What better way to kick off the 2016 European Championships than with a refreshing thunder and lightning storm!?
As the St. Steven University quad filled with anxious athletes you could sense the excitement and anticipation in the air, and sadly it was not the only thing you could sense in the air. A storm was brewing…thunder hit and then a lightning show that would compete with some bush-league fireworks shows. The games were temporarily put on hold.
What was once a feeling of excitement and anticipation channeled toward the 2016 European Championships soon shifted to ping-pong tournaments and hacky-sac circles. According to some players, the atmosphere in the university lobby “felt like summer camp on a rainy day, just without the arts and crafts,” and I couldn’t have agreed more.
There was a sense of nervousness that “recess” was going to be cancelled for the day as some players struggled to hold in their built-up excitement. We’ve all been there: you get to summer camp and on the schedule you see you’re going to play your absolute favorite game/sport and then, out of nowhere, mother nature quickly reminds you who is in control. She has other plans.
With the classrooms converted to mini fields for man-up/man-down walk-through’s, teams continued to prepare for their games as the weather began calming down. Once the officials gave the “thumbs-up”, the boys hit the ground running!
Three hours later and the games were back on with a modified schedule moving the marquee games of England vs. Germany and Ireland vs. Scotland from the early afternoon to a 7:30 p.m. start at new venues. With the schedules fixed and the weather behind us, myself and the LAS crew set out to the satellite venue for a rain-delayed day full of lacrosse.
Finland vs. Slovakia opened up the 2016 European Championships at the University fields with a fairly one-sided competition in favor of the Fin’s (19-2). Meanwhile, at the satellite location, was Wales overpowered Austria coming out with a fairly easy win (16-3) and the Netherlands stuffed France, leveraging all their backed-up rain-delay frustration for a commanding win (21-1). Belgium looked solid against Sweden (14-4).
Kyle Baker, an attackman for Belgium, stood out playing like a man amongst boys. A grinder from behind the goal who never shies away from contact, Baker did it all going 2 and 1 on the day – quarterbacking the offense for all corners of the offensive half, leading the charge in groundball scraps, and scoring some of the prettiest goals of the day. #10 for the Belgian squad definitely got my vote for Performance of the Day!
With the afternoon games in the books plus a short half hour lightning delay, England, Germany, Scotland and Ireland arrived ready to get after it.
England, being the heavy favorite, was pinned to take it to the Germans, but after a somewhat slow start relative to the English boy’s standards, we had a game on our hands for the first half. The whistle blew starting the second half and the team England we all expected came to form, running away with the game 16-6. Germany, however, fought hard and held its own in typical German fashion, never giving up and refusing to surrender until the final whistle blew.
Metaphorically speaking, “you may beat them, but you are going to have to make them bleed if you plan to.” Getting the toughest game in the tournament out of their way early, things look promising for the German squad. They just need to move forward with some more physical offensive play, that scrappy face-off specialist, and an energetic defense/ sideline.
First and foremost, the Scottish have the best national anthem I’ve ever heard or experienced in person. With the whole team singing their anthem acapella, the boys belted out a powerful tune!
The Scott’s came out on top of what ended up being the closest game I observed all day. Ireland, flashy with their stick skills, came out on fire with two quick two goals and looked like they could take control of the game early. But the fundamentally sound Scottish team held in there, regrouped and stayed the course.
With the play at the “X” neutralized by two talented and scrappy draw-men, momentum was not a mental factor in this bout. Neither team had more than a two goal lead at any given time as they went back-and-forth vying for the lead. It all came down to a few fundamental plays made in some adverse and critical situations, and the Scottish squad came out on top with the 10-8 victory.
The one I missed and wished I could have seen was Hungary vs. Italy. From what I heard, it sounded like a great battle between the two evenly matched squads. George Rohanczy dominating at the face-off X.
It’s tricky having two locations separated by a ten-minute drive and a bus schedule running on the hour. Commuting back-and-forth from each venue was a bit difficult, and the adjusted rain schedule made it impossible to catch all the games.
But the beauty of it all is that this was only day one of the 2016 European Championships. The games – and our bearings – will only get better and better from here on out. Here’s hoping Mother Nature can match feet!
Day 1 Photos: 2016 European Championships
Photos by Oskar Polak, Sniper Pix
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