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Danish Lacrosse – European Championships

The Danish Lacrosse national team members and staff met up at the Copenhagen Airport early on a Monday morning in July to fly to Budapest, Hungary. The team was in its usual state of chaos, which goes along with all things Danish Lacrosse, but our regular imbalance was heightened by a lack of sleep, and the excitement of things to come.

We managed to get through security and boarding without any major hitches on our way to the great unknown, our first official national team outing since 2010. Three of the guys with us had made the trip to the World Championships back in 2010. That means the other 16 guys (myself included), out of our 19 person party, were the rookies for this trip. We didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into, but that was no small part of the fun.

We landed in Budapest and were met by our team liaison, who promptly shuffled us towards a shuttle bus for the trip to Gödöllö. Once in Gödöllö, we met our two assistant coaches for the first time. Brad Smith and Adam ‘Frenchie’ Jorredestjorre are like chalk and cheese. One is tall and lanky and the other is squat and build like a brick out-house. One talks a lot and the other one only talks if he believes it is worth the effort to say something. I’ll let you figure out who is who. They had made the long trip from Western Australia (from the Bayswater Lacrosse Club) all the way to Hungary, just to help us out, and they fit in pretty well with our motley crew of Danish regulars.

Kattegat-Cup1

We had been in Hungary for approximately 2 hours, and yet we were already off for our first practice session, this time with team Poland. We trained with their people until half an hour after it was too dark to see the ball anymore, and then we called it a day. It was nice to see some of the Polish players again after meeting them a couple of years ago at Copenhagen Cup; they are a friendly bunch of guys who have an enthusiasm for the game that money can’t buy.

Then we were down to the mess hall for some grub and early to bed to get ready for our training with the Germans the next morning. That’s right. Another practice, with another team we would be competing against during the EC16 event. Lacrosse is different this way from other sports. The sense of community is almost instant.

We were up bright and early for the 10am start, and so was our new friend, the Sun. Hungary is a bit hotter than Denmark and our guys certainly felt it during our scrimmage with team Germany. Fortunately our fitness trainer, Linn, is also a nutritionist and had been prepared for this, making our whole team weigh in before and after playing so we could figure out how much we needed to rehydrate after each session. It turns out that was A LOT. It really was hot!

The scrimmage with the Germans didn’t last that long to be honest – our small 19 man squad suffered a couple of injuries pretty early and their 23 man squad were running us ragged. The plug was pulled at halftime to avoid any further injuries and to recover for the afternoon’s sessions against Latvia on a little goat paddock of a practice field (not one of the official surfaces for the tournament) where we met a team that really knows how to play. Did I mention it was also hot?

The Latvian team were really skilled, hit hard, and went after every opportunity on the field like possessed demons. As far as baptisms by fire go, playing Germany and Latvia on the same day as a warm up for our tournament was a pretty big one for our little team.

LouVsLatvia

We had a rest day on the Wednesday, the day before the tournament properly kicked off. We had free time to go into Budapest and look around the city before meeting up as a team for a meal in town and heading back for a good night’s sleep. Our first game as a national team since 2010 was about to happen. Now, how exactly am I supposed to sleep? Excitement levels were high.

Danish Lacrosse Game 1: Norway

We awoke in the morning and were met by the sound of thunder bolts and the visual of lightning of the very-very-frightening variety. Games were delayed and massive field changes ensued.

We miraculously got on the field at 18:15 only 15 minutes behind schedule. The organizers did an excellent job of dealing with the weather, but other than our rapid re-start, there weren’t too many other miracles for us that day.

MortenVsNorway

Norway came out of the blocks hard and put us under a lot of pressure. By the first change Norway had taken 24 shots, scoring 7 goals. On the other hand, we managed to score our first international goal since 2010, a fine little number by Evan Chaberski. Apart from our first goal in a long while there weren’t too many celebrations as we ended up on the wrong side of a 24 – 2 score line.

This game was quite meaningful to most people involved. Our coach, Nick Ravenhall, coached the Norwegians at the 2012 European Championships, along with our goalie Kristian ‘Tiny’ Schweitzer, and our assistant coach Brad Smith. So there was a ton of crossover and familiarity. This game was also the first time Denmark has played Norway in an officially sanctioned international game and to top things off, Denmark was a big part of starting lacrosse in Norway back in the early 2000’s.

KattegatCup2

To commemorate this special event/rivarly/friendly, we organized and brought a big horn (for beer drinking purposes in true Viking style) and it was presented to Norway after the game. The Kattegat Cup will be played for any time Denmark plays against Norway in international play for the rest of our days. Winners get the horn. It’s a nod to our shared lacrosse connection, and what this game means to all of us.

Danish Lacrosse Game 2: Scotland

It was pretty hard to come out against Scotland for the 2nd game. We had to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off after the opening game against Norway. Our effort around the field was definitely up for this game and we played some really good lacrosse for good periods of time. We ended up losing the game 15 – 4 on the scoreboard with Scotland taking 42 shots.

