Photo Credit: Ondrej Mika
On Saturday, April 5th, the Czech Republic National Lacrosse team played its first exhibition game of the spring as part of its continuing preparatory activities during the lead-up to this summer’s FIL World Championships, which will be hosted by US Lacrosse in Denver.
The matchup with Austria provided the first big opportunity to evaluate the performance of the team since the addition of new head-coach, Bill Kaden, who has brought an American styled approach with him to Prague. Joining Kaden on the sidelines were bench coach, Artjom Merjasch, long-term Czech player and coach, Petr Tahal, and general manager, Pavel Semerák.
Plagued by pre-game injuries to several key members, the provisional squad started the game with only 17 players in uniform and a wide range of international-level playing experience on the field. Despite the setbacks and some early game jitters, the home team appeared ready to play and quickly built up a 4-0 lead through the first quarter. In the second quarter, the game picked up right where it left off to result in a halftime score of 7-1 in favor of the home team.
Entering the third quarter with the score somewhat lopsided, the game appeared to be safely in hand for the Czech Republic, but a second half malaise, combined with a renewed sense of urgency from the Austrian side, would prove to jeopardize things, if only slightly, as the away team was able to narrow the gap to five goals (8-3) by the end of the period, within which the host team often looked disoriented, lazy, and disorganized.
During the final quarter, the hosts managed to calm the storm a bit, but still showed clear signs of fatigue late in the game, which ended in a 12-4 victory.
Following the game, coach Kaden expressed some degree of satisfaction about the result of the contest, but noted that much work remains needed for the team to come anywhere close to achieving its goals this summer at Denver. Despite this, Kaden went on to state that he did not believe that his team has even begun to approach its full potential and thanked the Austrian side for providing a great opportunity for mutual self-evaluation this early in the year.
Moving forward, the team plans to use the lessons learned from this game to address tactical shortcomings, while also factoring some of the individual performances into the very difficult roster decisions that will need to be made between now and July, as they slim down to their final 23-man roster.
Parallel to the team’s on-field development, much of the behind-the-scenes, logistical and fundraising work has steadily advanced thanks to the team’s GM (Semerák), Denver-based liaison (and past Czech Republic coach) Karl Wimer, and North American-based assistant coach Will Mraz. Despite having a rich history with the sport of lacrosse, raising the resources needed to equip and transport this year’s team to the world games remains a daunting challenge, forcing many of the team’s crop of talented young players into very difficult financial decisions.
In an effort to potentially defray some of the costs associated with participation, the team has setup a fundraising website and would greatly appreciate any support that you may be able to provide.
In addition, the team had a booth available for donations and the sale of a limited number of commemorative t-shirts at the Aleš Hřebeský Memorial tournament, the biggest box-lacrosse tournament in Europe, which took place in Radotín from April 23rd to 26th.