October 22, 2013

A Game Unlike Any Other

Hall of Fame inductee Ryan Wade remembers epic '98 world championship final

by Bill Tanton | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

A version of this article appears in the November 2013 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.

See Also: Trio of Inductees Remember Epic Night at Homewood

Ryan Wade knows all about major championships. He played on teams that won three of them at several levels.

Wade, who was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in October, was a three-time All-American at North Carolina and a member of the Tar Heels' last NCAA championship team in 1991.

"We should have won two more," Wade said.

Wade, 40, now is married with three children and runs a commercial real estate business in Washington, D.C. He played midfield for U.S. teams that won world championships in 1994 and 1998. In the 1998 final in Baltimore — which some consider the best game ever played — Wade had two goals, two assists and won some big faceoffs in Team USA's dramatic 14-13 overtime victory over Canada. He was named the tournament's best and fairest player (MVP). Wade also played on the U.S. under-19 team that won gold in 1992.

"All the championships were amazing, but they were all different," he said. "In the U19s, it was great to make friends with kids from all over. Winning the national championship in college is unlike anything else. You spend so much time with those guys. You're with them for four years. You live with them. So the NCAA championship means more. The U.S. team is more like an all-star game, but playing for your country takes it to a different level. When we beat Canada in the '98 championship game, my main feeling was relief that we had won the game. Winning was almost expected of us."

That gold medal game was unlike any other that I've attended. It was supposed to be a great showcase for lacrosse with the best in the U.S. against Canada's peerless Gait twins, Gary and Paul, plus Tom Marechek. There were 10,793 spectators crowding Homewood Field that night. At a time when lacrosse on TV was rare, a cable network fed places as distant as Puerto Rico.

The U.S. led 8-1 at halftime and 11-1 in the third quarter. OMG! It was a rout! Who in Puerto Rico would still be watching?

Finally, the Canadians sprang to life. They scored nine goals in the last 15 minutes of regulation to tie the game at 13 and force overtime.

First overtime, scoreless.

Second OT, with no sudden-death rule, Mark Millon and Darren Lowe score and put the U.S. ahead by two. Then Marechek bounces one past goalie Sal LoCascio to bring Canada within one."

Final minute, Marechek hits the pipe on a shot that would have tied the score.

At the end, LoCascio stops a shot by John Tavares and the U.S. wins 14-13.

Once again the U.S. is champion of the world, and Ryan Wade is relieved.

"I'm wiped out," then-Team USA coach Bill Tierney said at the time. Eight weeks earlier, Tierney had led Princeton to its fourth NCAA title. "Gary Gait is the most wonderful player who ever played the sport," he added.

In 40 years as a newspaper sports columnist, I covered numerous World Series, Super Bowls and other events of such magnitude. Only once did the excitement have me screaming like a maniac in a press box. That was at Lake Placid in the 1980 Winter Olympics. In the Cold War era, the U.S. hockey team upset the mighty Soviet Union 4-3, dubbed the "Miracle on Ice," and went on to win the gold medal. Because of the geopolitics of the time, that probably was a once-in-a-lifetime sports emotion.

International competition does stir the emotions. That will be in evidence once again next summer, when US Lacrosse hosts the 2014 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championship in Denver. LM

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