November 20, 2011

Kavanagh, Defense Lead U.S. U19 Team in Texas Win

by Corey McLaughlin | | Twitter | Related: Men's U19 Team Page

Team USA goaltenders Conor Kelly (above) and Zach Oliveri backed a stingy defense that allowed only four goals in an exhibition game win over a group of Dallas all-stars Saturday night at Five Star Park in The Colony, Texas.
© Ray Carlin

Typically, when a player says there was some "back-and-forth" out on the field, he or she means there was some not-so-nice jawing between opposing teams. Not the case Saturday night in Texas when the U.S. Men's National Under-19 team scrimmaged a group of Dallas-area all-stars.

"There was a lot of back-and-forth, a lot of teaching," Team USA defenseman Stephen Jahelka said. "They were sharing experiences with us, guys from SMU [Southern Methodist University] and guys from the high schools. Instead of feeling bad for themselves, like they may have been at a disadvantage playing us, they greeted the opportunity with an open mind, did what they could and learned from what we had to say. It was really nice to see."

Of course, the U.S. had its own learning to do -- this was the first time members of the team played together since tryouts in June -- but they already proved to be a worthy group to pick up tips from. Team USA rolled to a 26-4 victory in the exhibition game, held in conjunction with the Dick's Lone Star Shootout at Five Star Park in The Colony, Texas.

Attackman Matt Kavanagh scored six goals and assisted on three others, attackman Connor Buczek also scored six times, midfielder Tyler Barbarich won 13 of 17 faceoffs he took, and goaltenders Zach Oliveri and Conor Kelly backed up a defense that allowed only four goals.

"I think we dominated all aspects of the game," said U.S. attackman Danny Eipp, a sophomore at Harvard, who scored two goals and had three assists. "The defense was the most impressive. We really shut them down. It was their tenacity, we really didn't let them do anything with the ball. They didn't really know what to do."

"Everyone came in well-conditioned. We were able to press out all over the field and show that we had athletes on the defensive end," said Jahelka, Eipp's Harvard teammate and a Crimson freshman defenseman. "The other big key was the middies. Sometimes you don't get middies playing defense. That maybe could be a possibility on a team with such offensive prowess. But the middies all came in and buckled down. Six guys played well as a unit."

That was the goal coming in, in a larger sense; getting the nation's best U19 players to play as one unit. The group gathered from around the country Thursday and had two days to practice and get to know each other before the exhibition Saturday night. The team also traveled to Cowboys Stadium in Dallas on Friday to watch some live Texas high school football playoff action, and was to hold a youth clinic for area player Sunday morning.

"We were anxiously awaiting this weekend since we made the team July 10," Jahelka said. "We all had an idea of who each other were, but right off the bat we came together and we all really connected really well. There are no groups on our team. Within the first couple days, we're all good buddies, hanging out together. I think it's really cool how we can all connect through lacrosse."

"We spent the whole first night talking, hanging out," Eipp said.

U.S. coach Tim Flynn was similarly impressed with how the team looked on the field.

"A lot of different kids looked like the kids that we picked in tryouts, and amplified that a little bit more with their performances tonight," Flynn said. "The entire team came together in a really nice way.

"The No. 1 thing was the desire and hustle the team showed, pretty much in every aspect. The attackmen were riding hard, everyone was going tough on ground balls. It didn't matter what the score was kids were looking for one another and pushing to make things happen."

And even teach a little bit along the way.

Check back to this week for more on Team USA's Harvard contingent and a photo gallery from Saturday night's exhibition game.

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