After Max Adler dug deep for his eighth face-off win, he had a delivery to complete.
With two Jamaicans wrangling him like livestock, the Israeli bullied his way downfield, warding off his shepherds with forearms and grit. He protected his prize, intent on carrying the contents of his catapult to its final destination.
Once Adler came steps from the crease, it was time for liftoff. He raised his stick above his head and tomahawked the ball toward its rightful home, falling forward in the process of pushing his package in place.
With the goalie beat and ball in the net, Adler lifted his arms in celebration, springing from the soil to enjoy the fruits of his labor.
Adler’s goal was Israel’s eleventh in the team’s 11-3 rout of Jamaica in its opener of the 2018 World Championships on Thursday at Netanya Stadium, commanding the driver’s seat in the Red Division.
“I was trying to find the point man. I usually like to pass it,” Adler explained. “I’m not a great shooter, so I was trying to pass it to someone. But no one slid to me, so I took it to the net.”
In what some would consider the biggest game in Israel Lacrosse history, the Blue and White started its campaign in the Holy Land with a bang. After a back and forth first 20 minutes and falling behind 2-1 early in the second quarter, Israel asserted its dominance over the visiting Jamaicans, scoring the next five goals and comfortably controlling the game until the final whistle.
“That was the biggest game this country has ever seen. We had a little bit of jitters,” said Israeli midfielder Josh Offit, who tallied a hat trick on the night. “We’re still working out a few things as a team and with how each other play.”
Adler’s performance followed that of his team. He struggled in the first part of the game, at one point only claiming two face-off victories of nine. But as the sun set, the face-off specialist warmed up, ending the night with a 9-of-17 mark from the X.
“The MLL whistles are a little slower, and the rules are a little different, so I was adjusting to the rules, adjusting to the different refs,” Adler explained. “I had great wing play that bailed me out a couple times and a great team behind me. Full team effort on the face-offs. Knowing they were behind me, I was able to figure it out.”
The disappointing performance from the Jamaicans dampened some of their excitement and positivity of playing in Netanya Stadium and being in the World Championships. The team committed 12 penalties and had issues with turnovers that made it difficult to find a flow after the first quarter.
“There were penalties that we can avoid moving forward, and if we can cut the penalties down, we can cut the number of times the opponent touches the ball,” said Jamaica head coach Errol Wilson. “Hats off to Israel, but we shot ourselves in the foot probably more than they created turnovers themselves. If we can eliminate some of those unforced turnovers, if we can work better together, then we’ll be better.”
For Israel, the result is sweet, but the larger picture is sweeter. Chants of “IS-RA-EL” boomed throughout the game, and every goal was met with a thunderous roar. This isn’t something the Israelis would experience anywhere else but home.
“To be able to represent this country is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,” Adler said. “The feeling awesome. It’s really contagious with our team. We’re definitely going to ride the home crowd and ride this momentum.”
Jamaica was treated to the same stadium and atmosphere, and for the nation’s size and distance from the Middle East, the team had solid support in the crowd. But for as incredible as the experience was, Wilson said any coach or player who isn’t upset with losing shouldn’t be involved in high-level athletics.
“Dreams do come true, but that’s not good enough,” Wilson said.
Israel will be back in action Saturday at 9 p.m. on ESPN Field at Wingate Institute against Russia. Jamaica will play Russia on Friday at 5:30 p.m. on Cascade Field to end its divisional play.