July 24, 2010

Crotty Surfaces, Then Rises to the Occasion

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | Team USA 12, Canada 10

Team USA midfielder Ned Crotty beats Canada' Kevin Crowley on a dodge during Saturday's 12-10 gold medal match victory. Crotty scored the game-tying and go-ahead goals in the fourth quarter.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

MANCHESTER, England -- When Ned Crotty was done dancing and the U.S. national team celebration cleared enough for him to find head coach Mike Pressler, the two exchanged an embrace that was long overdue.

“We never got to do this,” Pressler told Crotty.

Four years ago, Crotty was a freshman at Duke University when Pressler, the coach who recruited him, was forced to resign amid rape accusations against three teammates that cost the Blue Devils their 2006 season. Those players were exonerated, but the damage was done.
That same year, in a much less publicized disappointment, Canada dethroned the U.S. in the world lacrosse championships. A 28-year reign ended.

Now, Crotty can say he had a hand in bringing closure to both events.

Crotty, the 2010 Tewaaraton Trophy winner who led Duke to its first NCAA championship in the spring, reunited with Pressler with Team USA and led the U.S. to a 12-10 victory over Canada in the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championship final Saturday before 4,651 fans at the University of Manchester.

Seldom used in these world games, Crotty surfaced on Team USA’s first midfield line on the fourth quarter after Mike Leveille -- arguably the team’s most consistent player -- relocated to attack.

With the U.S. trailing 10-9 in the fourth quarter, the move paid dividends almost immediately, as the two lefties connected to tie the game with 8:50 remaining. Leveille, who finished with three goals and an assist, came around the crease and found Crotty in the right lane. Crotty stuck it high on Canadian goalie Chris Sanderson.

Less than three minutes later, Crotty shifted to his right hand and scored the go-ahead goal on a phenomenal bounce shot from his knees. The ball flung off the turf and snuck between the crossbar and Sanderson’s stick to put Team USA up 11-10.

“I had a short stick on me. They kept saying I was going to come back to my left, so I gave a stutter step, he bit, I came around, kind of threw it off the turf and stuffed it under the crossbar,” Crotty said.

“Ice in his veins,” U.S. attackman Ryan Boyle said of Crotty. “I mean, did he plan on taking those shots or did he just not realize how big of a stage it was? To have the gumption to take that last shot says a lot about the player he is and the confidence he has.”

Leveille, a wild card shifting between midfield and attack units, would score the insurance goal on an empty net.

"Crotty and Leveille, those two guys really stepped up," said Canadian defenseman Brodie Merrill. "We made the choice to short those guys and they really were aggressive and made some big plays. I thought we defended them well; they just made a couple of really nice shots down the stretch to seal it for them."

Crotty is one of three former Duke players on the U.S. team roster. Co-captain Kevin Cassese and midfielder Matt Zash -- who played an integral role in helping the U.S. maintain possession in the offensive end in the final minutes – are the others.

“I never got a chance to really coach Ned. I had him for half a year and never really got a chance to be with him. I said ‘Ned, we’re going to enjoy these months together and try to make up for the four years that we didn’t get,’” Pressler said. “Ned became Ned today in the fourth quarter.

“Matt Zash and Kevin Cassese are two of my old guys, so to speak, and for Kevin this was the end of the line for him. He came back to win a gold and end his career, and he did,” he added. “Matt as well. I don’t know if Matt ever plays again. He might. But those two guys are great role players. When we picked this team in particular, it was all about not the best players, but the best players in certain roles to make us the best team.”

It capped a big year for Crotty that also included being named Lacrosse Magazine’s Preseason Player of the Year, winning the NCAA championship at Duke, winning the Tewaaraton Trophy and being the No. 1 selection in the MLL draft. Now he has some gold to add to his hardware.

“I was just happy to get my name called, be on the field and play in this environment,” he said.

That Pressler was the one calling his number made the experience priceless.

“Our time together was cut short,” Crotty said. “I’m not going to say this made up for it, but doing this is pretty damn close.”

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