Editor’s note: Jeff Brunelle had the opportunity to attend Denver University’s Summer Team Lacrosse Camp last weekend with his high school team, Bishop Kelly, from Boise, ID. What follows is an open an honest account of his trip and the exceptional DU Lacrosse experience…
It was 3:30AM when I finally shut my computer down and started packing for Denver. Eyes only half open, I proceeded to fit as many GTG tees as I could in my bag and forget about most other things (who needs toothpaste anyway?). I needed to be at the airport by 10 to catch our 11AM flight.
Being “forced” to cut your work week short is never a bad thing – especially when you’re going to a place like Denver, Colorado to coach lacrosse – but needless to say, it’s difficult to shut things off when you’re running your own business. Hence the 3:30AM packing fiasco. In the end, it all worked out. I made our flight and so did Blake, our head coach, and the 20 or so high school players making the trip. Denver here we come!
THURSDAY – DU TEAM CAMP, DAY #1
Our high school boys, the Bishop Kelly Knights, entered the camp coming off an outstanding 2011 season. With a TVLL Championship and State Championship under our belts, going to Denver to play talent from across the country would be a great test… especially considering our personnel. We graduated 14 seniors this Spring, so our Denver team looked a little different than our Title team – just 9 had played Varsity in 2011.
We flew from Boise to Salt Lake to Denver, and we made it to the Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for the start of DU Team Camp just in the nick of time on Thursday afternoon. If it weren’t for the BK parents, getting there in time would not have been possible. Heck, the whole trip wouldn’t have been possible!!
Day #1 at DU Team Camp consisted of a 2-hour clinic put on by many of the college lacrosse coaches in attendance. The coaches spent this time getting to know some of the kids and passing on as much knowledge as they possibly could in a short period. During the remainder of the camp, these same college coaches would be on the sidelines of games keeping an eye out for top talent.
The clinic went off without a hitch. In fact, it had a highly organized feel. Impressive considering there were 500+ campers in one session! Coaches Trevor Tierney and Matt Brown were at the helm and would speak to all the campers at once to explain a drill, then they’d send them off in their groups to various stations setup across 6 different fields. After 10 or 15 minutes, it’d be time for a new drill, and Coach Tierney would call everyone in again. I liked this setup because it offered campers a chance to mingle a bit in addition to going up against unknown competition in drills. At team camps, there normally isn’t that type of opportunity.
Although it was just 2 hours, I know our guys got A LOT out of the first day of camp. For some, it was a great chance to get their lax-legs back under them after having football camp the week before. For others, it was just the confidence booster they needed going into a competitive round of tournament play. Our first game was set for Friday at Noon against KC Orange who, I might add, had the best looking kits at the camp.
More Day 1 photos:
FRIDAY – DU TEAM CAMP, DAY #2
Day 2 kicked off at a nice pace. Having the morning off provided a chance to slowly wake up, eat an omelet and some french toast from the AWESOME Embassy Suites breakfast bar, and get to know some of our players a little bit better.
We played KC Orange out of Kansas City first. They took a large lead in the first half, but we battled back and almost overtook them. Final score: 8-7.
Next, we played Eden Prairie out of Minnesota, this year’s State Runner-Up, and we lost 10-2. Well coached and impressive team chemistry, Eden Prairie was by far the best team in the Select Division.
Following our Eden Prairie game, we took on the Coyote Lacrosse club from the Greater Denver Area and won 14-4. It was good for the boys to end the day with a W.
With at least an hour or two between each of our games, I was able to change from my BK coaching attire to a GTG tee and get out and about throughout the day. In addition to taking hundreds of photos, I tried to pass out stickers to as many teams as I possibly could and delivered a chunk of tees to the DU Camp staff members.
The impressive West Coast talent at the camp was undeniable, and a few teams from the Elite Division stood above the rest. Seattle Starz, Wildcard Starz and Team Colorado come to mind immediately.
Here a few of my favorite Day 2 photos:
SATURDAY – DU TEAM CAMP, DAY #3
Day 3 started early with a game against Eagle Eye at 9AM. Eagle Eye was a local team made up of players from Heritage High School in Littleton, CO. It was slightly overcast out (the 90 degree weather hadn’t hit yet), and I could tell this would be a GREAT DAY OF LACROSSE! Eagle Eye was a fun team to play – they had some solid talent! – and we were able to pull of a 7-4 win.
