U.S. U19 Team Prevails on Coach Flynn's Home Turf
MOUNTAIN LAKES, N.J. – It was coach Tim Flynn's homecoming, but Zach Oliveri stole the show.
In the U.S. under-19 men's national team's final exhibition before it leaves for Finland next week, it defeated a group of New Jersey all-stars, 9-4, in a weather-shortened, three-quarter game on the home turf of Mountain Lakes High in northern New Jersey, where Team USA head coach Tim Flynn has accumulated many of his state-record 552 victories.
|U.S. under-19 goaltender Zach
Oliveri makes one of his eight first-half saves in a 9-4
weather-shortened win over a group of New Jersey all-stars at
Mountain Lakes High, the home turf of USA coach Tim
© Jim O'Connor
Oliveri, the U.S.'s starting goaltender, appeared locked in early, making six first-quarter stops to help Team USA set the tone for a good start, something it focused on coming off a 15-14 overtime loss to a group of Philadelphia all-stars a week earlier.
The UMass rising redshirt freshman finished with eight saves in the first half before being replaced by Kyle Turri (Duke), who played the game's final 20 minutes before action was called with thunderstorms in the area and dark skies overhead on a hot Sunday afternoon.
Oliveri took one shot off his leg and made several other point-blank stops with scorers on the doorstep. Meanwhile, the U.S. offense put its chances away – Matt Kavanagh (Notre Dame), Steve Pontrello (Notre Carolina), Kyle Keenan (Duke) and Joey Leonard (Towson) each scored first-quarter goals – to create a 4-0 lead and a cushion that proved to be enough despite a lukewarm day for Team USA at the faceoff X.
The U.S. led 7-1 at halftime after second-quarter goals from Kavanagh, Daniel Eipp (Harvard), and Connor Buczek (Cornell). Kavanagh, who has established himself quickly amongst the group as an effective finisher, tallied three goals.
Colin McLinden (Fairfield) put in New Jersey's first goal with 11:30 left in the second quarter as the U.S. showed off an equal parts physical and composed brand of defense in front of Oliveri.
"We learned from that [Philadelphia loss] really quick," Oliveri said. "We had to come out right away. Even though it was hot out, we tried to focus and hit the ground running right away."
Of his own performance, Oliveri said, somewhat surprisingly: "In the beginning, the heat got to me a little bit. I wasn't really focusing on the ball, I couldn't really see it at first, but then when I got one off my leg and off my chest, I was in the zone. I locked in on it. The defense did a great job creating easy shots, so I just tried to focus on the ball."
Flynn, the only boys coach in Mountain Lakes history (he started coaching in 1979), praised Oliveri to local reporters after the game.
Flynn also choked up when Lacrosse Magazine asked about what the turnout Sunday (a packed crowd) and Saturday (120 youth players attended a U.S.-run clinic) meant to him, coupled with the fact he coached the exhibition game against several former Mountain Lakes Lakers, including current Virginia defenseman Scott McWilliams, and fellow New Jersey coaches Jim Davidson (Summit) and Matt Kovachick (Delbarton).
"It's what I expect of Jersey lacrosse," Flynn said after pausing a few seconds. "It really means a lot. There's so many great people in Jersey. They all came out to support. It means a lot to me."
There was certainly a hometown flavor to the event. Flynn's wife sat in the window of the press box and, after an early-game chant of "Go USA!" she said, "I gotta get used to that because Lakers is going to come right out of my mouth." Flynn knew exactly where to direct players around the facilities at the high school.
Team USA's Pontrello, face-off guy Tyler Barbarich (Delaware) and defenseman Ralph D'Agostino (Syracuse) all played in their home state, and the New Jersey all-star team had four Mountain Lakes players on the roster.
For New Jersey, Penn's left-handed rising junior goalie Brian Feeney made five first-half saves. Danny Feeney and Brendan Newman combined to win 8 of 13 faceoffs unofficially against a combination of Barbarich, Charlie Raffa (Maryland) and Stephen Kelly.
"It was fun to play against my old coach and get a bunch of the guys back together," said McWilliams, a rising junior who started 16 games for Virginia last spring. "I was glad we could give them a good game before they head over for the world championships. I'm a little disappointed we didn't get to finish the game, but it was fun. They got a bunch of guys who can run the field. They're going to be great in the world championships. They have a bunch of offensive power and a solid defense. Their goalie in the first half was lights out."
New Jersey scored consecutive goals in the third quarter to cut the lead to 8-4 before Team USA's Eipp tacked on his second and what ended up being the final goal of the day with 2:09 left in the third quarter.
"Everybody was mad after the loss [last week]," said Barbarich, who played high school ball at Bridgewater-Raritan, about a 40-minute drive south from where Sunday's game was held.
"Nothing changed except that we played the entire game, even though it was three quarters," he said. "We finished the game, instead of playing only the second half. We put it away earlier, to the point where they couldn't come back. This week was pretty much that we didn't want to lose again."
From here, the team heads to Bryant University in Rhode Island for a final team training camp July 6-9 before flying out of New York to Helsinki, Finland, next Monday. The FIL World Championships run July 12-21 in Turku.
In a sense, the U19ers will be going from one Flynn-land to another in just over a week.
U.S. Under-19 Men's National Team 9, New Jersey All-Stars 4
International rules exhibition at Mountain Lakes,
*Weather-shortened three quarters
USA 4 3 2 - 9
NJ 0 2 2 - 4
Goals: USA – Kavanagh 3, Eipp 2, Tucker 1, Keenan 1, Leonard 1, Buczek 1; NJ – Scioscia 1, McLinden 1, Kennedy 1, Cernuto 1
Assists: USA – Pontrello 2, Florence 1, Keenan 1, Buczek 1; NJ – Cuccinello 1
Saves: USA – Oliveri 8, Turri 1; NJ – Feeney 5, Avallone 2