With the thrilling medal/ranking games set for Saturday, the true grinders of the tournament set out to solidify their own place amongst the ranks of the European Lacrosse Championships on Day 9 – Friday. Why call them the grinders? Because these teams were still scrapping and fighting for every bit of success on the pitch, and had been doing so day in and day out. The EC16 was a grind in general, but these guys flew through with flying colors.
Photo Credit: Oskar Polak
Let’s be honest, teams like Israel, England, and Finland (our three medal winners) did not exactly have the toughest roads to their inevitable podium placements. Israel emerged from arguably the weakest pool, given their obvious talent on paper. England, although tested early by a physical Latvian squad (13-10 victory, the closest margin to date for them in the EC16), more or less breezed through the competition pool. And Finland was straight up dominant in their Pool of play.
I want to be clear that is NOT a knock on England, Israel, or Finland. All three worked for everything they earned. They were beyond impressive all week, and between the three of them, they only suffered two losses all tourney long! It’s just that this post is not about them. It’s about the guys who took some lumps, but kept coming back for more.
Friday was the day for teams like Switzerland, the Netherlands, Italy, the Czech Republic, and Hungary to cash in on all the time and effort invested to get to this point, and earn a big win!
Excuse any puns, they are terribly wonderful.
2016 European Championships – Day 9
Hungary for some more lacrosse: Saturday morning on field 1, Hungary teed off against Denmark in a match up many of us in the LAS crew were looking forward to. Up to this point I had been assisting in coaching the Hungarian team and knew the match up against Denmark would provide the squad with an accurate benchmark for the competition. The Danish, coached by two Aussie’s (Brad Smith and Adam Jorredestjorre “Frenchie”) and a Kiwi (Nick Ravenhall), also great friends to the LAS crew, were a well commanded squad. Disciplined in their fundamental approach to the game and inviting to a scrappy game, the team from Denmark posed all the necessary obstacles for Hungary, while rostering a similar talent level on the field.
The boy from Hungary came out on top, winning by a score of 9-7, and the end result did paint a fair picture of the match. The Danish fought tooth and nail to climb back into the game. A few mishandled “one-more” passes on man-up opportunities executed cleaner, and these boys would have been neck and neck heading into the final minutes of regulation. Hat’s off to both nations here, Hungary in their first real international competition and Denmark, in the midst of the resurgence of their national team, both nations fought hard and with honor on the field.
[fvplayer src=”https://youtube.com/watch?v=pX-mcPswByw” splash=”https://i.ytimg.com/vi/pX-mcPswByw/hqdefault.jpg” caption=”Hungary vs Denmark – EC16 Highlights”]
Better late than never: Italy vs France – Italy stepped foot on to the field Friday morning not having a win under their belt during the ELC. Matched up against France, a squad with only one win to their name against Slovenia, both teams were equally matched. Organic rosters on both sides of the field, the French and Italians faced-off in battle that proved to have a much greater impact on the game than I imagine anyone figured.
The selfless Italian investment to bring a primarily organic roster lead to a tough road through the European Championships, but a rewarding one never the less. Did they have any issues with it? Not one bit because they know what is at stake here. Why compromise the integrity of their national team to farm out other players just to get one or two more wins?
Fellow LAS writer Brian Witmer, qho coached in Tornio for 3 months and at the beginning of the Championships, caught up with Fabio Antonelly, the head of the Italian Lacrosse Federation, and Antonelly had this to say, “I would rather come here with this young Italian team, lose and consequently further grow the game organically within the nation, rather than stock up on one-generation removed Italians primarily living in North America just for some win’s that only look good on paper”. The Italian play on the field accurately portrayed where Italian lacrosse is in its development, something many of us wish more nations aim to do in the future.
The Italians won a high scoring bout in thrilling fashion, with a score of 13-12. After sending the game into overtime, Italy’s Federico Galperti, No. 33, netted the game winner against France giving his squad and nation their first win of the European Championships, embodying the phrase “better late than never”. Sooner or later you had the feeling that these boys were going to find victory and rightfully so on possibly their last day of competition, they did. Congrats Italy. Doing what you saw fit, I believe, paid off greater in the end than some other avenues may have.
With those teams securing a final game on championship Saturday at the ELC2016, the 5th, 7th, 9th, and 11th place games took place, cementing these teams spots amongst the European elite. Ireland met Norway in the 11th/12th place battle where the Irish found luck, coming out on top 10-7 against a tough Norway squad that surprised many at the championships. The Czech Republic lost to the physical Latvia team in tough battle 12-10 on field 1 following the Hungarian win.
As the night wound down, the Netherlands took on Scotland for the 7th/8th place spots. The Netherlands came out on top in an 11-8 game that saw a deflated Scotland team playing a Dutch squad out to make up for their earlier shortcomings. The final bout of the evening was for 5th/6th place between Germany and Switzerland. Germany, a team many thought deserved to be in the final four, had a tough road through the championships and found themselves up against a red hot Swiss team coming off of an upset victory the day prior against Scotland. Germany came out on top solidifying a well-deserved 5th place ranking for Deutschland.
With the majority of the teams cemented in the ranks of the 2016 European Lacrosse Championships, the following morning set the stage for the rest of the nations to find their podium spot, and for the highly anticipated championship matches between England and Israel for Gold/Silver and Finland vs Wales for bronze/4th place.