Next came our game against True Green Illnois 2012, which resulted in a 8-3 loss. This team, coached by former Salisbury star Kylor Berkman, was made up entirely of to-be Seniors. It was a great experience for our young guys, and surprisingly we held with them in the 2nd half.
Following our games, we had a short break before the Camp All-Star Games started up. We were able to catch the Select Division game, which 3 of our players (Blake Batman, Andrew Kiehn, Andrew Spangler) had the opportunity to play in. The All-Star Game was a great showcase of camp talent. Each team had the perfect amount of players, allowing for plenty of playing time in front of college recruiters.
Again, I had the chance to take quite a few Day 3 photos. Here a few from the All-Star Game:
Day 3 ended at the fields and we headed off to the Denver Outlaws game at Invesco Field.. That in itself was an unreal experience, which I’ll have more on later. For now, I’ll just emphasize that fact that our players had a really great time.
SUNDAY – DU TEAM CAMP, DAY #4
Day 4… Tournament play AND our last day at camp! Where to begin?!
Saturday at the Outlaws game turned into a late night for me and most of our guys. Most teams stayed at the same hotel, and it was nearly impossible to get the guys in bed before midnight. But hey, it’s summer and this is supposed to be fun. No harm done! Still, we were able to get everyone out of bed by 7AM and out to the field for our 9AM game by 8:15. Plenty of time to stretch!
Up to this point, the camp had been a fantastic experience for our guys and it wasn’t about to stop. We didn’t expect what happened next, but we’re incredibly (maybe oddly) thankful our guys were allowed such a unique experience.
We had received our seeding on Saturday evening and found out we’d be playing the True Green Illonois 2012 team again. Blake and I both agreed this would be a good chance for our young players to rise to a challenge. Having lost 8-3 to this team the day before, our guys would get a chance to enter a game knowing they were the underdogs.
While we had gotten to the field early, our opposition did not show until roughly 10 minutes before the game. They arrived in style, walking through our warm-ups as if our players were invisible. As if that wasn’t enough, myself and our guys could not help but hear the choice words their coach delivered about our team to his players right before the first faceoff. It was a bizarre occasion – something you would not normally expect at a summer camp or tournament such as this, and an instance you cannot blame on anything but poor representation of a program.
Our guys came out firing, while playing smart and keeping T.O.P. on our side. After half, True Green made a run and tied it up 4-4 as the final buzzer sounded. While the opposing coach screamed for a Braveheart showdown, the officials (who did an outstanding job all weekend) stuck to their guns and instituted a 1-minute overtime.
After a bit of back and forth and an amazing clearing play by one of the True Green middies, one of our Senior attackmen, Patrick Luke, snuck past his man and put the biscuit in the basket. This game – err, more-so this tournament – had been Luke’s coming out party, and it had been fun to watch him take it all in stride. Quiet, humble, dangerous with the rock!
After our OT victory, we played OC Crush, a team made up of players from Foothill High School in CA. They shared the same colors as our team (Black & Gold) and their coaches were first-class gentlemen. You can always appreciate a stand-up coach, because their attitude directly reflects on the players. It was a good game, but we had no legs left and loss 5-2.
Finally, after that we played Eagle Eye again and won 6-4. This day had turned out to be a great showing for our young team, and we received 3rd Place (out of 10 teams) in the Select Division.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON DU TEAM CAMP
What an incredible experience for our guys. Need I say more?! I haven’t been to many Team Camps East of the Mississippi, but I will tell you this was the best one I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending. Trevor Tierney, Matt Brown, Dylan Sheridan and everyone else involved ran a
first-class BEST-IN-CLASS event. From the Thursday instruction to the awesome facility and organization of the tournament, their attention to detail and daily execution was both impeccable AND impressive.
I am thankful that our players had the opportunity to play at such a well-organized event in front of college coaches from all levels. It provided the perfect opportunity for many of our guys to showcase their talents – no matter which level they qualify for – and that is something our program can hang our hat on.
Coaches from the following collegiate lacrosse programs were in attendance all weekend:
Ohio State University
University of Denver
St Johns University
DIVISION II / DIVISION III / CLUB
Colorado State University
Grand Canyon University
San Diego State
Simon Fraser University
The teams in our Select Division were full of talent and many displayed the kind of sportsmanship and relaxed, yet equally competitive attitude you learn to appreciate during summer ball. It was a great time all around and well worth the trip!
A special thanks goes out to the DU Lacrosse staff for allowing me to have an LAS presence at the camp and providing such a fulfilling experience to the young men in our lacrosse program.