Hawaii Lacrosse’s 25th year of hosting the epic Hawaii Invitational went of without a hitch. Great players from around the world converged on Oahu for some amazing lacrosse, I played on two different Wimmer Solutions teams, and even though one of my teams did not take home the hardware (the other did!), the experience was as eye-opening and wonderful as ever.
Hawaii’s 25th Year of Invitational Lacrosse
Check out my initial post from Hawaii to catch up on what it’s like to touch down a bit early on the Big Island, and watch the big names in lacrosse roll in like they were waves crashing on the beach! Check out my day by day journal below, as well as some photos, to get an insider’s view of this unbelievable lacrosse tournament…
Day 2 – Let The Tourney Begin!
This morning was a slow start and Hawaii is a lot of fun – let’s just leave it at that.
We made the annual trip to Bogarts for a breakfast burrito and Acai shake, but they are even better known for Acai bowls. It’s just about the healthiest thing one could eat, and it makes you feel great. After last night, we needed it. Did I mention Hawaii is a lot of fun?
The Wimmer crew followed that up with a couple of hours relaxing in the water with some teammates and trying to avoid that day 2 sunburn. The ocean has been especially warm this year, and this his is kind of good. Why only kind of good? Well, it’s certainly relaxing, but the warm water also brings a lot of sea life – including sharks – closer to the shore. The newspaper reported several attacks in Hawaii this year, but the reality is that 99.9% of the time, surfers are perfectly safe, and so are beach goers, but it was a topic of conversation. Lacrosse players Vs sharks: who you got?
Later in the day, we kicked off the actual lacrosse portion of the 25th year of the Hawaii Lacrosse Tournament! Our Elite squad played together for the first time, and our roster featured a lot of new faces to the Wimmer family, but nonetheless we were extremely talented. Will Manny, Dave Emala, Scott Ratliff, Mike Simon, and Adam Ghitelman all joined the squad for 2015 – just to name just a few! My buddy from LXM and Hofstra legend Brett Moyer reunited with the team after five years, showing his prowess at both the elite and master’s levels.
Our first opponent was Tohoku U20, yet another Japanese team added to the tournament! These guys played very hard and were so excited to play against us. They are extremely vocal throughout the game and always have two female managers with clipboards, yelling commands onto the field. We ended up winning by a good margin (as one should expect) and, as always, it was such a pleasure to watch these active MLL pros tear it up together.
The Wimmer Master’s squad was equally talented in it’s own right. Our team captain, Josh Rachman, brought together some excellent former college players. New to the family were Eric Holt (Penn State – where he played both lacrosse and football!), James Cramp, (Washington College) who is how I imagine Brian Karalunas in 5 years, and Mark Whipple (Towson), just about as fluid as you get on a lacrosse field. Adding these guys to an already legitimate crew of veterans including Anthony Kelly, Andrew Wasik, Eric Martin, Anthony Lucchetto, and Pete Saiya made us unstoppable. We might be “older”, but we can still ball! At least that’s what we tell ourselves, anyway!
Day 3 – Did you say FOUR games?
This was a busy day for a bunch of us who were playing for both teams. With games at 10am, 11am, 1pm, and 2pm, it was a lot of lacrosse. My day did not start favorably, as the first play against Antikis Masters involved two of their players jumping on Train’s (Anthony Kelly’s) back! Train was not taking kindly to this, nor did our team and a bunch of scuffles broke out. This one in particular resulted in me pulling a guy off of Train and a 350+ pound Antikis attackman cross checking me in the back of the neck sending us both to the ground.
Needless to say, this put me in a bad mood and I had to regain my composure and Aloha spirit on-the-fly. Those Antikis are really, really nice guys off of the field – like almost any other Canadians I’ve ever met. But on the field, I wanted to start (and finish) an international incident. We all somehow managed to move on.
Next up was Vegas Lacrosse in the Elite division, led by Hawaii staple Jonny Vegas. If you don’t know his story, you should, because he has come back from some tough stuff and done a lot to promote the game of Lacrosse. His team was definitely better than in years past and no doubt they will continue to challenge.
Hokkaido was another Japanese team worth playing against as they go very hard and play within systems. Their settled offense looks like that of a college team. However, any college player vs. a player like Marcus Holman, Will Manny or Scott Ratliff is going to lose that battle hands down. Tom Schreiber may have been the most talked about on our sideline as he executed plays almost effortlessly. What an unassuming and great team player that guy is!
We won pretty handily against Hawaii in our Master’s championship preview. Although, I was impressed with how well the guys were moving the ball this year. Their weekly Sunday run is definitely translating to some chemistry out on the field each time we see them.
Wimmer Vs Dirty Lax – Elite Finals
When Dirty Lax and Wimmer both enter Hawaii, they are likely to face off in the finals and 2015 was no exception. This year’s Dirty team was… dirty! They had the Thompsons (all four of them!) and a number of other top level Canadian and Iroquois players. They ran through their bracket with ease, and even though Wimmer had won all of the previous match ups with Dirty, this year Dirty had to be the favorite. It’s hard for me to even write that, but they were a very impressive group.
In the finals, Dirty Lacrosse had a number of really solid possessions where we had to defend for several minutes per (no shot clock) possession. Lyle Thompson had some individual plays that were almost impossible to stop one on one. We started to apply more pressure but it’s very difficult to get the ball from an entire team of guys who grew up playing box. The patience and control that Dirty played with was what gave them the lead, and helped them keep it.
I am always proud to be a part of such an awesome game against those guys – win or lose. Accepting that you could lose is all part of it. Make no mistake, we will be back to reclaim the Elite title next year! Because Wimmer plays for the game as well as some important causes, we take losses very personally and emotionally. If we win, we change more lives. So we really want to win!
A big tip of the hat to Dirty Lax though, those guys came to play! And I would like to thank the Thompson brothers in particular, for all they do to Grow the Game!
The 25th year of the Hawaii Lacrosse Invitational was a banner year. Not only is a quarter century a big milestone for any tourney to reach, but the play on the field and the atmosphere was as good, if not better, than ever. I can’t wait for 2016. Will I see you there?