April 2, 2010

Men's International Lacrosse History

 

Current Team USA member Ryan McClay earned all-world honors in helping the U.S. win the 2002 world championship.

© Bill Welch

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International competition has been a tradition in the sport of lacrosse since 1860, when the Montreal Lacrosse Club competed against a team of Caughnawaga and St. Regis Native Americans before the 19-year-old Prince of Wales, who went on to become King Edward VII.

Lacrosse was an Olympic exhibition sport at the 1904 Games in St. Louis, the 1908 Games in London, the 1928 Games in Amsterdam, the 1932 Games in Los Angeles and the 1948 Games in London. In 1984, an international exhibition series was held in conjunction with the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

The quadrennial men’s world lacrosse championship finds its roots in a 1967 international tournament in Toronto that was staged as part of Canada’s centennial celebration. The Mount Washington Lacrosse Club from Baltimore represented the United States in the four-team invitational and won the event. Following that event, the International Lacrosse Federation was formed in 1974 and hosted the first formal men’s world championship in 1974. Led by Jack Thomas, the United States poured in 70 goals in three games to win the championship with its closest competition coming against host Australia — a 20-14 victory.

The 1978 ILF World Championship in Manchester, England featured the biggest upset in the event’s history. The U.S. dominated Canada 28-4 in roundrobin play, but in the championship match Canada stunned the U.S. 17-16 in overtime. Stan Cockerton, who had played collegiate lacrosse in the U.S. at North Carolina State, had six goals and three assists to lead the Canadians to the improbable victory. It marks the only loss for the U.S. in the ILF championship.

The ILF event came to the United States for the first time in 1982 and the U.S. recaptured the championship trophy with a 22-14 victory over Australia. Vinnie Sombrotto, who would eventually play on four U.S. teams, was one of six U.S. players named to the inaugural All-World team.

Canada served as host of the 1986 ILF championship and advanced to the final game before falling to the U.S. 18-9 for the title. Three-time U.S. team goalie Larry Quinn led a contingent of five U.S. players on the All-World team.

The 1990 ILF championship in Perth, Australia saw the first expansion of the event since its inception with the addition of the Iroquois Nationals to the field. The U.S. team came out on top with a 19-15 victory over Canada for the title while Dave Pietramala became the first U.S. team player to be named MVP of the event since Jack Thomas in 1974.

Japan joined the field for the 1994 championship in Manchester, England as the U.S. dominated the competition, including a 21-7 victory over Australia in the championship. Mark Millon set a U.S. team record with 41 points in the championship and the U.S. defense, anchored by future National Lacrosse Hall of Fame members John DeTommaso, Sal LoCascio and Pietramala, limited its seven opponents to just 44 goals.

The 1998 championship returned to Baltimore with a record 11 nations competing. In a game referred to by some as the best game ever played, Canada rallied from an 11-1 deficit in the third quarter to force overtime before the U.S. eventually won, 15-14, before 10,793 fans at Homewood Field. LoCascio made a record 32 saves for the U.S., including five in the overtime period.

The U.S. entered the 2002 championship (14 nations competing) in the rare role of underdog. With so many of the nation’s top players choosing to play in the newly-formed Major League Lacrosse, the U.S. roster was a collection of primarily college players or recent college graduates. Darren Lowe, the lone returning player from the 1998 U.S. team, provided leadership and a team-high 30 points while Doug Shanahan earned MVP honors following a four-goal performance in an 18-15 victory over Canada for the title.

Canada ended the U.S. stranglehold in 2006, winning on its home soil by a 15-10 score. Twenty-one nations competed in the event and the U.S. was undefeated heading into the championhip game by virtue of a wild 13-12 victory over Canada in round-robin play. Canada won 20 of 28 faceoffs in the championship game to help wrap up the victory. Jay Jalbert was named the outstanding midfielder at the championships and was joined on the all-world team by Michael Powell and John Gagliardi.


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