Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Haudenosaunee squad is getting closer to the perennial powerhouses of the United States and Canada at the world men’s field lacrosse championships.
The Haudenosaunee team took the bronze medal again at this year’ tourney, which concluded on July 1 in San Diego, Calif.
“We’re getting closer,” said Haudenosaunee star forward Austin Staats, who led all tournament scorers with 38 points, including a whopping 30 goals in eight games.
“This was our best performance ever in the worlds. We only lost by one against Canada and we only lost by two to the United States. We’re right there.”
The Haudenosaunee side was relegated to the bronze-medal contest this year when it was downed 12-7 by Canada in its semi-final battle. It rebounded to defeat Australia 11-6 to earn bronze.
The U.S. beat Canada 10-7 in the championship final.
Canada edged the Haudenosaunee entry 8-7 in its round-robin match. And the U.S. downed the Haudenosaunee side 9-7 in round-robin action.
This marked the third consecutive time the Haudenosaunee squad placed third at the event. It captured its first bronze at the 2014 championship held in Colorado. And it placed third as well at the 2018 tournament in Israel.
But the Haudenosaunee club will now have to wait four more years for its next opportunity to move up at the global tournament. The next world championship will be staged in 2027. The location still to be determined.
As for future events, Staats, a member of Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario, believes he knows what it will take for the Haudenosaunee to beat the U.S. and Canada.
“We’ve got to control the ball more and score on our opportunities,” he said.
And perhaps also have a bit of luck when it comes to tournament scheduling. Since the Haudenosaunee club was off during the first two days of play, it was forced to take to the field on four consecutive days for round-robin matches.
And then, because it compiled a 2-2 mark in those games, it had to play an extra playoff game. The U.S. and Canada, who had 4-0 and 3-1 round-robin records, earned opening-round playoff berths.
After its round-robin schedule, the Haudenosaunee was then forced to play three more games in three days, including its semi-final against Canada.
“You can’t do anything about it when you’re in the losing bracket,” Staats said.
While he was named as the top attackman at the series and also named to the tournament all-star squad, many were disappointed Staats was not chosen as the MVP of the event as well.
That distinction went to American Brendan O’Neill who had 19 points, half the amount Staats compiled.
“He scored five goals for his team in the gold-medal game,” Staats said. “You’ve got to give it to him. I was okay with that.”
Meanwhile, Haudenosaunee goalie Warren Hill said many valuable lessons were learned in San Diego that could help future teams.
“I think we just have to be smarter in the sense of some skill development,” he said. “It’s no secret that in the defence, and in the goalie position, I’ll even say it, it’s something that you’ve got to move up.
“We’ve got no issue putting the ball in the net, but definitely the back end is something we have to work on and that’s something that we learned.”
Hill, who is also from Six Nations of the Grand River, said his side did improve on its defensive systems compared to previous world events.
“We just have to work on from that and we have to take another step,” he said. “So I think we are going in the right direction.”
Hill also lamented the grueling schedule his side encountered in San Diego.
“Not to make excuses, but that definitely sucked,” he said. “It did play a factor in that (semi-final game). Not to say if we had a day off we would have beat Canada, but I’d like to think it would have been a lot closer game. But, who knows… It is tough to play seven games in seven nights without a rest.”
Should the Haudenosaunee club encounter a similar situation in the future, Hill said perhaps the team’s brass will have the players prepared.
“Moving forward we have to keep that in mind,” he said. “Maybe we get a little deeper. Maybe we take different routes in recovery-wise or with nutrition.”
Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.