Ten Who Impressed at Team USA Scrimmage
|Kevin Leveille on Sunday showed
his interior scoring presence, something that lacked from Team USA
in its Duel in Denver loss to Canada.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com
BETHESDA, Md. — Richie Meade bounded back and forth, walking between his assistant coaches Dave Pietramala and Jeff Tambroni, who talked and took notes on the far sideline of Landon School's lacrosse field.
More than 100 players expressed interest in playing at Team USA's intrasquad scrimmage as part of the first-ever Capital Lacrosse Invitational on Sunday, from which 52 were selected to participate. So there were plenty of players to evaluate.
There were two teams, separated into Blue (coached by long-time men's national teamer and Towson's Shawn Nadelen) and White (coached by Team USA assistant Kevin Cassese) and they played for 120 minutes — or six 20-minute running clock quarters.
"All we're trying to do, as a staff, is find out who we want to see play," said Meade, foreshadowing the men's national team tryouts in 2013 for the 2014 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championships in Denver. "We gave the guys some parameters, but not too much. It was good to get up and down for that length of time. We ran out of gas a little bit at the end. But I'm very impressed with a lot of the players. But it was another step forward."
This group of 52 included both a group of new, young faces to Team USA and a slew of veterans who have been through the international battles. A cast of all-star caliber players could have been named from the players who weren't selected, but the focus Sunday was on the players who shined against some of the nation's best competition.
As Meade gathered the team near midfield following the scrimmage, he told them he was proud of their effort, especially dealing with less-than-ideal elements with temperatures dipping into the 40s, a brisk wind blowing and a light rain falling most of the late afternoon.
Meade made a point of saying the coaching staff had the full scrimmage on film, which they will review together. What will they see? Some nerves early, then offensive fireworks and impressive work off the ground, and a little sloppiness late. And as Meade said, "A lot that impressed us."
So who stood out to this humble observer?
10 Who Impressed
The Red Mamba's first time suiting up for the red, white and blue — which he has called a lifelong goal — went almost flawlessly. Pannell led all scorers with eight points (4 goals, 4 assists), and he didn't force anything to post those totals. One fan in the stands said, "The second half has been the Rob Pannell show." After scoring an early empty-net goal came while riding aggressively, Pannell's next three scores came in the fourth quarter — two left-handed worm-burners, and one on a trademark question-mark dodge from behind. He also sent a pretty pass to set up Matt Danowski on a two-man game at X. And to think, Pannell spent the prior three weeks traveling in Europe with former Cornell teammate JJ Gilbane, and he's still recovering from a foot injury suffered last spring. Wouldn't Pannell and Major League Lacrosse MVP Brendan Mundorf, who didn't play Sunday, form a formidable front line?
Pannell previously told LaxMagazine.com about his goal of playing for the men's national team: "I would love to play for Team USA. That's been one of my biggest goals since I was younger. I want to do everything I can to make that happen."
Team USA didn't quite show strong interior finishing ability at the Duel in Denver, but then again, the national team didn't have Leveille, one of this generation's smoothest operators in close quarters. Leveille scored all three of his goals in the second quarter Sunday, two of which were set up by Terry Kimener — one came on a sharp cut down the middle, and the other after a couple box fakes on a feed to the crease. Later, Leveille had at least two additional scoring chances that clanked iron, so he easily could have ended with five goals. Leveille's touch in tight, which he honed playing box lacrosse and ice hockey growing up, offers a skill set not many Americans can match.
It's nothing we haven't seen from Poillon before, but his goals of the highlight-reel variety always attract oohs and aahs. Poillon pulled off a vintage stop-and-go stutter move to create space, then ripped a bouncer for his first goal. His second score came on a hard dodge down the left alley, before he stepped underneath a defenseman at goal-line extended and dove across the crease for the tally. He competed the hat-trick with a low-to-high laser from 15 yards on the left side. Poillon turns heads with his flashy play-making ability, and he's always a threat to score out of the midfield.
If any fans started falling asleep in the fifth quarter with the scoring starting to slow, they were shocked out of their state with Sieverts' right-handed Howitzer to the top-left corner. It was the loudest goal of the afternoon for the MLL's Most Improved Player who only continues to make strides. Sieverts' early scores came on a quick-stick strike after a pass from Pannell, and a crafty split dodge to get his hands free while dodging down the left alley. Knowing the steps Sieverts has taken in the last year or two, where could he be come 2014?
Aside from MLL Defenseman of the Year Lee Zink, Evans impressed most among all defensemen at Team USA's Duel in Denver, and he followed it up with another strong performance Sunday. As Meade told LaxMagazine.com before the exhibition against Team Canada, "When you put a bunch of Canadians on the field, they just play different than we do." Defending the Canadians requires off-ball discipline, and Evans is always in the right spot. What's more, Evans got out in transition and put one away on a feed from Pannell. One fan joked with Evans: "Turns out you've been playing the wrong position this whole time." Evans is ultra-active and aggressive, almost to a fault, and his energy is infectious.
