October 28, 2012

International Community Meets at Hawaii Invitational

This year's tournament is largest ever; plus Friday and Saturday notes

by Megan Mulcahy | LaxMagazine.com | Photos: Friday | Saturday

This year's Hawaii Invitational, organized by US Lacrosse's Hawaii Chapter, is the largest field in the 22 years of the tournament. Thirty-eight teams competing in four divisions: Men’s Elite, Masters and Grand Masters and Women’s Elite.
© Jim Cowsert

HONOLULU, Hawaii – Now in its 22nd year, it’s no secret the Hawaii Invitational Tournament is one of the most popular lacrosse destinations each year. Teams play against the backdrop of Diamond Head by day and enjoy the Waikiki nightlife by night, all culminating in the annual Halloween party, where the competition for best costume is fierce.

This year marks the biggest tournament to date, with 38 teams competing in four divisions: Men’s Elite, Masters and Grand Masters and Women’s Elite. The growth is thanks in large part to the growing international presence across all divisions.

For the first time this year, the Squamish Nation Shapeshifters from North Vancouver, British Columbia are playing in the masters division, filling out their roster with players from Six Nations and Canada. Prior to the first round of games on Friday, Dennis Joseph, Squamish Nation Councillor and the team’s goalie, led a traditional welcome ceremony.

“It’s been a dream of mine since 1984 to come here,” Joseph said. “It was the generation below me that made it happen. My nephew decided two months ago to put a team together. We are proud to share our cultural tradition of drumming, singing and passion of lacrosse with all participating in the tournament.”

Team Aloha is a perfect example of the tournament accommodating the shared passion from around the world. Created by Hawaii Lacrosse as an opportunity for individual players to join the tournament, Team Aloha includes members from the mainland and Hawaii as well as Switzerland and Team Germany players. Hawaii Lacrosse hopes bringing in players from Europe will lead to complete teams making the trip in the future.

“It’s always our goal to bring new teams and expand our international presence,” said tournament director Ryan KeoghUS Lacrosse Hawaii Chapter Past President. “We had the women’s national team from Prague here a few years ago, and we would love to have more. It’s a long trip, but I think any team that’s played here would agree it’s worth it. Creating Team Aloha was a good first step to introduce more European players to our event and start the process of inviting full teams to participate in future tournaments.”

On the women’s side, the Iroquois Nation’s Thunder Tribe dominated their first Hawaii appearance, beating USC Gold handily, 12-1.

The growth of the women’s tournament to 13 teams was also boosted with a huge California contingent, with club teams from San Diego, Los Angeles, UCSB and two from USC.

With Hawaii’s proximity to the East, Japanese teams have long been a staple at the tournament, with their level of play increasing each year. The Japanese are consistently the most enthusiastic participants, and make sure to always take a team photo with their opponent. Though the scores may be lopsided in games against the more elite teams, the Japanese players welcome the opportunity to compete with the best in the world, and enjoy every minute of it.

Dirty Lacrosse is made up of mostly elite Canadian players, including MLL and NLL standouts Stephen Keogh, Cody Jamieson, Jeremy Thompson, Mark Matthews and Kevin Crowley.
© Jim Cowsert

The diversity of teams makes for a fun first day of games as the teams meet and assess the competition. Here are tournament more notes from Friday and Saturday.

  • Hawaii Masters scored the first goal of the tournament in their match-up with the Squamish Nation Shapeshifters. It was a hard fought battle to the end, as Hawaii’s John Keogh scored with 8 seconds left to tie it, 8-8, and avoid a first-game loss.
  • Defending champion Wimmer Solutions boasts its usual roster full of professional players, including Gary Gait, Paul Rabil, Max Seibald, Kyle Hartzell, and Brett Queener. In Wimmer’s first game, Japanese team Tokai scored on their first possession, but were held without a goal the rest of the first half as Wimmer cruised to a 17-4 win.
  • Wimmer displayed the usual trick shots Saturday against Team Aloha. Steele Stanwick assisted Rob Pannell’s behind-the-back shot before burying one of his own. They used power as well, as Rabil picked up a loose ball on defense and took it to the cage, split dodging his last defender to score in the 15-1 win.
  • Wimmer’s biggest competition for the second year in a row, Dirty Lacrosse is made up of mostly elite Canadian players, including MLL and NLL standouts Stephen Keogh, Cody Jamieson, Jeremy Thompson, Mark Matthews and Kevin Crowley. Dirty Lax shut out their first Japanese opponent, 16-0.
  • Barbary Coast, a talented team out of San Francisco with MLL Rookie of the Year Matt Gibson on the roster, jumped out to an early lead over Dirty Lacrosse, trying to make a statement as a team not to be taken lightly. But Dirty Lax’s Mark Matthews led his team to a convincing, come-from-behind 11-4 victory in their last game of the day.
  • Wimmer also brings a Masters team, and goalie Adam Messick’s jean shorts are as much a staple at the Hawaii tournament as lacrosse players cruising the streets of Waikiki on rented scooters. Overheard on the sideline every time he makes a good save: “It’s the jorts.” They don’t seem to hinder his play, as evidenced when he ran down field after a save and assisted Wimmer Solutions CEO Matt Sauri on the way to a 10-2 win over the Shapeshifters.
  • The four-team Grand Masters division displayed the best parity, with three games ending in draws. Easton and Canada West look to be slightly edging Hawaii’s Elemakule and Tri City of Canada.
  • A pair of USC women’s teams played back to back to start the day, with the Cardinal team defeating Chushioku, 14-6, before the Gold team fell to Thunder Tribe, 12-1.
  • After dropping their first game to Hokkaido, Hawaii Wahine captain Sarah Medwell scored the game winner in double overtime against Chushikoku to go 1-1 on the day.
  • The women’s semi-final match-ups for Sunday are San Diego vs USC Cardinal and Northwest Rippers and Los Angeles.

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