Five Things to Watch When Team USA Plays Denver
As part of Team USA Spring Premiere this weekend at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., the U.S. men's national team — under a new coaching staff led by Duke's John Danowski — will face the defending NCAA Division I men's champion and Lacrosse Magazine preseason No. 2 Denver — at 11 a.m. ET Sunday.
A matchup between the Canadian and American under-19 men's teams follows at 1:30 p.m. That comes after a Saturday in which the U.S. women's national team plays Florida and Syracuse. Here are five things to watch in Sunday's late morning game between Team USA and the Pioneers.
All games will be live streamed at uslacrosse.org/springpremiere.
Beast vs. Beast
It happens occasionally — a teacher faces a student in a game of some kind — but because the faceoff can be a mono a mono battle, and the protégé is one of the best in the country, too, the storyline of veteran Team USA faceoff man Greg Gurenlian facing Denver's Trevor Baptiste has some extra juice.
Gurenlian in 2015 became the first faceoff man to win Major League Lacrosse's MVP award. Baptiste led NCAA Division I in win percentage as a college freshman. You can't really conjure a better college-pro matchup. Throw in the fact Baptiste learned tricks of the trade from Gurenlian and his Faceoff Academy, and they share the same nickname Beast, and well, I just can't make this stuff up.
At the same time, it's got to be somewhat strange and awkward for them. Former Duke faceoff man Brendan Fowler is on the U.S. side for this one as well. It will be fun watching the percentages and the possession game.
Casey Keeps Going
Casey Powell just keeps on going.
The lacrosse legend turns 40 in February, but in speaking with him during production of Lacrosse Magazine's October guest editor issue, it became very clear that he could keep playing for quite some time.
"It's like medicine for me," he said, sitting in the passenger seat of the car, when I asked about MLL retirement.
Powell is the only American to be named both MLL and NLL MVP. The Florida resident could attract some home state fans to the IMG Academy in Bradenton. He's already got great chemistry with attack-mate Marcus Holman, from their time spent with the U.S. men's national indoor team this summer and fall.
Those that don't know who Brent Adams is should check out his Air Gait goal in last year's MLL All-Star game. The current Boston Cannons midfielder and former Fairfield Stag added a two-point goal in the second quarter and another goal in the fourth, taking full advantage of an opportunity that opened up with injuries to many other players ahead of the All-Star event. Sometimes all you need is a chance.
There's something to be said for welcoming the next generation, considering all eyes for the U.S. are way in the future in 2018, when the next Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) men's world championship will be played in England. Adams is 25 years old. Guys like Fowler, attackman Jordan Wolf, midfielder Tom Schreiber and defenseman Joe Fletcher are each entering their third MLL seasons. Long-stick midfielder Scott Ratliff, who had a breakout 2015, is heading into his fourth.
Speaking of Fletcher, the reigning MLL defensive player of the year, and Ratliff, an All-MLL pick last season, that "surprise" 2012 Loyola men's championship team looks even better every day. Fletcher was the lone collegian on the 30-man Team USA roster ahead of the 2014 FIL World Championship. Schreiber and Fowler were in the first round of tryouts.
There's a New Coaching Staff in Town
Who's bringing the bagels?
The new U.S. coaching staff has a distinct Long Island feel. Before taking the coaching job at Duke, John Danowski spent 21 years leading Hofstra, a tenure during which assistant Joe Amplo, now the head coach at Marquette, played and later served as an assistant coach under Danowski. Tierney is the current Hofstra coach. They all know Hempstead Turnpike and its area delis well. Tony Resch is a defensive-minded Philly guy who most recently served as head coach of the 2015 U.S. men's national indoor team. Has anyone ever tried a Cheesesteak on a bagel?
They are "three men who I know well and who know me well," Danowski said upon the announcement of the staff in December. "They all love and respect the game. We will hit the ground running in January."
The 24-man U.S. roster also includes six Duke graduates: Wolf, Fowler, Matt Danowski, Justin Turri and midfielders David Lawson and Ned Crotty, who were traded for each other in an MLL deal this fall. New York sent Crotty to Rochester in exchange for Lawson and a draft pick.
Connor Cannizzaro set Denver's single-season points record last year in his first season with the Pioneers. (Trevor Brown)
First Look at Denver
Sunday morning presents the first opportunity in 2016 for a look at reigning national champion Denver. NCAA tournament MVP Wes Berg is gone, but the Pioneers bring back several key starters, including the 2015 #BestOfLax Men's Breakthrough winner Baptiste, Tewaaraton Award candidates Connor Cannizzaro and Zach Miller and All-American defenseman Christian Burgdorf.
If Denver has one question mark, it is in goal. The Pioneers will have a new starter this year, after many seasons of Jamie Faus and Ryan LaPlante between the pipes. Freshman Alex Ready is projected as the starter for the spring. How he and the others in the running — four played in Denver's last event in the fall — fare against some of the world's best offensive players will be something to watch.
So will a potential matchup between Cannizzaro and Fletcher. Cannizzaro, in his first season at Denver after transferring from Maryland, set the Pioneers' single-season points record last year (90). Fletcher is known as an eraser.
Single-day tickets to Team USA Spring Premiere, held Jan. 9-10 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., are $8 and $15 for the entire weekend if purchased in advance. Discounted tickets for groups of 10 or more are also available. To purchase tickets, please visit www.uslacrosse.org/springpremiere.
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