The MLL's Goalie of the Year, Adams made stop after stop Sunday on cold, rainy day when it was difficult to see the ball, much to the pleasure of the Penn State faithful whose tailgate overlooked the stadium. Adams' consistency in cage, combined with his commitment to playing the angles makes him a tough nut to crack. Arguably Adams' best save of the day came on Ryan Boyle's low-to-high sharp cheddar that he turned away, then corralled on the rebound in the air.
The big man never shies away from an opportunity to show off his athleticism, and such was the case Sunday, when he got out in transition and scored an over-the-shoulder, behind-the-back goal that made several in the stands look down at their programs or ask, "Who was THAT?" Farrell didn't play at the Duel in Denver, but he similarly scored in an unsettled situation at Champion Challenge. The Blue team's defense was difficult to penetrate with Farrell and...
Fellow rangy defenseman Karalunas, playing alongside Farrell, made life difficult for the White attack. Karalunas can run for days, and he put his stick-work on display Sunday, weaving in and out of double- and triple-teams after scooping the ball off the carpet. He's always on his attackman's hands, which also is an important trait for defending the Canadians, who keep their sticks well-protected. Karalunas isn't physically imposing, but don't let his size fool you.
The White attack struggled to get much going throughout the game, but the 6-on-6 opportunities it generated seemed to start with Stanwick, who's best trait is his ability to make everyone around him better. It was surprising that Stanwick didn't end with any assists in the unofficial box score, because the offense flowed through him when he was on the field, though undoubtedly there were some hockey set-ups mixed in. Stanwick, the king of unsettled situations, scored on a quick-stick strike in transition.
Cameron and his brother Roman were on different sides of the Blue-White scrimmage, but while we didn't get a chance to see their brotherly chemistry, Team USA assistant coach Kevin Cassese, the brothers' former coach at Lehigh, certainly knows how well the two can play together. Cassese later said the Lao Gosneys, who were his his first recruits at Lehigh, are "two of my favorite people in the world." And while Cassese said he remained an unbiased observer, the other staff members got to witness what Cassese did for the last four years. On Sunday, Cameron scored the game's first goal with a strong dodge down the left alley and a crank that connected just under the crossbar. He added another while shooting through traffic from the top-right side. Roman did strong work between the stripes.
Honorable Mention: Matt Russell, Greg Gurenlian, Matt Striebel, Terry Kimener, Tim Henderson
Unofficial Box Score
Rob Pannell 4, Kevin Leveille 3, Peet Poillon 3, Jeremy Sieverts 3, Matt Striebel 3, Cameron Lao-Gosney 2, Ben Hunt 2, Steele Stanwick 1, Pat Heim 1, Brad Ross 1, Brian Farrell 1, Jim Connolly 1, Ian Dingman 1, Ned Crotty 1, Matt Danowski 1, Justin Turri 1, Michael Evans 1, Mike Stone 1
Rob Pannell 4, Terry Kimener 2, Mike Stone 1, Bent Hunt 1, Brad Ross 1, Mike Skudin 1, Matt Danowski 1, Kevin Levielle 1, Peet Poillon 1, Pat Heim 1, Matt Striebel 1, Ned Crotty 1
Drew Adams 10, Matt Russell 9, Tyler Fiorito 9, Jesse Schwartzmann 6
|Team USA head coach Richie Meade,
left, with U.S. assistant coach Jeff Tambroni at Sunday's Capital
Lacrosse Classic in Bethesda, Md.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com
Unofficial Scoring Summary
1-0 Blue: Cameron Lao-Gosney unassisted.
2-0 Blue: Peet Poillon unassisted.
2-1 Blue: Pat Heim from Ben Hunt.
3-1 Blue: Peet Poillon unassisted.
4-1 Blue: Rob Pannell unassisted.
4-2 Blue: Kevin Leveille from Terry Kimener.
5-2 Blue: Jeremy Sieverts from Rob Pannell.
6-2 Blue: Cameron Lao-Gosney unassisted.
6-3 Blue: Kevin Leveille from Terry Kimener.
6-4 Blue: Brad Ross unassisted.
7-4 Blue: Jeremy Sieverts unassisted.
7-5 Blue: Kevin Leveille from Pat Heim.
8-5 Blue: Peet Poillon from Matt Striebel.
9-5 Blue: Brian Farrell from Mike Skudin.
9-6 Blue: Matt Striebel unassisted.
9-7 Blue: Jim Connolly unassisted.
10-7 Blue: Rob Pannell unassisted.
11-7 Blue: Justin Turri from Matt Danowski.
12-7 Blue: Matt Danowski from Rob Pannell.
13-7 Blue: Rob Pannell unassisted.
13-8 Blue: Ian Dingman unassisted.
14-8 Blue: Michael Evans from Rob Pannell.
15-8 Blue: Rob Pannell from Peet Poillon.
16-8 Blue: Mike Stone from Kevin Levielle.
17-8 Blue: Matt Striebel unassisted.
17-9 Blue: Steele Stanwick from Brad Ross.
18-9 Blue: Jeremy Sieverts from Ned Crotty.
19-9 Blue: Ben Hunt from Rob Pannell.
20-9 Blue: Ben Hunt from Mike Stone.
21-9 Blue: Ned Crotty unassisted.
22-9 Blue: Matt Striebel unassisted.