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July 22, 2014

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Lyle Thompson continued his banner 2014, earning All-World honors alongside brother Jeremy for the Iroquois, a first-time medalist at the senior field level. (Scott McCall)
Lyle Thompson continued his banner 2014, earning All-World honors alongside brother Jeremy for the Iroquois, a first-time medalist at the senior field level. (Scott McCall)

History-Making Iroquois Could be Force for Years to Come

by Sean Burns | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | World Lacrosse 2014

Surveying the field in Denver in the moments after the Iroquois Nationals locked up their first-ever medal at a senior world championship event, Brett Bucktooth had a catch in his throat before he answered what it meant to be a part of the team that had just dominated Australia 16-5 to secure the bronze.

"History."

Having played with the Iroquois senior field team in 2006 as well as being a member of the 2010 team that famously declined to attend the last world championship in England when authorities of that country would not recognize their Haudenosaunee passports (though would allow them to attend by using their American or Canadian documents), Bucktooth has some perspective on the subject of history. He also watched during the two weeks at Colorado's Dick's Sporting Goods Park as fans clamored for autographs and spare gear from their new rock-star idols, like Miles and Lyle Thompson, the standard-bearers of the next generation of Iroquois lacrosse, which has a bright future indeed.

"Hands down, this is the best field team [the Iroquois] have ever put together," he said. "From 1983 when Oren Lyons put this organization together, it's been great and the future is in good hands with the Thompson boys, Zach Miller, Randy Staats and Warren Hill. Some of the guys I was with in 2006 are still here, but it's great to see the young guys coming up and growing into the leaders on this team.

"I see gold in our future."

With young players like Warren Hill - who will attend Syracuse this fall after two years starring at Onondaga Community College - the Iroquois have a bright future, both indoor and outdoor. (Scott McCall)

For a team that went 5-3 in the tournament and fell by six to Canada in the semifinals, that may seem a bit premature, but the core of the Iroquois team is young, and interest in the sport's native heritage as represented by the Iroquois is at an all-time high. With this team's performance and with two of its stars – Miles and Lyle Thompson – breaking the NCAA single-sesaon points records and sharing the Tewaaraton Award playing for the University at Albany this spring, the throngs of attention paid to this team and its headliners doesn't seem likely to wane any time soon.

Plus, there's no small measure of hope for future potential given that in pool play, the Iroquois fell to Canada by just one, as a rally from down by five in the third quarter left them knotted at 8-8 before Curtis Dickson scored the game-winner with less than a minute remaining. Canada had a day off prior to the semifinal rematch, while the Iroquois had to play Canada, Australia, Team USA, then Scotland – all on consecutive days – before its semifinal shot against Canada where it came up flat.

"We can go home with our heads up and show what we accomplished," said Iroquois general manager Gewas Schindler, who played for the program in the 1990s, 2000s and now heads its organization, including the hosting duties for the 2015 World Indoor Championships. "We've got a ton of young guys, and they're going to be here in four years together again. They're not even in their primes yet."

Lyle and Jeremy Thompson both earned All-World status, the third and fourth player in program history to be so honored after Neal Powless (attack, 2002) and Bucktooth (midfield, 2006). Miles Thompson led the team in scoring with 16 goals and 15 assists, with Lyle tying him for the goals lead at 16 and adding seven assists despite missing the quarterfinal game against Scotland to attend the ESPY Awards. Randy Staats had 13 goals and eight assists and Cody Jamieson poured in two goals and 11 assists. In net, Warren Hill was among tournament leaders as well, allowing just under seven goals a game and stopping 53.5 percent of shots he saw.

Among that group, Lyle and Miles Thompson, Staats and Hill all played on the U-19 team two years ago that earned bronze in Finland, the same finish the 2008 U-19 team had playing in British Columbia. That 2012 team defeated eventual gold medal-winning United States in pool play, a first for any Iroquois field team. They were the first field groups for the Iroquois to finish ahead of Australia, and now they were arguably the core of the first senior team to accomplish that feat, knocking the Sharks off of the podium for the first time since the dawn of international lacrosse in 1967.

"I just think we're getting better and better," said Lyle Thompson after the win over Australia for bronze before shuffling over to sign autographs for the hundreds of fans awaiting the game's newest and biggest star, one who still has a year of college left at Albany for coach Scott Marr. "Starting in Finland, we've been competing at the highest level, and I think it just gets better for the Iroquois Nationals."


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