January 16, 2012

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U.S. U19 Team on Display at Convention

by Matt Forman | LaxMagazine.com | Convention Blog Replay

Danny Eipp was one of six U.S. U19 men's players to demonstrate transition offense Saturday at the US Lacrosse National Convention.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

PHILADELPHIA -- It's no coincidence that Tim Flynn, U.S. U19 men's national team coach, along with six U19 players — Greg Danseglio, Tanner Ottenbreit, Stephen Kelly, Stephen Jahelka, Danny Eipp and Rob Enright — demonstrated "Drills To Develop Transition Offense," at the US Lacrosse National Convention on Saturday.

No coincidence because when Team USA defends its 2008 World Championship title later this year in Finland, fans can expect to see a team that pushes the ball aggressively and exploits unsettled situations.

"All the guys on our team can run in transition," said Kelly, a junior midfielder at Calvert Hall (Md.) and Team USA's youngest player. "We have athletes all across the board. Every middie can play both ways, which is a big thing in transition, when you've got middies who can run down on D, pick up a ground ball, come down and create that transition offense. We have a ton of faceoff guys too who can create transition from the X, with 4-on-3 fast breaks. We're definitely going to be a team using our athleticism, and we're going to be exciting to watch."

Said Ottenbreit, a freshman defender at Virginia: "We're always told to push transition, whenever we can. Whenever you have an advantage, why wouldn't you take it?"

Flynn, with the help of U19 assistant coaches Tom Duquette, Jack Crawford and Tom Rotanz, described about six different drills for a group of coaches that packed the stadium-style seating surrounding the Convention's live field, presented by STX.

"If you want your team to be a team that goes after transition opportunities, you have to give your kids a lot of repetitions," Flynn said during the demonstration. "And I think you have to do that live."

Team USA thus far has had one training weekend — in Dallas in November — and one team-building weekend, a week ago in New York City and Mt. Lakes, N.J. Last weekend the group toured the Freedom Tower, visited the 9/11 Memorial and listened to an inspirational talk from former Army men's lacrosse player John Fernandez, who lost his legs serving in Iraq.

"We've all been coming together really well. We've become a unit already, and we're really starting to bond and become great friends forever," said Danseglio, also a freshman defender at Virginia. "Probably the most exciting part is being with the team on these special weekends. The coaches are great; I love spending time with them and having good conversation. And just hanging out with the other kids in the hotel at night, really getting to know where each other comes from, and how we're going to make our team be the Gold Medal champions. It's amazing."

Since the team's meeting in Dallas and through Finland, the group has roughly 32 days to spend together. US Lacrosse Director of National Teams Nathaniel Badder has planned three training weekends in June — in Long Island, Philadelphia and New Jersey — along with training camp at Bryant University, before Team USA heads to Finland. Much like the unit's transition offense, they'll take advantage of every opportunity.

"We've had them together two weekends, and both times they've come totally as advertised," Flynn said. "I'm not seeing a bunch of kids who are individuals; I'm seeing a group of guys who are really getting to know one another. They seem to really enjoy one another's company. They're willing to do some real good, strong hard work together."

With lacrosse season scheduled to start shortly, we know what's next for the players — playing out the year. But what's next for the coaching staff?

"Right now, we're putting together things that we want to concentrate on and work on when we get back together in June, now that we know the guys a little better," Flynn said. "We're putting all the parts together right now. Also getting out and seeing our players as much as possible in their college and high school games, since we're all coaching too. It'll be a couple busy months. There's a good bit of communication ongoing as well. We're in contact with them a lot. There's a lot going on behind the scenes. Being totally integrated with texting and emails and voicemails, there's a steady flow of information back and forth about everything: our requirements, the strength of the competition, etc."

When Flynn wrapped up Team USA's demonstration on Saturday, he told the crowd: "We'll see you all in Finland." He later told LaxMagazine.com, "This a tremendous opportunity, but it's also a huge challenge. The competition level is as strong as it's ever been, by far. We've got a really good group of kids. We're going to work our tails off. And we're going to go out and represent."

U.S. U19 men's coach Tim Flynn ended Saturday's live demo by saying, "We'll see you all in Finland."
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Other noteworthy notes/quotes...

  • Kelly, on Calvert Hall: "I'm real excited for the spring season. We should have a very good team. We've got a lot of returners coming back, a lot of Division-I kids. It should be a relatively senior-laden team, but we've got a lot of juniors too, so it should be a very experienced team. We're looking to bring home a championship after what happened last year against Gilman School (Md.)."
  • Kelly, on looking forward to Finland: "After the spring season I'll be focused on Finland. I can't even tell you how excited I am for that. Not only to play lacrosse, but to represent your country — that takes it to a whole different level. I think it's the biggest honor that you can have. To visit a place like Finland, that's probably a place I would never go to for vacation, but to go there for lacrosse will be awesome. It's kind of beyond belief right now, it's unreal."
  • Danseglio, on adjusting to college life and fall ball at Virginia: "I did well my first semester, grade wise, and I'm looking forward to the spring — As long as I work hard, hopefully I'll get some time on the field. Fall ball was a bit of an adjustment for me. I got hurt the first practice in the fall; I sprained my MCL. I took a couple weeks off, and I kind of saw what I have to do to be a good defenseman. Hopefully it pays off."
  • Danseglio, on looking forward to Finland: "A lot of players are going to be dead after spring season, but it's basically going to be another season starting right up for us. We're going to be there in Finland, and we're going to be ready for it. I can't wait."
  • Ottenbreit, on adjusting to college life and fall ball at Virginia: "It was kind of a culture shock. One day you get there, the next day your parents are gone. You're living by yourself, you do everything on your own — pick classes, go to class, go to practice. It's a culture shock. As far as the lacrosse aspect, you're the little fish again. You're not the big man on campus. But playing with guys like Steele Stanwick, it helps you everyday. The pace is definitely the biggest factor for me, coming in. The ball moves so much faster, people move so much faster. It just takes some getting used to. But it's been great meeting the guys, getting some chemistry before the spring.
  • Ottenbreit, on looking forward to Finland: "I'm definitely just focusing on college lacrosse right now, I can't look past it — maybe going back-to-back. It'll be awesome. Hopefully after a National Championship, though, will be a World Championship. Keep it rolling, get two rings."
  • Saturday's appearance for the U19 team was also a promotional and fundraising opportunity, with the players selling raffle tickets to help cover their trip to Finland. If you were unable to buy a raffle ticket on Saturday and you'd like to make a secure online gift to support the team's quest for another championship, please click here.
  • U.S. women's U19 coach Krystin Porcella, who led Team USA to its fourth straight FIL World Championship in 2011, demonstrated drills on the live field immediately after the U19 men's team departed Saturday afternoon.
  • U.S. women's senior team coach Ricky Fried, who guided Team USA to its fifth FIL World Cup championship in 2009, presented "The Ride" at the live field Sunday morning.

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