought entirely different skill sets to Limerick.

On offense, a variety of players contributed to sequences that included skip passes, behind-the-back feeds and more than a few highlight-reel goals. Much of that action ended in the stick of Graham Bundy Jr., the U.S. captain and lethal middie.

Bundy went 6-for-7 shooting, dodging to open up lanes and allowing his teammates to set him up for high-percentage opportunities. In the process, he tied Dan Denihan, who scored six goals against Australia in 1996, for the junior level single-game goals record.

“I’m not a big one for records,” Bundy said. “When you are playing with guys like I’m playing with, there’s a lot of open space. I was in those spots and my teammates found me, so all credit goes to them.”

The goal fans will remember came in the second quarter, when Bundy and Brennan O’Neill operated in a two-man set. O’Neill drew a slide and flipped the ball to Bundy, who launched a behind-the-back goal past England goalie Jack Allen.

“I was following our game plan, cutting to the crease as I needed to. Brennan smoked his guy and found me inside,” Bundy said. “If Brennan’s throwing me the ball, I have to BTB it.”

The U.S. had ample opportunities to flex its offensive power thanks to the efforts of Alec Stathakis, the Denver faceoff man who went 19-for-22 to lead the faceoff unit. His big performance earned him the game ball in the team huddle following the game.

“Hell yeah, 3-7!” screamed his teammates before Stathakis broke the huddle with “USA on three!”

U.S. faceoff men Stathakis and Jake Naso have combined to win 31 of 38 faceoffs in two victories to open the tournament.

“Naso has been so good with helping me prepare,” Stathakis said. “Every time I come off the field, he’s telling me what the other guys are doing. Coach [Ian] Moore and Myers are giving me the opposing scheme.”

When the ball was on the opposite end of the field, the U.S. defense pressured out on England attackers and caused a number of caused turnovers that led to goal-scoring chances. Jackson Bonitz and Danny Parker were on the end of multiple turnovers that spurred transition offense — another point of emphasis for  Myers and defensive coordinator Andrew Stimmel.

“We just pressured out and played the man on ball, so it gave the guy edging out adjacent the chance to make a play here and there,” Parker said. “They never felt comfortable. We felt good today and took a step forward.”

The U.S. has the day off Friday and will resume pool play Saturday against the Haudenosaunee.


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