Next year, Look out Canada.
That’s the collective feeling of USBoxla intermediate-aged players and coaching staff following their recent week-long indoor box lacrosse swing through the Lower Mainland.
The American box lacrosse all-star team was very competitive in all five games it played against their Canadian hosts, including three of the top-four intermediate A teams in the province – New Westminster, Coquitlam and league-leading Port Coquitlam.
USBoxla, which was shut out following a similar road trip to the West Coast last year, opened with an 11-10 win over Burnaby on July 2.
Although the squad dropped its next four outings, only one game at historic Queen’s Park Arena was a five-point spread. All the other outcomes were decided by three goals or less, with the last two matchups too close for comfort for the Mainland hosts.
PoCo squeaked by the stars and stripes 9-8 on July 7 and Coquitlam eked out a 11-9 win the following day at the Poirier Leisure Centre.
“I wished we could have practised more together,” said Chad Kreuzer, an 18-year-old runner from Westminster, Colorado, just outside of Denver, who had two goals for the Americans in the final game. “We just came up and competed. We came together as a family and it’s sad to leave.”
The American U.S. box dream is the brainchild of a number of transplanted Canadians, notably Whitby, Ont. native and head coach Shaydon Santos and Matt Brown of Burnaby, who most recently helped coach the University of Denver to a NCAA Division I national field lacrosse championship title.
Brown was also an assistant coach for Canada to the gold medal at the World field lacrosse championships last year.
To date, USBoxla has affiliates in 13 states, including strong feeder programs in New York, California and Colorado, with more than 5,000 players currently adjusting their field skills to the indoor game.
“There’s just nothing like it down there,” said Santos following the team’s final game in Coquitlam last week. “It’s tough to prepare for the intensity up here.”
But USBoxla gave a favourable account of itself in its final outing, coming back from a 6-3 deficit after the opening period and giving the intermediate Adanacs all they could handle through the next two periods.
The U.S. team got the score to within one goal on three separate occasions in the final period before Matthew McIlwrick put the game away with his second of the night in the final minutes.
The USBoxla program is making history and in no way views the team’s overall record as a negative, said Santos.
“It’s not just exhibition game, they’re a part of this history and it’s a cool thing,” Santos said, adding Brown and all the rest of the players involved in building box lacrosse in the States want to continue giving back to the game.
And that day is not long away.
Prior to the intermediate visit, Santos and Brown took their minor teams to a tournament in Whistler, with USBoxla winning the gold medal in the bantam A division in an all-Colorado final against Denver. The group’s bantam B team also finished with a sparkling 4-1 record.
“That’s are strength,” added Kreuzer, who will enter Furman University as a freshman this season in NCAA Division I field lacrosse. “We’re a big, strong and athletic team. We have stick skills. We just need more practice and I think we can put a hurt on these guys.
“It starts with Shaydon and it’s starting to catch on.”