January 4, 2016
The U.S. under-19 men's training team scrimmaged The Hill Academy (Ontario) this fall and faces their Canadian counterparts this weekend. (Kirk Irwin)
The U.S. under-19 men's training team scrimmaged The Hill Academy (Ontario) this fall and faces their Canadian counterparts this weekend. (Kirk Irwin)

Team USA Spring Premiere Preview: Keep Your Enemies Closer

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

The U.S. under-19 men's national training team got a taste of what facing Canada will feel like when it played a de facto rivalry game against The Hill Academy (Ontario) in mid-November in Columbus, Ohio.

In the Horseshoe at Ohio State, the home of Buckeyes and Team USA U19 head coach Nick Myers, the 30-man U.S. training roster faced 33 players from the Ontario-based private school led by all-world defenseman and Canadian Brodie Merrill.

Ten were in the 63-player Canadian U19 pool that would try out for its own 30-man roster over Thanksgiving weekend in the states.

That list included attackman Jeff Teat, who canned eight goals in a variety of ways and put a smile on the face of his future coach who was in attendance, Cornell's Matt Kerwick. The list also included faceoff man Justin Inacio, an Ohio State commit who won 20 of 30 draws and tilted possession time in the Hill's favor in the 16-11 win.

The underlying storyline was in Hill, the U.S. U19 training team faced a group that practiced together every day, some for several seasons, and played many fall dates against the likes of Cornell and Colgate. The U.S. 30-player roster had been brought together for two practices and played a game together for the first time.

"For our young men, it was a slice of humble pie," Myers said. "It's an understanding that we have a long way to go as a collective group."

He expects a fairer fight Jan. 10 when Team USA faces the Canadian U19 30-man roster at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., at Team USA Spring Premiere. Keep your friends, close but your enemies closer. Canada handed the U.S. U19 team its first-ever international loss in July 2012 in the preliminary rounds of the world championship, before the U.S. avenged the defeat in the gold medal game. The Canadians have owned the last two big gold-medal meetings of the lacrosse rivalry, winning the 2014 men's field title in Denver and, most shocking, the U19 women's title in Scotland last summer.

The U19 men's world championship begins July 7 in Coquitlam, British Columbia. St. Joseph's coach Taylor Wray, who led the Canadian U19ers in 2012, is the head coach again.

"I think what some of these Canadians will find when they try out in November is it's hard when you bring a group together for the first time," Myers said. "We're chipping away at it. January will be our next great opportunity. This will be something we can grow from. If the men respond the right way, it will be a great opportunity when we look back on it."

Indeed, Merrill acknowledged his Hill Academy squad had an advantage in advance of its meeting with the U.S. on the campus of Ohio State. Teat, in addition to scoring eight goals, dished three assists and had remarkable chemistry with Denver-commit Riley Curtis, who also found crafty ways to finish on the crease.

North Carolina freshman Timmy Kelly and Penn State commit Mac O'Keefe led the U.S. with three goals each.

"We had hoped our chemistry and some familiarity with each other would come through today," Merrill said. "We know who's getting the ball and who we're relying on. I've been on that side, even with Team Canada, where it takes some time to figure that out. That was a big factor."

But come the second weekend of January, there won't be room for excuses. Ultimately, 23 players will be named to final U19 rosters, per FIL rules, with the U.S. expected to announce its team in early spring.

Greg Gurenlian could take faceoffs against one of his protégés, Denver's Trevor Bapsite. (Scott McCall)

Clash of the Titans

The latest edition of the U.S. men's national training team will clash with defending NCAA champion Denver in the appetizer to the U19 main event on Jan. 10 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. But consider this meeting an extremely tasty loaded plate of nachos.

It's the first chance to see what the defending Division I men's champ looks like against some of the world's best players.

Team USA faceoff man Greg Gurenlian, the reigning Major League Lacrosse MVP and Faceoff Academy founder, could take draws against one of his prized students, Denver sophomore Trevor Baptiste. Baptiste won 68 percent of the faceoffs he took last season and 310 total, the NCAA record for a freshman.

How about MLL defensive player of the year Joe Fletcher potentially matching up against Denver attackman Connor Cannizzaro? Or Rob Pannell and Paul Rabil perhaps sharing the field for the first time since winning a title with the Lizards? That depends on if Rabil's foot heals up in time. He had surgery to repair a broken bone for the second time in two years right after the summer season. This time last year in Naples, Fla., he made his return at this event, formerly called Champions Challenge. 

Coach John Danowski will make his Team USA debut, hoping to get to work on teambuilding. "How can we create a sustainable culture of excellence?" he asked. 

It starts Jan. 10.

Katie Schwarzmann is one of eight members of the 2013 U.S. gold-medal winning squad on the current U.S. women's training team. (Scott McCall)

U.S. Women Face Florida, Syracuse

The U.S. women's training team continues preparations for the 2017 Women's World Cup in Guildford, England, by scrimmaging Syracuse and Florida on Jan. 9. Here's the U.S. team by the numbers:

8: Returning players from the 2013 U.S. gold-medal winning squad: all-world goalie Devon Wills, attacker Danielle Etrasco, midfielders Sarah Bullard, Ally Carey, Kelly Rabil, Katie Schwarzmann and defenders Kristen Carr and Jen Russell.

9: Current collegians on Team USA, including two-time reigning Tewaaraton winner Taylor Cummings (Maryland) and two-time finalist Kayla Treanor (Syracuse).

36: Members of the 2015-16 U.S. women's training team. Eighteen will ultimately be chosen to represent the U.S. for the 2017 World Cup, per FIL rules.

Be There

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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