After starting the tournament 0-3, Ireland was hungry for a win, and we knew that our last 2 games would make a big difference in our chances to make it to the medal round. Â Fortunately, as members of the highest ‘Blue’ division, we would essentially be playing down from the top while the teams in the other divisions were playing to earn their way up in the standings.
But it wasn’t going to make our task easier. Â We still had to take down Sweden. Â We came out hard, matched their typically smart play with that of our own, and finally met our goal of winning each quarter of play. Â We secured our first win 12-5, and I started to see a lot more time that game, playing about half the game on defense. Â The deciding goal of the game came early in the second half. Â Having shut off Sweden’s outlet passes on the clear, we forced their goalie to carry the ball to midfield. Â My attackman cut hard across the field, with me trailing closely behind. Â The goalie made an ill-fated pass, I checked down on the stick, and the ball squirted through toward our goal. Â Defensive teammate J.T. Prior cleaned up the groundball & launched a 70-yard shot that bounced right into Sweden’s goal. Â (Can I get an assist for that? Â No? Â Oh well.)
The next day brought the always- challenging Finland squad. Â Lacrosse is about as new to Finland as it is to Ireland, and the Finns have made great developments in their game every single year. Â We came in with a solid game plan, and good match ups planned. Â I was started on defense, against their usual dodger and set-up man, a tall guy with a respectable roll dodge once he drove from behind. Â Early on, I was able to run with him and prevent any good scoring opportunities, but as the game went on, his longer legs started to give him that LITTLE bit of an edge in rolling the crease. Â Although we won the first quarter, I got beat on a straightforward 1-on-1 for a goal and we went into halftime tied at 1 goal each.
In the second half, I turned the dodger over to one of my younger, taller teammates and took up the role of crease defense. Â From there, I was able to use my goaltender upbringing to help direct traffic & make sure that the defense was working to support each other as a unit. Â After a very quick Finland goal to start the quarter, things really clicked for Ireland’s offense as they surged for 4 goals before Finland responded at the end of the quarter. Â Things then started to click for Finland in the 4th quarter as they put in another 3 goals. Â Ireland answered. Â Then Finland scored with less than a minute-and-a-half left in the game. Â Ireland’s offense kept its composure, however, and worked hard to secure the tying goal with 2 seconds remaining.
2 overtime periods followed, with both teams getting solid, long possessions, but no goals. Â The fatigue was showing on both teams, but somehow more on Finland than ourselves. Sudden-death overtime followed, and the back-and-forth became more furious. Â With a field of exhausted midfielders, long down-field clearing passes went back and forth as the ball turned over: for Finland, out of exhaustion and for Ireland, trying to capitalize on Finland’s fatigue. Â Finally, a long outlet from our defense found the mark with an open attackman who fed it on to cutting attackman Matt Walsh for a solid dip-and-dunk goal. Â Game over and momentum firmly turned for Ireland Lacrosse.