England Travels Across Pond for Playing Tour
|England toured the U.S. this fall
to hone its skill and see some fresh foes to prepare for Denver in
2014 against a stacked Blue Division.
© Bryce Vickmark
When it comes to European lacrosse, England is the unquestioned powerhouse, winning the European Lacrosse Championships eight of the nine times the tournament has been held.
It's a different story for the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championship, where England has not finished better than fifth place since 1994.
The team will look to change its fortunes at the 2014 world championship, hosted by US Lacrosse in Denver, when it competes in the top-ranked Blue Division against perennial favorites Team USA and Canada.
England has a new coach in Matt Bagley, an American ex-pat who played in the 2008 European Championships and 2010 FIL World Championship before taking over as head coach in 2011. Hoping to expose his team to the level of competition it will face in Denver, Bagley organized a weeklong tour of New England in October featuring scrimmages against some of the best NCAA Division I teams in the area.
"The competition in Europe is definitely not at the standard that the Division I American universities play at, so it's awesome to come back here and play these guys," said the New Hampshire-born Bagley, who played at Division III Ohio Wesleyan and semi-professionally in Australia before moving to England in 2008 to teach English and history at a school in Surrey.
The English players struggled throughout their New England tour, winning one of six scrimmages against the college teams. But Bagley and his coaching staff have plenty of material to evaluate when determining where the team needs improvement.
At the beginning of the trip, the majority of England's players looked wholly unprepared to face teams of NCAA caliber. In a game at UMass, the team could barely possess the ball due to a plethora of turnovers on errant passes or drops.
"One of the things that was really important was holding onto the ball, respecting the ball," Bagley said. "We had so many unforced turnovers, just throwing the ball out of bounds, throwing it away on offense, and the defense spent a lot of time playing defense, so it was really important for us to make sure we're respecting the ball, holding onto the ball."
By the penultimate game of the tour at Brown, England showed more respect for the ball, and with it, a real potential to compete against higher-level players. Team England was sharper on passes, more aggressive in scrums for ground balls, and ultimately successful on the scoreboard as it posted a 15-12 win over the Bears.
|This article appears in the December 2013 issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Join US Lacrosse today to get your copy!|
Goalie Nick Anderton stood out with some impressive saves, especially toward the end of the match. England seemed deepest on offense, where middie Sam Russell and attackman Colin Clive starred. Kyle Standiford appeared to be a leader on defense, constantly instructing his teammates on where to be while serving as one of England's most physical players.
Not all of England's players will return to the U.S. in July. Bagley was also using the trip to help determine the team's final 23-player roster.
"This is a trial. It's a tryout, so the coaches go back, we look at the game, we figure out where we went wrong, who played well and who didn't," Bagley said. "Who can be a member of this team?"
England, which hosted the 2010 FIL World Championship in Manchester, finished in fifth place behind the U.S., Canada, Australia and Japan. The event will return to Manchester in 2018.
US Lacrosse will host the 2014 FIL Men's World Championship (July 10-19) at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Denver. Tickets are on sale now at WorldLacrosse2014.com.