The Dutch National Team has landed in Denver and have set their sights on their first opponent, China. Under the leadership of Neal Powless, Ryan Demorest, Bill Bjorness and Jared Fotis, the Orange are ready to make a push and improve on the 8th position achieved at the last World Championships in 2010, a tournament where they went toe to toe with a Blue Division team and almost came out on top.
The Orange return a number of veterans from previous championships, rounding them out with young and fresh talent, including some players who have previously played on the Dutch U19 squad, such as Graham Rikhof. Coming back after an eight-year absence is Aaron Vanderhorst, who played with the Dutch in 2004 at the European Championships in the Czech Republic and at the 2006 World Championships in Canada.
The road to Denver has been long and arduous for the Dutch. There were rifts in the Nederlandse Lacrosse Bond (NLB), the Dutch Lacrosse Association following the 2012 European Championships.
With all that said, JJ Hietbrink, the President of National Teams has a ‘Bright Orange’ outlook, as he calls it, both for Denver and beyond.
All in all it’s going to be a high level tournament. ‘Oranje’ has most certainly progressed tremendously after 2010 [the team Hietbrink played on] and 2012: we’ll be up there for sure,” said Hietbrink in an interview. “This team proves to be very strong across the board. I’m not calling out anyone in particular since that will not do justice to the whole. Let’s just say that any back up of a starting player is just as good but with different characteristics.
Hietbrink, together with the NLB, are looking beyond Denver, following a mantra of “Destination Denver and Beyond,” learning from past mistakes and growing stronger.
We have changed course based on what we learned and have strongly and steadily started to formulate a vision for 2028, 100 years after lacrosse first touched mainland Europe at the Summer Olympics in Amsterdam,” said Hietbrink in an interview.
Destination Denver is the first step in a long process to kick things into gear in Dutch lacrosse, looking more than a decade into the future.
The 2028 vision revolves around breaking into the top tiers of world lacrosse and to raise the overall level of play, not just at tournaments, but in The Netherlands as well, and to make this level of play sustainable by molding young minds in to elite players.
To this end, the NLB founded the Development Camps, weekends where players are supervised by top-level coaches and taught skills that they can take back to their own teams.
The Development Programs are our means to get to 2028,” says Hietbrink.
We have been running training in the Netherlands with Dutch based coaches, alumni to the team and Americans living and working in the Netherlands for over a decade, who have been in close contact with our North American coaches. We are bringing some of those coaches here to open them up to the experience of such a grand tournament and bring that knowledge back home again. So we’re developing across the board to improve our game and grow the sport.”
The game is most certainly growing in Europe. After a tremendous growth spurt, Belgium (the neighbors of the Dutch) is making their debut at the world stage, which is reason for applause, says Hietbrink. Germany is a force to be reckoned with, as is England.The women’s game is showing tremendous growth as well, with a successful participation at the World Championships in Oshawa last year and scrimmages at home against the likes of Germany, England and Cornell University.
Rick van Niekerk (Amsterdam Lions)
Jesse Morssinkhof (Utrecht Domstad Devils)
Rick Emondts (Amsterdam Lions)
Ryan Phillips (SUNY Plattsburgh)
Hendrik de Ruiter (Muhlenberg College)
Lionel van Est (Groningen Gladiators)
Justin Maarschalkerweerd (Anne Arundel Community College)
Maxwell Wasscher (MSOE Raiders)
Jorik van Baal (Utrecht Domstad Devils)
Rick van Kruchten (Amsterdam Lions)
Jelle Eric de Vries (Amsterdam Lions)
James van de Veerdonk (SUNY Oneonta)
Graham Bergsma (BHC Lacrosse)
Graham Rikhof (Groningen Gladiators)
Rutger van Bennekum (Amsterdam Lions)
Hielke-Martijn de Vries (Amsterdam Lions)
Erwin Lijklema (Utrecht Domstad Devils)
Ingmar Klienbannink (Delft Barons)
Jelle Tuinhout (Tilburg Titans)
Adrian Shaproski (Amsterdam Lions)
Scott Janssen (New Westminster Warlocks)
Aaron Vanderhorst (Nanaimo Timbermen)
Kyle Hofstaedter (Saint Joseph’s University)