EvanVsScotland

We were pretty happy with our hustle and endeavor throughout this match as a whole. The score for the 2nd half was 6 – 3 and our guys never quit. We had played against a Scottish squad in England a few months earlier in Manchester and we could definitely see our improvements between the two meetings. There were a lot of positive things to take away from this game, including Lou Lillelund’s first international goal at the prehistoric age of 16.

Danish Lacrosse Game 3: Austria

Before heading to the European Championships we had earmarked Austria as one of the only teams in our pool that we had a good chance of upsetting. Unfortunately they also had us in mind, and came to this game ready to play. Austria got the jump on us early and were up 9 – 1 at the first change. It wasn’t an ideal position for us to be in considering we only have 19 guys on our team and play against teams who all have a full 23. Playing catch up run and gun lacrosse isn’t going to be our thing.

MikeBarrettVsAustria

A credit to our team here though we managed to tie the next 3 quarters 6 – 6 including shooting 6 of the last 10 goals to finished the game 15 – 7. Highlights include some solid hitting from our goalie Tiny and Mike Barrett’s hat-trick on attack.

Danish Lacrosse Game 4: Wales

Coming out for game 4 against Wales after a draining loss to Austria the day before was hard. The tournament was starting to take its toll on our small group of players and our physiotherapist Martine was doing over time to get everyone up and ready for the game.

Martine

We came out in pretty positive fashion against Wales and put a couple of goals in the net in the first quarter, they also did the same thing against us and the score was 5 – 2 at quarter time. From there Wales started to build to a full head of steam and prove why they made it to the top 4 at the tournament.

Wales2 Danish Lacrosse

Wales finished with 21 goals on 39 shots and our guys were cooked. We still fought hard to the final whistle and managed to snag a 3rd goal in the dying stages of the game. The game knowledge acquired from this learning experience was huge. We had also played against Wales in Manchester a few months earlier and were beaten in similar fashion but that didn’t stop us from fronting up and trying again. I think that we gained more from the experience this time and started to get our brains ticking in the right way to learn from the on field mistakes we made.

Danish Lacrosse Game 5: Ireland

During the evening between our match against Wales and our match against Ireland, our defender Ian Rummler received some bad news from home that one of his close childhood friends had died. I think it was a really tough spot to be in for Ian being so far from home, friends, and family but he reached out to us and we tried our best to be there for him as a team.

Our coach Nick had a quiet word with the Irish coaching staff and the officials before the game and we took at minute’s silence together with the Irish team.

IrelandPregame2

This was our last game of the group stage and we had two rest days coming after this game. Our guys really wanted to show that we could play good lacrosse despite showing up with less players and that is what we did on this hot day against Ireland. We went to quarter time 3 – 1 down, which was our closest first quarter to date. Our guys worked hard and hustled for every possession and made it to halftime down 7 – 3, which was also a great halftime scoreline for us. We kept fighting and scrapping our way through this game and got to three quarter time 10 – 5. This is when Ireland chucked their full starting lineup on the field and finished the last quarter 7 – 0.

We forced Ireland to take 52 shots for 17 goals earning myself and Tiny joint men of the match honours for a combined 23 saves. Our faceoff man Kenneth Hansen also pushed his Irish competitor finishing the game with 10 of the 22 contests at the X.

This game will be remember by our players for the great sportsmanship shown pregame by the Irish and that we once again fought hard until the final whistle.

Two Rest Days – PHEW!

We went out after the Ireland game and had team dinner along with a good portion of the friends and family who were there to support us. We were then cut loose for 48 hours by the coaching and management staff under one stipulation – NO DRINKING!!!

Danish Lacrosse Game 6: Slovakia

We came out of the group stage with 0 wins and 5 losses, which gave us 6th place in Group B. We were drawn to play against the 5th place team from Group D, Slovakia. We knew that this game would be pretty tough for us to pull off. Slovakia have been to more tournaments as a national team than we have and have some good experienced players. They also had a win under their belts.

Much like us, Slovakia were short on numbers and their experienced guys wouldn’t be subbed much so we organized our match ups from the start of the game and played lacrosse. We were ahead for a lot of this game. Up 4-3 at quarter time, 8 – 6 at halftime, and only one goal in it at 3 quarter time 10 – 9. Slovakia managed to get ahead in the last quarter, and then we came back to tie the game up at 12 – 12.

ThorVsSlovakia Danish

We were trying to keep cool under pressure and pressure them to get the ball back, which resulted in a penalty. 44 seconds left in the game with a man in the sin bin for a minute. Slovakia take the man up shot – saved. A good pass and clear to a really nice piece of 3 on 3 work up front sees Lou Lillelund stick his 4th goal of the game with 9 seconds left on the clock. We win our first game of the 2016 European Championships in dramatic fashion and the guys are over the moon.

