2016 European Championships: Day 3
Day 3 is in the bag and, yet again, the level of play has risen here at the 2016 European Championships. (Psst: In case you missed them, here’s Day 1 and Day 2!) The Game of the Day goes to Spain vs. Belgium for putting on a show that all the fans, including the LAS crew, will never forget. The action on the field alone provided highlight after highlight but the energy from the fans in the crowd brought the entire experience together.
Photos by Oskar Polak, Sniper Pix
This game had everything one could ask for as a spectator; physical, fundamental, and aggressive play producing beautiful goals countered by shut-down defensive performances. Belgium, the favorite to win, seemed to be playing in full form early on, taking a commanding 8-2 lead as the first half came to an end. Face-offs were in their favor combined with opportunistic play lead by Kyle Baker (6,3 on the day including a critical goal late in the contest) allowed Belgium to control the pace of the game.
On the other side of the ball, the Spanish offense seemed to neutralized by aggressive yet methodical Flemish defensive play. The rhythm of the game up to that point had been dictated by the Flemish, BUT the Spanish never lost their cool, keeping their eye on the task at hand.
With the second half underway, the rejuvenated Spanish slowly began to chip away at their deficit. It all started with the play at the “X”. Fernando Martinez Sierra (no. 25) for Spain made his necessary halftime adjustments and began to execute with flawless fundamental technique.
It was a pretty sight to see for those who can appreciate the finer details to the draw. And when Fernando needed a blow, his compatriot, Antonio Jose Gavira Perez stepped in and mucked-up the draws, neutralizing the Flemish specialist, and creating some critical possessions for his squad that allowing them to continuously climb back into the game.
In a game that saw one team go up 8-2 in the first half, having the Spanish climb back to match that first half spread winning the second half 8-2, led to an intense final few moments in regulation as Spain had a last minute lead, only to be neutralized by another Kyle Baker goal to end regulation, with the score knotted at 10. On the ensuing face-off, Spain “double-poled the draw” (tossing their SS wing down in the box and bringing up a base defenseman), but their reinforcements were not needed as Martinez Sierra won the draw to himself and Spain called timeout.
“WE’RE GOING TO OVERTIME”
Different than how overtime is played back in the states; international overtime is not golden goal but played similar to international soccer (futbol) in the form of two 4-minute overtime periods. If at the end of that time, a third period is played, golden goal style.
Spain drew first blood in OT going up 11-10 as time ran out in the first OT period. Belgium’s Baker assisted a pretty goal to even the score 11-11 about one minute into the period, making the final moments as exciting as we have seen all tournament.
The teams swapped possessions for about a minute and a half only until a scrum in front of the Spanish goal lead to a “squirrelly” goal scored by who else than Belgium’s Kyle Baker (9 points on the day) putting the Belgians up 12-11 with 1:28 left on the clock.
A valiant last minute effort by the Spanish defense lead to an uncharacteristic (de-twigging) turn-over of Baker, but the Belgium D locked down during the final moments, securing the win for the boys in red.
Spain = European Lacrosse Super Fans
Performance of the day hands down goes to the Spanish fans!
A head count reveled only about nine Spanish fans in attendance, but their energy, excitement and enthusiasm was that of a much larger crowd. There wasn’t a two-minute span throughout the entire game where these European fans weren’t aggressively cheering and chanting;
¡ESTE PARTIDO, LO VAMOS A GANAR!”
Their voices resonated through the air, exciting the players on the field who visibly responded to the crowd’s support as well as fellow spectators. The undeniable positive vibes even had the Swiss fans (patiently awaiting the delayed start of their game) on the side of the Spanish!
Squad rolling deep, the cheering section was electric, and one of the coolest experiences I have ever witnessed at a lacrosse game! I tip my cap to the Spanish for carrying their passion only previously witness at soccer matches, to the lacrosse field, and boy was it an unforgettable experience. Hats off to you, Spain.
Two European Lacrosse Studs
Honorary performances of the day goes to two players: Darrel Hunter (#30 Defenseman) for Spain and Josh Richardson (#23 Midfielder/F-O specialist). Hunter’s performance was something to be noted as he covered Belgium’s Kyle Baker the entire game. Although many would say Baker won the overall match-up, Hunter took it to Baker in the one-on-one action with his fundamentally sound and physical style of play.
It was very exciting to watch. Seeing the Belgians play a few times now at the European Championships, I think Hunter has played Baker the best out of any defenseman I have seen. That is saying a lot given Baker’s lacrosse pedigree.
Josh Richardson, Scotland’s young gun (only 17 years old), provided necessary spark the Scots needed. Finding themselves down 6-1 as their starting face-off specialist struggled against his Danish counterpart, Scottish head coach Brian Silcott gave his young buck Richardson the green light to work his magic.
Norway’s face off guy got banged up, and Josh Richardson went on to win the ensuing six consecutive draws, providing his team with the momentum to climb back into the game. The Scottish rallied behind their draw-man and there was no looking back. Scotland came out on top 12-10.
A little back story to Josh Richardson: Josh, the 17-year old stud, has only been playing the game for about 4-5 years. I had the privilege to sit down with this lad and learn a little more about his background and future aspirations, and I will say, this kid plays and carries himself well beyond his years. Josh’s younger brother was introduced to lacrosse through their local Lacrosse Development Office (LDO) one afternoon. After coming home and raving about this new exciting game he learned, Richardson accompanied his brother in the following weeks to practices, picked up a stick, and a hasn’t put it down since!
I see so much of myself in this young guy as he started off playing every position (aside from goalie) until finding his home in the midfield given his obvious athletic talents. During a practice leading up to a club game, the face-off position was up for grabs, and in proper fashion, Richardson stepped in, seeing this as opportunity to get more playing time, and discovered there was maybe something greater for the sport to offer him.
Four years later and this European lacrosse player has worked his way to becoming the “lead pony” for the Scottish U19 team who just competed out in Vancouver, BC , and eventually a roster spot on the Scottish Men’s National team as a back-up face-off specialist and a 2-3rd line midfielder. Some would consider this luck, but when you take a look at this kid’s story and spend time with him it’s clear LUCK had little to do with his success.
“Success is when preparation meets opportunity.”
Bryant University Head Coach Mike Pressler once told me this, and it’s true. Count it!
Josh Richardson embodies the above quote through-and-through. With aspirations to head over to the States and play collegiate lacrosse, I can assure you,Josh Richardson will have a place on a roster. I, for one, couldn’t be more excited to follow his journey.
Keep grinding Josh! Great things come to those who work hard, give back to their community, and grow the game!
Day 3 Results
Day 3 Photos
Photos by Oskar Polak, Sniper Pix