July 17, 2012

Iroquois Beat Team USA For First Time Ever

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | Live Blog Replay

With a 15-13 pool play win on Tuesday at the FIL U19 World Championships, the Iroquois Nationals U19 team became the first Iroquois team to beat the U.S. in international field competition at any level.
© Tero Wester

TURKU, Finland – One loss left the U.S. under-19 men's national team with a few things to work on. A second defeat left it stunned.

For the first time ever in international field competition, the Iroquois Nationals beat a United States lacrosse team. The Iroquois U19ers downed Team USA, 15-13, in the teams' final pool play game Tuesday at the Federation of International Lacrosse U19 World Championships.

Afterward, the significance of the win sunk in for the Iroquois. "It's hard to forget a game like this," captain Lyle Thompson said. "It means a lot to me, the team, our people."

A few yards away several U.S. players stood or sat idly outside the stadium after exiting the locker room, waiting for a bus ride back to their dorm complex. They didn't say much, aside from small talk, until being asked about the result.

"We came out with a good start ... but we just gotta keep on it," U.S. starting goaltender and co-captain Zach Oliveri said. "You see a lot of head hanging, and not pushing all the way. Careless turnovers is one of the key things we see that is really affecting us. ... But hats off to the Iroquois. They deserve this one today."

The U.S. led 4-0 midway through the first quarter and 8-4 with eight minutes left in the first half, but the Iroquois used a 6-0 run over 18 minutes, 39 seconds of the second and third quarters to take a 10-8 lead six minutes into the second half. They never trailed after going ahead 9-8 less than four minutes into the third. The U.S. fought back several times – rallying twice from two goals down to tie the score at 11 and 13 on fourth-quarter scores by Mike Tagliaferri -- but Hank Delisle scored the final go-ahead goal with 5:35 left.

After Canada made history on Saturday, becoming the first team to beat the U.S. U19 team since sanctioned international competition began in 1988, the Iroquois repeated it exponentially. The win was the first Iroquois victory against the U.S. in outdoor field competition at any level, although the Iroquois had beaten the U.S. previously at the world indoor championships.

"It's pretty amazing," Iroquois coach Freeman "Boss" Bucktooth said. "The guys came out to play and showed what they could do. We threw a different style at them, different than what they're probably used to. ... We've got a lot of talent on the team and a great coaching staff. We put everything together. We'll walk away with a win [over] the USA team at any time."

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With the win, the Iroquois finished pool play with 3-1 record, locked up the second seed for the medal rounds, and earned a bye to Thursday's semifinals. Meanwhile, the U.S. ends with a 2-2 record and must regroup. For the first time in U19 competition, it will play a quarterfinal game, at 4 p.m. Wednesday in Turku against Germany, a 17-7 winner over Wales on Tuesday. A U.S. win sets up a rematch with the Iroquois in the semifinals. Canada (4-0) is the top seed and will play the winner of England-Czech Republic in the semis.

While some players didn't say much after the game, U.S. defenseman and co-captain Stephen Jahelka did. He walked out of the locker room and directly to a reporter and asked to be interviewed. "I want to do one," he said before saying, in part:

"We concentrated on throwing the first punch. We got out to a 4-0 lead, everyone was fired up and I think we just relaxed a little bit. ... They played with a little more passion than we did in the second half. We fell apart a little bit defensively off-ball. They're very good at that, much like the Canadians. We're all disappointed with this loss, but we have a game [Wednesday] to get our confidence back and we're going to see them again in the semifinals.

"We're still waiting to put a complete 80 minutes together, which is uplifting for us," Jahelka continued. "We haven't played a complete game yet. I think we're going to get hot late. We're fired up to play them again. Expect a totally different game from the U.S. We're going to look like a different team and we're going to make a run at this thing."

The U.S. won the faceoff battle 18-12 and had solid goaltending for the most part – Oliveri played the first half and made four saves and Kyle Turri played the second half and made the same number – but turnovers at key moments plagued them, along with defensive miscommunication. They also hit at least three pipes.

And although the Iroquois scored 15 goals, this wasn't the normal high-flying, highlight reel type of lacrosse the Iroquois have been known for and which wowed the crowd in a 24-2 opening game win against England upon arrival last week in Finland. That was reined in at times as they worked most possessions for shots on the crease and often found back-door cutters for easy finishes.

