Lacrosse Under 15 Nationals

The women’s under 19 lacrosse world championships were held earlier this year in Hannover Germany. Of the twelve competing nations , the eighth placed was Haudenosaunee. This “nation” comprises players from the six nations of the Iroquois confederacy, and thereby represents the Native American origins of the sport. In the championship  final, at half time, Australia was tied 7-all with the USA and a major upset was on the cards. However, The US managed to find a way to overcome the challenge to win 14 to 11.

In international lacrosse, the US is the dominant nation. The only other country to win a world championship at any level out of senior men, senior women and under 19 men and women is Australia, which is noteworthy because it is still such a small sport in this country. In the US, growth is accelerating, particularly at high school and college level, and especially in the under-represented western part of the country. A pay-television contract is giving the men’s national professional league a significant boost.

The last week of the recent school holidays had five representative teams from Victoria fly across the country to attend the under 15 nationals in Perth. The three male teams from Victoria are selected based on the geography of the feeder clubs, giving rise to Western Metros, Northern Warriors and Southern Crosse. For the girls, the imbalance of geographical representation dictates that the two teams are selected from the one squad, with the intent being to select two evenly competitive teams. “Fire” and “Ice” would compete against two teams from South Australia and two from Western Australia. It is some time since NSW and Queensland have been represented at this age level.

I have been playing, refereeing and coaching basketball for forty years. As a spectator sport however, basketball does nothing for me. Whenever I watch netball, most of my time is spent counting down the clock, waiting for the pain to end. But you can get me to watch lacrosse for days on-end. Which is fortunate because that was how I spent the week. For all but one game, I volunteered as an official scorer. It is a good way to keep myself quiet.

While the intent of the girls’ coaching panel was to pick two even teams, their task was made difficult by the presence of Rebecca Lane. “Bec” was playing at the under 15 national championships for the fourth or fifth consecutive year. Earlier this year she played for Victoria at under 17 level.  She had also been a prominent player for Australia at the afore-mentioned under 19 world championships. Bec is a pretty good player! Her older sister Danielle, who was also in the Australian under 19 team, was one of the match day co-coaches. The other was Hayley Sofarnos, who had previously been named in the world team at an under 19 world championship and was back in Australia after two years in the US on a college lacrosse scholarship. The head coach was Hayley’s mother Sue Sofarnos, well credentialed as a former Australian player and coach at senior level. The Victorian teams were very well led.

This national tournament was the second for my two daughters Audrey and Ursula. They both played for Fire, in the opposite team to Bec. Fire seemed to have a more balanced team with Ice carrying a larger number of the “development” players, perhaps as an offset to Bec’s presence. Each team played each of the other teams over the first five days of tournament. Ice won their first two games by narrow margins while Fire also played close games but was on the wrong side of the ledger. The two Victorian teams faced off on day three. With Fire leading by a couple of goals at half time, Bec took control of the game in the second half. Scores were tied with just a couple of minutes to play. An uncalled trip (there is photo evidence) resulted in a turnover and a late Ice goal. In this tournament, at the end of each game, the opposing coach names an MVP, with players limited to one MVP award through the preliminary games. Bec was named MVP for Ice and Audrey MVP for Fire. The pride of the coaches in the performance of both teams was very evident in their emotional post match addresses.

Having lost the close one, Fire fell away in their fourth game before recovering to win their only preliminary game, against one of the Western Australian teams. Ursula was named MVP for Fire in this game. In the play off for fifth and sixth, against the same WA tea, Fire won comfortably 14 to 4, with Audrey again picking up the MVP.

Ice won all their preliminary games and went against SA Lightning in the final. A 12 to 7 win was a good result and all members of the Victorian squad came together for the on-field post-match celebrations. Bec Lane picked up the MVP for the winners. Not that she did it on her own. Other noteworthy performances came from Issy Greed, Hannah Walker and Emily Prentice. All players rotated throughout the game and all contributed to the Victorian Ice win.

How is it that my girls came to play lacrosse? It is a function of geography and friends. Williamstown is one of the lacrosse hubs in Victoria. And when Colleen Hunter a former Australian captain, whose daughter Lauren was also in the under 19 Australian team in Hannover, kept asking when the girls were going to come and try out, we eventually relented. And there are no regrets. The girls play basketball and there is a lot of crossover. The offensive and defensive structures are very similar, although zone defence is not allowed in lacrosse. Presenting for the pass and protecting the ball are just two of the common skills required. One-on-one defence puts the pressure on every player to contribute.

Lacrosse is an excellent sport. Lots of running, throwing and catching, and more running.  For potential players, I cannot make a higher recommendation. The boys and girls play under different rules with the boys game incorporating a lot more body contact, requiring more protective equipment. As the sport expands in the US, the danger is that they move further ahead of the trailing countries. While the Australian wins against the US are rare, they have happened. For Australia to continue to compete, the sport must also grow here. Expansion into the non-participating States is an imperative. And as the sport expands in Victoria, the competition for places for these representative teams will increase, which is a good thing.

Next year will be Audrey and Ursula’s final year at this level. Having spent their first year mainly looking on, this year they were both significant contributors. Next year it will be up to them and the other senior players to ensure the trophy stays in Victoria, which, according to rotations, is where the tournament will be held. I am not sure they are going to be able to perform to the level of Bec Lane, but the challenge is there.

About Andrew Fithall

Probably the most rational, level-headed Collingwood supporter in existence. Not a lot of competition mind you.

Comments

  1. John Butler says:

    AF

    Does Bec Lane need a manager?

    I presume you already have Audrey and Ursula signed up. :)

  2. Slight diversion – unlike me.

    Andrew,

    does Lacrosse have a link to a game that indigenious Canadians played with a stuffed and stitched piece of animal fur heaved around by, and caught in a netted ‘thing a me bob’?

    Apparently it was fairly gung ho.

  3. Andrew Fithall says:

    Phantom – according to what I read on Wikipedia, lacrosse is derived from the North American indiginous game you refer to. As for being gung-ho, the males and females play by quite different rules. The bloke wear full-face helmets and protective gloves and other protective gear. The females wear mouthguards, perhaps protective eye frames and sometimes light gloves. The difference in garb reflects the difference in rules with the blokes able to body check while the females can only stick check the stick of a player carrying the ball. I haven’t watched a lot of men’s lacrossse; however, from what I have seen of the US college game on TV, the higher the level of game, the more skill displayed and there is less reliance on the physical aspects of the body checking.

  4. Cheers Andrew.

    The gung ho bit referred to how it was apparently first observed. Fiercely competitive running around the bush hoot’n and holler’n and apparently few rules.

  5. Andrew Fithall says:

    JB – I have heard about your fees. Can’t afford you I am afraid. The college sports scholarship is an objective of a number of male and female Australian players. A couple of my girls’ club coaches (and last year’s State teams) played for Loyola in Maryland under the scholarship program. Hayley, one of this year’s coaches has just returned after two years (not sure what College). Her experience wasn’t as positive.

  6. pamela sherpa says:

    Andrew, as a P.E teacher I first enjoyed teaching lacrosse at Shepparton High way back in the late seventies . At a Canberra school recently I had to take a lacrosse lesson and was glad to see it still on the P.E curriculum. The kids always seem to enjoy it when they try it. Happy lacrossing.

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