September 3, 2013

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Richie Meade Q&A: Team USA Tryout Debrief, Positional Breakdown

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

* Team USA Selects 52-Man Training Roster for 2014
* Rapid Reaction: Tryout Survivors

Team USA head coach Richie Meade said Team USA tryouts "was the best example of leadership, competition and class that I've ever seen in my 40 something years of lacrosse."
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Ninety-four players gathered for three days worth of tryouts at Goucher College in Baltimore over Labor Day weekend, and Team USA head coach Richie Meade said he was impressed with each and every one of the participants. But alas, cuts needed to be made, down from 98 to 52, the amount of players the coaching staff felt comfortable with going forward as it seeks to name a 23-man team that will compete for gold at the 2014 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championships next summer in Denver.

LaxMagazine.com caught up with Meade on Tuesday to talk about the tryout process and the position groups that the coaching staff selected.

How did the tryout weekend go from your perspective?

I mean this sincerely, I've been involved in lacrosse for over 40 years and it was emotional for me to watch this, from the opening meeting to the closing meeting. I wish every young lacrosse player in the country would have been able to see not only the level of play, but the leadership and the camaraderie and the competition. It was phenomenal. One of the things that's difficult is we're never going be able to recreate what happened this weekend. It was some of the best lacrosse I've ever seen, but it was the best example of leadership, competition and class that I've ever seen in my 40 something years of lacrosse.

And not only from the players' standpoint. The support staff, Billy Rebman, Adam Silva, Bill Dawson, the guys on our staff and the US Lacrosse staff, the coaches. Shawn Nadelen, Ryan Curtis, Trevor Tierney and Doc [Brian Dougherty] did a great job of coaching the teams. Everything was really professional. Skip Lichtfuss [evaluator] did a great job. John Espey ran the whole thing. To answer your question, I couldn't have been prouder or more pleased with the way it went.

When got into the room at the end, one of the comments was, 'Nobody out here didn't deserve to be out here.' I told the kids that. I felt like all the kids that were on the field, everyone accounted well of themselves.

It took everybody a night, that first Friday night, to warm up. Really the games on Saturday, the afternoon game on Saturday and the morning session on Sunday, we had sent messages down to the guys, telling them that they had to pick up the pace, or certain guys had to do certain things. That's the way we communicated to them, through their team coaches. We also changed the way we played defense a little bit after Friday night.

I can't think of one guy that didn't play well. Some guys played better than others, but the effort level was very impressive to me.

Let's go through the position groups.

Goalie

Drew Adams, John Galloway, Jesse Schwartzman, Kip Turner

When we were talking about it, Trevor Tierney basically said, 'Coach, you have the best four goalies in the world here. You can't go wrong.' The goalie competition was very fierce. Adams, Schwartzman, Galloway and Turner were all outstanding. Any one of them could be the guy, so that's going to be tough.

Faceoff

Chris Eck, Greg Gurenlian, Anthony Kelly, Mike Poppleton

Poppleton really had an outstanding last day, Gurenlian was consistent, Kelly was very good and Eck was right in there with those guys... We're going to have to continue to evaluate that position.

Short-Stick Defensive Midfield

Matt Abbott, Dan Burns, Kevin Drew, Stephen Peyser, Jeff Reynolds, Chris Schiller, Kevin Unterstein

Going into the tryouts this was the toughest group to pick, and in the tryouts, we felt like we needed to have, moving forward, we're going to have make some decisions and wanted to be better safe than sorry. We had some questions about a couple of younger guys that we were very impressed with that we wanted to be able to work with a little bit, and also some older guys that have some intangibles. That position is going to continue to be debated. This next level of training [this fall] is going to have to do with some more technical things and some more things that we're going to coach. We wanted the opportunity to work with some of these guys.

Defense/Long-Stick Midfield

Mitch Belisle, Jesse Bernhardt, Brendan Buckley, Tucker Durkin, Michael Evans, Joe Fletcher, Brian Karalunas, Dillon Roy, Brett Schmidt, Lee Zink and Brian Farrell, Kyle Hartzell, Kyle Sweeney, Michael Simon

If you look at the 14 defensive players that were picked, there's a lot of flexibility there. We can move those guys around a little bit. Some of the guys, you can probably figure out, but some of them also fulfill needs for our defensive skill set. You can see that there's a lot of flexibility moving up and down. All these guys are really good players. Some of them probably have different skill sets than some people thought we would be looking for, but we like the group. We really like the entire group. From that group, we're going find a great defensive unit to represent our country.

