International Men

July 16, 2014

Hill Stands Tall for Iroquois Amid Team USA Flurry

by Theresa Smith | Special to | Twitter | World Lacrosse 2014

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- As Warren Hill stood between the pipes, poised for an incredible challenge -- his Iroquois Nation vs. the United States -- he spied his idol, Jesse Schwartzman, at the opposite end of the field. Never too cool to be impressed, Hill was thrilled.

"To tell you the truth it was really cool," he admitted. "Growing up, when I first started watching lacrosse in about eighth grade or ninth grade, he was at [Johns] Hopkins. I would be glued to the TV screen every Saturday morning, watching him play. Playing against him all these years later was a pretty cool experience.''

In a microcosm of the game, in which the Americans trounced the Iroquois 18-5, Schwartzman solidified his reputation as the world's best goalie with four dynamic saves.

"Schwartzman was unbelievable,'' said Iroquois coach Steve Beville. "He made two saves on kick saves. He got one with his arm, and he got another with his head. Schwartzman was outstanding. He shut the door on us and helped build momentum for them.''

Hill, 22, showed flashes of Schwartzmanesque talent while making eight first-half saves. Under constant pressure as the U.S. dominated possession via face-off (17-7) and ground ball (34-21) victories, Hill also allowed 10 first-half goals and was replaced at halftime by 33-year-old veteran Marty Ward.

"They were on top of Warren the whole way; that's why at half time we decided to put Marty in goal,'' Beville explained, "Marty is a lot more experienced. He has been on a couple of these men's world teams and Warren was getting shelled pretty good in terms of the number of shots they were taking and how close they were. And, of course, every one of their guys is a lights out offensive shooter. It wasn't that Warren was playing that poorly, we just felt like we would give him a little bit of a rest after playing five games in five days.''

Syracuse-bound Warren Hill was shelled with 18 first-quarter shots, and held up strong considering the flurry from Team USA. (Scott McCall)

Indeed, the Syracuse-bound Hill, fresh from community college titles at Onondaga, stopped a Rob Pannell shot from his knees, turned away a low attempt by Kevin Leveille, and caught Max Siebald's high whipped shot, but had no answer for numerous cat-quick shots by Pannell nor the laser perimeter shots by Paul Rabil.

Repeatedly, U.S. playmakers zipped around Iroquois defenders, leaving Hill defenseless despite his quick reflexes.

"I just don't think we came out as strong as we would have liked to,'' said defenseman Taylor Smoke. "I know we can play really good team defense. We have a really good defense and we can play with those guys. We have to start out really strong right from the get-go. We had a slow start both offensively and defensively and that's what got us in the hole.''

Lightning delayed the start of the game and warm-up time was abbreviated. The Iroquois team began its on-field warm-up approximately five minutes after the also-rushed Americans, who nevertheless reeled off 18 first-quarter shots -- 50 overall.

"I felt a little bit rushed,'' said Smoke. "That's not an excuse, but you'd like to have more time to collect yourself before a game. But like I said, it is not an excuse. We just have to come out and play better. We are all capable of being a gold medal team and we have to play like that here on out.''

As evidenced by Smoke's belief, the Iroquois expectations have no ceiling, even though they draw from a population dwarfed by the United States.

"All of us started playing lacrosse since we could walk and our fathers introduced the game to us at such a young age,'' Smoke said. "Our stick skills are so good because we are always playing; we always have a stick in our hand. That's the reason we have such a good pool to pick from. It might be the smallest out of this whole tournament, but the quality is way up there.''

Amid the lopsided blowout, the offensive quality showed via quick passing into the slot for high-percentage shots that produced five second-half goals and gave vocal Iroquois fans something to cheer about.

"It might not have been a whole lot of scoring, but it showed different things that worked,'' Hill said. "We'll watch film and see what we can do differently as we prepare for the playoffs.''
At 3-2 in the tournament, including a weather-delayed victory over Australia late Monday, the Iroquois welcome the medal round.

"Hopefully, we'll get another shot at them [Team USA] and we'll try to show a little bit more than we did this time,'' Beville said.

Hill will be preparing for another opportunity to stop shots opposite Schwartzman.

"I will be watching film, and expecting the unexpected,'' he said. "These guys do change things up and they are so talented, so I will be trying to do my best.''

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