"We changed our style around 180 degrees," Bucktooth said. "We used the run-and-gun style when it was there. When it wasn't there, instead of going to the goal every time, we moved around, we set up different plays. If nothing was created there, we swung into another play, moved it back around, took our shots. And one of the main things was we kept our composure. Instead of run-and-gunning, we were able to set the ball back up and look for the open man. Let the ball do the work. When you have 12 guys that can put the ball in the net, it makes it easier. We've got a pretty talented bunch."

Delisle, Brendan Bomberry and Randall Staats each had hat tricks for the Iroquois. Six others scored one goal, including perhaps their most dangerous scorers, Thompson and Johnny Powless.

"They were pressing out on us a lot," Thompson said. "We realized all we had to do was back-cut and go against their short-sticks and we got goals off of that."

Kavanagh (four goals, two assists) and Tagliaferri (four goals, one assist) carried the offense in the fourth quarter when the situation dictated it. Kavanagh scored goals to cut it to 11-10 and 13-12 and Tagliaferri followed each with the tying tally. But the U.S. never regained the lead it held all of the first half.

The Iroquois scored three man-up goals in the second half, one that put them up 10-8, another 12-11 and the last was the final insurance goal of the game.

"They were very patient with the ball [and played] a different style than what we play, what's typical in the U.S.," Jahelka said. "Their patience got us frustrated sometimes, just a couple bad penalties that we took out of frustration."

Oliveri said the team also seemed to struggle with deciding when to push in transition and when not, a theme that's carried throughout this tournament. The U.S. scored three transition goals in the first quarter of the game, but had none the rest of the way.

"We made some mistakes. They took advantage of everything," USA coach Tim Flynn said. "[We need to] hang together as a group, stay united as a team ... We have to solve a couple little problems, mistakes here and there. We have to coach better. We've taken our lumps, now it's time to step back up together."

In the final minutes, the ball was handed to Thompson, a rising sophomore at Albany, for safekeeping. With four minutes left, the Iroquois gained possession and, out of a time out, Thompson started to kill clock and draw double teams. He passed it off, and only a Johnny Powless crease violation with about three minutes left turned the ball over.

The U.S. then had a man-up chance after an Iroquois push with under three minutes to play, but a Kavanagh try didn't get through on the extra-man opportunity. The Iroquois got possession and, after another time out with two minutes left, Thompson eluded multiple defenders to kill clock, and he drew two penalties (illegal body check and interference), helping Delisle tack on the game's last goal with 49 seconds to go.

Warren Hill also made 12 saves for the Iroquois, earning the game ball in the post-game locker room. Hill is headed to Onondaga Community College next year.

"I have a lot of family members that have played for this team and they never [beat the U.S.]," Hill said. "It feels pretty good to do it, especially with my younger cousins [Jake Bomberry and Tyson Bomberry]. We knew we could do it, but you gotta let it play out. This is the best team that we've put together ever. We just didn't want to disappoint."

Much like after the U.S.'s loss to Canada on Saturday, both sides already had designs on a potential rematch in the moments following.

"It's hard to forget a game like this, but we have to because we're most likely going to play them again," Thompson said. "We 'll come out with the same game plan. If we need to change it up, we'll do that. But just play lacrosse."

"I'm sure the U.S. will be coming at us, shooting guns and everything they can have," Bucktooth said. "We're going to be there, we're going to do what we can do and hopefully continue our success."

While the U.S. will look to start a much-needed run of its own.

"We got to win. If we lose, we're going home," Oliveri said. "It's do or die. We came here to win the gold. That's really about it."

Federation of International Lacrosse U19 World Championships

IRQ 2 4 5 4 – 15
USA 5 3 1 4 – 13

Goals: IRQ – B. Bomberry 3, Delisle 3, Staats 3, J. Bomberry 1, Oakes 1, J. Powless 1, Q. Powless 1, Tarbell 1, Thompson 1; USA – Kavanagh 4, Tagliaferri 4, Leonard 2, Eipp 1, Tucker 1, Zoppo 1
Assists: IRQ – Delisle 1; USA – Kavanagh 2, Buczek 1, Keenan 1, Tagliaferri 1
Saves: IRQ – Hill 12; USA – Oliveri 4, Turri 4
Faceoffs: IRQ – 12 of 30; Miller 7 of 15, Q. Powless 5 of 15; USA – 18 of 30; Raffa 8 of 15, Barbarich 8 of 12, Kelly 2 of 3

Follow LaxMagazine.com/teamusa/u19men and LaxMagazine.com editor Corey McLaughlin on Twitter @Corey_McL for updates throughout the FIL U19 World Championships.

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