May 21, 2011

Iroquois Nationals Triumph in Return to International Lacrosse

by Neil Stevens

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- The Iroquois Nationals made an emphatic return to international lacrosse by defeating Ireland 23-3 in the opening world indoor championship game Saturday.

''It was a big moment for us,'' said head coach Duane Jacobs. ''To get here without any problems, it was a big relief when we got off the plane.

''As for the game, we were a little bit rusty but we played pretty well in stretches. We'll be trying to get better game by game to prepare for the bigger games down the road.''

Canada, winner of the previous world indoor tournaments in 2003 and 2007, plays its opener against Slovakia on Sunday.

Attempts by players to use First Nations passports to go to the world field tournament last July in England fell through, resulting in the absence of an Iroquois entry. No such problems were encountered this time.

Stu Hill scored five goals, Dean Hill and Cody Jamieson got four each, Jeff Shattler fired in three and Roger Vyse and Andy Secore struck for two each in the lopsided win.

''It's great for Team Iroquois to be represented here with our passports,'' said Shattler. ''That's a huge movement for lacrosse and for our nation.

''Getting over the border with our passports is really big. It's nice to be here. It's a blast to be out there on the floor. Who would have thought we'd be in Prague playing lacrosse? Travelling with these guys is an awesome experience.''

Shattler was MVP of the National Lacrosse League with the Calgary Roughnecks this year and can have a significant impact on his team's fortunes.

''He's a good ball player in all areas of the floor,'' said Jacobs. ''He will play a big part for us. We don't have the depth we would have liked to have had coming here but we still think we'll be able to compete for the gold.''

Vyse also talked about gold. The team lost in the final in overtime to Canada four years ago in Halifax.

''We're trying to get ready for the bigger games,'' Vyse said after defeating Ireland. ''We want to get back to the gold medal game.

''Whatever happened last time is in the past but we definitely want to take home the gold.''

The offense is stacked with talent.

''We move the ball around a lot and use everybody out there,'' said Vyse. ''Everybody can finish. It's a good chemistry we've got.''

Shattler never expected to be playing box lacrosse in eastern Europe.

''The sport is expanding so much,'' he said. ''Now they've got a new American box league opening up, which is another big step for lacrosse. It's awesome. The game keeps growing. I see Czech guys throwing the ball around here today. They look like legit lacrosse players. That's a great thing, for European teams to pick up our game. We love to see it. To travel and play the game we love, it's a great experience.''

Brian Gillis of Vancouver scored two goals for Ireland, which was down 8-0 before getting a goal late in the opening quarter. It was 15-2 for the Iroquois at halftime.

''They're a really good team,'' said Gillis. ''In '07 they were second-best in the world. We're getting better. We'll keep growing from here.''

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