If our assistant coach Frenchy could do a backflip, then would have been the perfect time for him to do one. One first international win since 2010.

Highlights: the massive effort Slovakia put into this game – they were totally gassed at the end and had really worked their guts out to get the final quarter lead. 4 goals 1 assist for Lou Lillelund and 4 goals for Evan Chaberski. Hat tips all around!

Danish Lacrosse Game 7: Hungary

Our win against Slovakia put us up against Hungary from Group A. We got in the driver’s seat early in this game with a handy 2 – 0 lead at quarter time. But credit where credit is due to the Hungarian team who took the middle 2 quarters and owned them, outscoring us 7 – 1. So there we were again, down at 3 quarter time. Once against the fighting pastries got together to work hard and hustle. We won the last quarter 4 – 2 but it wasn’t enough to get us back in the game. We lost to more experienced players 9 – 7 in a good spirited contest.

Highlights: Mike Barrett with another hat-trick in offense and Kenneth Hansen taking the honours in the faceoff battle.

Danish Lacrosse Game 8: Austria AGAIN!

It just so happens that Austria lost their cross over game against Spain, which meant we would play off for 19th place. We had already played against Austria earlier in the tournament and knew what they would be up to.

We were lead out to battle before our final game of the European Championships by one of the greatest legends of Danish Lacrosse, Thorbjørn Jørgensen, a 51 year old fire-fighter who started playing 6 years ago. Thorbjørn is our spiritual leader and has a great knack of knowing when to give a younger team mate a smile and a pat on the back or a word of encouragement to lift team morale.

Unfortunately, we got off to another horrid start against Austria and didn’t play up to the standards that Thorbjørn embodies. The first half of this game was one of those car wrecks where no matter how hard we tried we couldn’t seem to alter the result. Our guys were working hard but nothing was coming of it. We regrouped at halftime and played out the 2nd half 4 – 3 in Austria’s favor finishing the game 13 – 3.

Our little band of brothers were totally wrecked from running hard all tournament and this game wasn’t really the best way to finish the tournament for us, but that is the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. Despite our two games with Austria turning physical at times, their players were keen enough to trade some uniform pieces at the end of it all and showed good sportsmanship. Hopefully we will play against them again soon to see if we are improving our game. They are a great litmus test for us.

And Then… Silence

And as quickly as our adventure started, it was all over. We were at the end of our 2016 European Championship.

Our 19 pastries got through the tournament with all the guys on the field for the final game, and only 2 trips to the hospital during the 8 games. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without our strength and conditioning coach Linn Risvang, our physiotherapist Martine Sophie Høiby, our team manager Jane Schultz, and our awesome coaching staff of Nick Ravenhall, Frenchie and Brad Smith – and yes the story of Frenchie and Brad teaching defense to the Slovenians in the carpark at 3:30am is true.

When I first moved to Europe from Australia in 2012, I really had no idea what I was getting into. I moved to Denmark chasing a girl who later became my wife and the mother to my child. All I had was a backpack full of clothes and my goalie equipment.

Experiencing my first European Lacrosse Championships event this summer, I am pleased to confirm that European lacrosse is in a pretty good position and that I hope to be involved in the future of lacrosse here. I am not the only Australian running around over here either. It was nice to run into Nick Anthony from Melbourne University Lacrosse Club playing for Hungary.

Europe Vs My Old Home

The person tweeting as Williamstown Lacrosse Club from Melbourne, Australia asked me recently about the standard of play of home grown European National teams compared to Australia.

I would say that good national teams in Europe are around the same as the good club teams in Australia’s local leagues but that it drops away quickly. Handy players playing club lacrosse in Australia would be pretty good inclusions to European rosters if they go to the country and get involved in the team’s formation and training.

I myself am not a great lacrosse player, but managed to play at a decent level in Australia as a junior. The main difference between the programs in Australia and Europe is junior development. Most European countries don’t have a solid junior foundation to build senior national teams on. By the time most lacrosse playing kids in Australia reach the age of 18 they have played 200+ games of lacrosse. By comparison most people in Europe start as teenagers, if not later, because there are no junior programs and only play 10 games a year (if lucky). So an 18 year old in a country like Denmark might be lucky to have 50 games under their belt. But there is growth and things are looking positive, even in sunny Denmark.

If you want to know more about our journey to the European Championships check out part 2 of the Danish Lacrosse documentary here.

Feel free to keep an eye on what we are doing in Denmark by following us on:

Twitter: @danishlacrosse
Snapchat: danishlacrosse
Instagram: @danishlacrosse
facebook.com/danishlacrosse
facebook.com/DanishNationalLacrosseTeam

You can also email me on james@danishlacrosse.com

Danish Lacrosse at the European Lacrosse Championships.
#GoPastries #FightingPastries #Pastryotism #Pastryotic – Yes, our hashtags are the best!