July 22, 2010

McClay Becomes Father, Flag Bearer for U.S.

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | Team USA 20, Japan 5

Team USA defenseman Ryan McClay, leading the U.S. team onto the field Thursday, mans a unit that has allowed just 5.67 goals per game in these FIL World Championships.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

MANCHESTER, England -- Ryan McClay was at dinner with Kevin Leveille and DJ Driscoll at about 10:30 p.m. Wednesday when his mother called. Minutes later, his wife Laura called.

“It’s happening,” she said.

McClay left the group and returned to Team USA’s dormitory at the University of Manchester, where he’s a starting defenseman for the U.S. national team in the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championships. At the same time, a neighbor drove Laura to the nearest hospital as she prepared to deliver the couple’s first child with her husband on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

“I had a moment when she was going to the hospital, feeling pretty bad about myself that I wasn’t there with her,” McClay said Friday.

They had hoped she’d go to term. Instead, Lilly Elizabeth McClay was born 10 days early – a healthy, six-pound, eight-ounce girl.

Back in his room, Ryan talked to Laura “for about two seconds” while she was in labor and “20 minutes later a baby girl popped out.”

Shortly thereafter, the McClays saw for the first time their family of three via Skype.

“She’s beautiful,” Ryan said. “Dark hair like me. I’m really excited. I’m looking forward to getting home.”

But first, there’s the business of winning a gold medal. Team USA got one step closer Friday with a 20-5 victory over Japan in the semifinals. It will meet – who else – Canada in a gold medal rematch Saturday at 4 p.m. local (11 a.m. Eastern) on ESPNU.

McClay was not a member of the 2006 U.S. team that yielded the gold to Canada and lost for the first time in 28 years. He was, however, an integral member of the 2002 team that won it all in Perth, Australia. He knew he’d try out for Team USA again even after he was cut in 2006, namely for the feeling he got Friday.

Kyle Sweeney was supposed to lead the U.S. onto the field carrying the American flag before the Japan game. But in light of McClay’s sacrifice -- missing the birth of his firstborn -- teammates followed him instead.

“Every day for me has been a great opportunity. There’s only so many times you get to represent your country in some facet,” McClay said. “Carrying that flag today made it a little bit easier.”

McClay spearheads a starting defense of comeback kids – including Driscoll, who was also cut in 2006, and Shawn Nadelen, who’s less than six months removed from knee surgery. Team USA has allowed just 5.67 goals per game under their watch.

McClay said he will likely retire at the end of this Major League Lacrosse season with the Boston Cannons.

“I made a commitment to those guys this season and we’re having a good year, so I’ll definitely play it out,” he said. “But beyond that, it’s looking like this will be it.”

Team USA News & Notes

Baby drama is not entirely new to the U.S. team. In 2006, captain Casey Powell’s wife gave birth to their daughter, Bella, during the world games in London, Ontario -- just days after Team USA midfielder Doug Shanahan’s wife gave birth to their daughter, Riley Lynn… Long stick midfielder Eric Martin was back in the U.S. lineup Friday after sitting out three games with turf toe… Assistant coaches Tony Resch and Ricky Sowell strapped on pads as players to win the Grand Masters (45 and over) title in the tournament’s ancillary festival. Sowell had four goals and two assists in the win for the FROGs… Attackman Brendan Mundorf is Team USA’s leading scorer with 15 goals and nine assists in these world championships. Midfielders Paul Rabil (13g, 7a) and Mike Leveille (11g, 8a) are the next highest scorers.

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