Next Level Finishes Deal, Wins USL Regional
Next Level is headed to the US Lacrosse U15 National Championships after a dominating run through the US Lacrosse Northeast Regional at the University of Massachusetts.
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AMHERST, Mass. – This time, they finished
Last year, Next Level (R.I.) had a three-goal lead with less than seven minutes to play in the boys’ championship game at the US Lacrosse Northeast Championship, only to see it slip away. This year, they put the title on ice early with a dominating performance throughout the tournament, capped with an impressive 15-3 win over runner-up Beach Dogs (R.I.) Lacrosse in the final game.
“We played well and closed it out,” said coach Steve O’Donnell. “We are much more aggressive this year and challenge the ball.”
After finishing 3-0 in the round-robin with victories of 12-1, 20-1 and 10-3, Next Level dispatched Dudley Charlton (Mass.), 15-0, in the semifinal before turning its focus to the championship game. Three early goals by Britton Defeo and two more by Dylan O’Donnell helped Next Level build leads of 7-0 after one quarter and 9-1 at halftime.
Strong midfield play, led by Evan McGreen (2 goals) and William Messner (1 goal), allowed Next Level to continue to maintain control throughout the second half and removed any threat of a Beach Dogs comeback.
The chance to return to the USL National Championship, to be played July 21-23 in Aurora, Colo., while riding the momentum of the Northeast Championship was a strong motivator for Next Level.
“Our goal is to improve on our performance from last year, when we finished 2-2 at the nationals,” said Steve O’Donnell. “We want to compete the best that we can. I think we’re getting better.”
This year’s Next Level squad has only been together for two weeks, with just a few practices and one warm-up tournament under its belt prior to the US Lacrosse Northeast Championship weekend. O’Donnell says that the chance to have some more practice time and competition prior to heading to Colorado should bolster the team’s preparation.
“The kids and parents have bought in to the commitment for practices,” he said. “In the past, it’s been hard to get everybody to practices because of jobs and other commitments, but it’s a priority this year. We want to be prepared for Colorado.”
After finishing 1-2 in pool play and earning the third-seed for the championship bracket, Beach Dogs upset second-seed Plymouth Rock (Mass.) in the semifinal to earn the championship game nod. Trailing 6-4 at halftime, Beach Dogs held Plymouth scoreless in the second half to record the 8-6 victory. Two goals by Jake Glashow led the way for coach Nick Antol’s team in the semifinal.
“We did a good job of protecting the ball in that game,” Antol said.
Plymouth did rebound in the third-place game by defeating Dudley Charlton, 9-4. Declan Tierney scored three times and J.C. Ross added two goals to lead Plymouth.
In the girls’ division, a full Saturday schedule featured the completion of pool-play and the beginning of championship bracket games. By the end of the day, the seedings held true to form, with the top four seeds advancing into Sunday’s semifinals, set for 9 a.m.
Those match-ups will feature top-seeded Yellow Jackets 2018 Blue (N.Y.) against No. 4 seed BBL Elite 2018 (N.J.), and No. 2 seed Yellow Jackets 2017 Gold (N.Y.) against No. 3 seed Ultimate Elite (N.J.). Both Yellow Jacket teams as well as Ultimate Elite finished 3-0 in pool-play games. All four semifinalists posted decisive victories in their quarterfinal round games.
Semifinal winners will meet in the girls’ championship game at 11:30 a.m. Sunday.
In addition to championship player medals, US Lacrosse also awards a team sportsmanship award to one team in each division. The boys’ award recipient was Dudley Charlton (Mass.). The girls’ division winner will be announced Sunday.
All four U15 boys and girls semifinalists clinched invitations for the next month's US Lacrosse U15 National Championship.
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