International Men

July 17, 2014

DU Coach Tierney Flashes Skills at World Lacrosse Festival

by Theresa Smith | | Twitter | World Lacrosse 2014

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Coordinated runners were highly valued in the dawn of their lacrosse lives, when they began competing as 7-year-olds. Just over 50 years later, running ability remains a precious commodity in the master's division of the World Lacrosse Festival, held in conjunction with the 2014 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championship.

"It has come full circle,'' observed George Leveille, a member of the Cloudsplitters, a New York-based team that captured the 55-and-over division at the 2010 WLF in Manchester, England. "In the beginning we relied on the little kids who could run, and now we hope we have a few old guys who can run.''

Leveille, who buried a shot from the slot Wednesday off a feed from David White for the sixth goal in a 10-2 victory over Faded Glory, is also the father of Team USA captain Kevin Leveille, and 2010 World Champion Mike Leveille, who wore No. 91, Dad's number.

The Cloudsplitters are wrapping up a 20-year reign. Many are playing together for the last time in honor of former teammate Doug Maynard.

"He was our fittest guy,'' said Leveille, 61. "He died of a heart attack while jogging. We are playing for him, and we want to win this for him.''

Downplaying the example of lifelong fitness that he is setting for his sons, Leveille said:

"This is about being with these guys. We are all best friends for a few weeks a year when we meet to play lacrosse. We play with the right attitude, we respect our opponent.''

Respect for the game is also apparent as master's players demonstrated on numerous fields Wednesday. The emphasis is on team play, hustle, and strategy. The Cloudsplitters gained a boost in all phases from No. 2, a late roster addition from the University of Denver: Hall of Fame coach Bill Tierney.

With several on-target shots that were stuffed and a few nifty passes, it was not apparent that the 63-year-old had not played in a competitive game in 20 years. His sleek frame showed evident fitness and his red DU helmet hid is tell-tale silver locks.

"The game comes back to you,'' he said, noting the eye contact he made with his team's goalie. It led to a 60-yard outlet pass that Tierney deftly caught, carried, and connected to a teammate whose shot was stymied by a Faded Glory keeper who had no qualms about hitting the grass to make a save.

Denver coach Bill Tierney was a late addition to the New York-based Cloudsplitters of the 60-and-over division at the World Lacrosse Festivals, held in conjunction with the FIL World Championship. (Scott McCall)

With DU playing host to 35 of the 38 FIL teams in its dormitories and practice fields, Tierney has long held a front row view of the global growth of the game. After all, he was Team USA coach in 1998 when there were 11 international teams.

"It is a privilege to see this great sport grow,'' he said. "Our campus is like a United Nations.''

Although Tierney noted that his stick skills are sharp – "I always have a stick in my hand at practice with the guys'' – he recruited his daughter, Brianne, to play catch with him in preparation for the four-day master's event, which ends Saturday. In another role reversal, 19-year-old Colby Cohen was free with advice for his dad, Chuck, and other members of the Cloudsplitters.

"Watching old guys play is the best thing ever,'' exclaimed Colby, as players from both sides gasped for air as they reached the sidelines for line changes.

The Palisades, N.Y., father and son are indicative of involvement on numerous levels in the World Lacrosse Festival, which includes more than 200 club teams from under-11 to 60-and-over. They are both referees in the youth division and Chuck, 61, also referees master's games when he's not taking face offs and setting up the offense.

At one point late in their victory, teammate John Stalford insisted that Cohen sub in. After all, the ageless Stalford was playing in his third game of the day. Since master's players can play down in age, the 63-year-old played two morning games in the 55-year-old division.

"I have been playing since I was in second grade and this is my passion,'' said Stalford. "I like to play, I like to coach. I stay in shape for lacrosse by running.''

The lawyer from Baltimore is immersed in a common factor on the job and on the field: competition. Yet that is only part of the reason he has played with the Cloudsplitters for 15 years.

"It is all about the people,'' he said. "We want to win and have fun, but we're not too serious about it.''

On the next field over, another player with a high-stress day job took the field. Providing a Hollywood flair for the orange-jerseyed Elder Statesmen was Anthony Katagas. The former walk-on goalie at Division III Western New England is better known for producing 36 films, including 2014 Academy Award Best Picture Winner "12 Years a Slave."

Katagas, who bought a wood stick for his son at the World Festival, is part of the ultimate lacrosse experience: competing on the outer fields, then witnessing the best lacrosse on the planet at the stadium and the grandstand fields.

Cade Bruckman, a 12-year-old from Aurora, also enjoyed the best of both worlds as a competitor for the Spartans in the youth division and an avid fan of the FIL event.

"It was pretty cool experience playing against kids from other states and Canada,'' said Cade, who has watched several global teams, including Iroquois Nation, Japan, Australia, Turkey and the Czech Republic. "Some of the teams were really competitive.''

It was a unique experience, he said. Team flags, bright jerseys, national anthems and the patriotism of traveling fans was all in a day's experience at the world championship.

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