January 22, 2013

Team USA Men Look to Reload at Champion Challenge

by Matt Forman | LaxMagazine.com | Related: USA Roster

Former North Carolina attackman and current Rochester Rattler Billy Bitter is among the 33 players who will represent Team USA at this weekend's Champion Challenge, a US Lacrosse event at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Kevin Cassese chuckled when he said Richie Meade's Team USA staff is already on military time. "We're acclimated to the oh-six-hundred conference call," said Cassese, one of Meade's three assistants along with Dave Pietramala and Jeff Tambroni.

After putting together his staff, Meade, the long-time head man at Navy and current skipper at Furman, arranged weekly teleconference meetings every Monday morning at 6 a.m. There's no shortage of details to discuss and schemes to strategize.

And there are plenty of players to evaluate — with more on the way.

The U.S. men's national team will bring 33 players to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., for Champion Challenge, where Team USA will meet defending NCAA champion Loyola, at 1:30 p.m. ET Sunday (ESPN3.com/LaxMagazine.com live blog).

"All we're trying to do is find out who we want to see play," Meade said. "It's a continuing evaluation to figure out which group is going to be invited to the tryouts over Labor Day weekend. It's just another step forward."

The trend of new faces in the Team USA fold will continue at Champion Challenge. Eighty-one different players will have worn the red, white and blue since October, between Duel in Denver in September, the Capital Lacrosse Invitational six-quarter scrimmage in October and the impending eighth-annual US Lacrosse event.

The three events serve as a launching point for naming the 2014 U.S. men's national training team, along with tryouts Aug. 30 through Sept. 2, before finalizing the 23-member team.

A few 2012 college graduates are among those to keep an eye on at Champion Challenge. Among them: former Yale attackman Matt Gibson, Major League Lacrosse's Rookie of the Year after totaling 33 points with the Long Island (now New York) Lizards; midfielder Cameron Lao-Gosney, who along with twin brother Roman were Cassese's first recruits at Lehigh; and from the Division III ranks, former Salisbury star midfielder Sam Bradman.

As the numbers suggest, Meade and his staff have approached the selection process openly. Only two players from the 2010 U.S. men's national team, which defeated Canada to win the world championship, are on the Champion Challenge roster: attackman Mike Leveille and faceoff specialist Alex Smith.

Just three players — attackmen Steele Stanwick and Matt Danowski, and midfielder Steven Brooks — have participated in all three national team scrimmages.

"In your whole life, you don't get to coach a group of guys like this too often," Meade said. "I said it when I was asked to do this: We want to play the greatest lacrosse that's ever been played."

The Team USA men take on defending national champion Loyola at 1:30 p.m. ET Sunday (ESPN3.com/LaxMagazine.com live blog) as part of Champion Challenge, a US Lacrosse event. The USA women play defending champion Northwestern at 11 a.m. and national runner-up Syracuse at 7 p.m. ET Saturday. For more information, visit www.uslacrosse.org/ChampionChallenge.

A version of this article appears in the January issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

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