Midfield

Steven Brooks, Kevin Buchanan, Ned Crotty, Kyle Harrison, Ben Hunt, David Lawson, JoJo Marasco, Matt Mackrides, Paul Rabil, Max Seibald, Drew Snider, Jeremy Sieverts, Matt Striebel

Very hotly contested. I don't want to talk about individuals too much, but Matt Striebel is unbelievable. I would just note him as a guy that really impressed everybody. He's not there because he's a veteran guy. He got this because he earned it. I made it very clear to everybody, I wasn't going to give away putting that American flag on your shoulder [like Striebel did leading Team USA onto the field at last fall's "Duel in Denver"].

If you look at the group, there are a couple younger guys that got the opportunity. Everybody earned that opportunity. We did pass through a couple guys who were hurt, based on their body of work. I thought that was very appropriate.

Attack


"We're going to have to drill down a little bit longer into those specific skill sets and see who's the best one at what they do," Meade said of Team USA's attack pool.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Matt Danowski, Marcus Holman, Eric Law, Kevin Leveille, Brendan Mundorf, Rob Pannell, Garrett Thul, Steele Stanwick, Drew Westervelt, Ryan Young

We passed through a couple guys on their body of work and we just felt like there were a couple guys that we needed to see a little bit longer before we made a final decision. We included a couple guys, and if you look at that group, they're all pretty good. Really the attack group comes down to what you're looking for. There are other guys that could easily have been on there. We wanted to see some combinations, along with midfielders, to do some different things offensively. There are guys on the list that are similar and guys that are not similar. We're going to have to drill down a little bit longer into those specific skill sets and see who's the best one at what they do.

All these guys are great players. It's a different look. A guy like Ryan Boyle retires and some of the guys that were on the previous team. We're breaking into some new ground here. It's kind of exciting. All these guys played really well. Every one of them. Rob Pannell is a great player, Matt Danowski, Westervelt did a lot of very good things, Mundorf didn't play, Kevin Leveille, we were sliding from the crease the first night and he had a field day. The other guys, Law and Holman, Thul, Young, Steele Stanwick, were outstanding. Holman just brings so much energy when he plays that we felt we had to keep watching him. Young showed us enough to feel like we wanted to move him forward. Law is in the right place at the right time. On another weekend, he might have scored a lot more goals than he did.

What's the plan going forward with this group of 52?

We're going to take a little bit different approach. The first training weekend is a tournament [Play for Parkinson's in Alexandria, Va.], where we're going to get them in two teams. We're going to practice Friday night and play against college teams and then play against each other. The second weekend is going to be all practice. When you look at it, we're going to be practicing against the best players in the world to figure out who the best players on our team are going to be. This level is where we go beyond the evaluation process and into the training process, and try to figure out how we take this talent and put it into the way we want to play. There are guys with very strong skill sets and some that we hope we may be able to develop a little bit. That's what we have to see until the end of October. After that, we'll pick a group to go to Champion Challenge and that will be another training weekend: Friday, twice on Saturday and then on Sunday, these two teams will play each other. From that total evaluation, we'll pick the U.S. national team.

Are you planning on keeping 52 players in the mix until Champion Challenge?

We're trying to leave that open. We may decide, we need to keep seeing all of them and we may decide, you know what, we only need 40. I don't think we're going to keep 52 after the end of October, but I couldn't tell you exactly what that number is going to be.

Any final thoughts?

All those guys that didn't make it, they distinguished themselves in my opinion, not only as lacrosse players but as men. That means a lot to me. I know that they're disappointed. Guys are very, very competitive. We had a lot of eyes looking at this. I feel that the process was thorough and well vetted. Now we have to figure out who we're going to bring up to this team. The only other thing I would say about the process is we're purposely taking a little bit more of a methodical view of this, making sure that we're very deliberate as we move forward.


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