The Lacrosse All Stars North American Invitational starts tomorrow… and no amount of capital letters or exclamation points would do justice to just how excited I am for that day to come. I’ve been meaning to get a tournament preview done prior to the tournament’s eve, but international travel shenanigans have taken another laptop from me.
The Lacrosse All Stars crew has arrived on location at the beautiful new Tsha’ Thoñ’nhes, aka the pavilion field house on the Onondaga Nation Reservation. After a day’s effort to get the venue all set up for everyone to arrive, we’re finally geared up enough to start looking at match-ups and make some possible predictions.
Group pools were selected roughly a week ago. For discussion’s sake, I’m going to lightly go over each pool and what implications these groupings can/will have on the tournament later on down the road.
Group A: Best Traveled
LCC Custodes (Czech Republic)
Nova Scotia Privateers (Canada)
Caughnawaga Indians (Haudenosaunee)
Right off the bat, we’re handed one of the strongest and tightest pools. What you’re going to get here is three very different teams with three very different styles of play. A high-flying Czech offense has beaten the Privateers previously over in Prague, but now the Custodes must do it on the road (and on the other side of the planet). To boot, an unknown exists in Caughnawaga. If you think you can count out ANY Native American team in a box lacrosse tournament, you’re gonna have a bad time.
For anyone who’s been living under a proverbial international box lacrosse rock, the Custodes from the Czech Republic are coming over, and they’re the real deal. The question has been tossed around as to if they’re bringing the LCC squad that wreaks havoc on proud Canadian clubs annually at the Ales Hrebesky memorial, and all signs seem to indicate that they are. The big names are there, and those big names score big name goals.
Key Strengths: Chemistry, Transition, Czech Offense.
Next up are those Nova Scotia Privateers. Scotia will be the only team representing Canada in this year’s LASNAI, and you can’t ask for a better group of guys to do so. With an impressive lineup of Nova Scotia regulars, the roster will also be featuring a couple of Ontario area guys, one or two Canadians from the West Coast, as well as a couple American transition guys including yours truly. Also, Lindsey Sanderson will be on the bench coaching for Nova Scotia as well. The Privateers have all their ducks in a row, we’ll just have to see how it all plays out.
Key Strengths: Dark Horse, Canadian Defense, Game IQ
An honest disclaimer would be that I have absolutely no clue what sort of team the Caughnawaga Indians are going to be bringing to Syracuse. Zero. The Indians finished at the bottom of the TNLL this year, but that by no means rules them out this weekend. Kahnawake is not bringing a team, which means all of the area players of the region will be up for grabs. The unpredictable nature of coach Eric “Dirt” McComber is also not a thing to be underestimated. If this is the same Indian team I saw this summer, they might finish towards the bottom of this pool. I strongly doubt that it will be.
Key Strengths: Unpredictable, Aggressive Native Defense, Underdog
Group A Prediction
- LCC 2-0
- Privateers 1-1
- Indians 0-2
Group B: Pool Of Death
Vermont Voyageurs (USA)
Thompson Brothers Lacrosse (Haudenosaunee-heavy/NLL)
Syracuse Stingers (North America)
If Pool A is going to be a battle, Pool B is going to be a WAR! I’m stating, for the record, that because the WILC Championship games were played at the Carrier Dome last year, these pool games will be the highest caliber games this venue will have ever seen to date.
The Vermont Voyageurs are as good as it gets as far as box lacrosse goes in America. They even beat a majority of the actual American team during preparations for the WILC. I’m not pulling any punches when I say that there’s a legitimate chance for some gritty Americans to make a run at some hardware on Saturday. MLL and NLL names dot the roster, but for the most part, these are just blue collar guys who are out there to run the floor and score the hard-earned team goal.
Key Strengths: Physical, Sharp Shooters, Goaltending
That said, my money is on Thompson Brothers Lacrosse. Not surprisingly, it features the Thompson Brothers (all of them and their dad!), in addition to a litany of pro players from all over the league. This is a star-studded roster and could quite honestly make a run at any trophy in existence if this team were to take their show on the road. Recently named NLL MVP Great-Dhane Smith, Rookie of the Year Randy Staats and little brother Austin are just a few names cherry picked off the top. To see the rest of the roster, just click here, then clean up the drool under your chin!
Key Strengths: High Scoring, Avoid Penalty Box, Sport Center Top 10
The Syracuse Stingers were the last addition to the LASNAI tournament. With the injury-plagued Native Sons unable to attend, the local area Stingers scrambled to put together a roster in a very short period of time. While a lack of preparation usually spells doom, I’ve got a feeling that the Stingers have a few tricks up their sleeve and will put an all-star team of their own on the floor this weekend. I haven’t ever seen the Stingers play, but I’m familiar with some of the names that have run with the boys in the past, and there’s no shortage of talent in the area.
Key Strengths: Finesse goals, local talent, underdogs
Group B Prediction:
- Thompson Brothers Lacrosse 2-0
- Vermont Voyageurs 1-1
- Syracuse Stingers 0-2
Pool C: The Unknown
Lacrosse All Stars House Team (Global)
Goldstar Tel-Aviv (Israel)
Onondaga Redhawks (Haudenosaunee)
What we have here is a real possibility for any of these teams to jump out and surprise everyone. While the clear favorite of the group will go to Onondaga, there’s nothing saying that the other two teams aren’t capable of upsetting the home team. Above any of the other groups, this is the group that will completely depend on who has their Wheaties in the morning and who doesn’t.
The Lacrosse All Stars House team has the word “House Team” in their name. This is often synonymous with a second-rate or inferior team, but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that this roster is made up of die-hard players from all over who wouldn’t dream of missing out on the action. Does that mean they’ll be good enough to tackle the systems and chemistry of Onondaga or Tel-Aviv? I have no clue.
Key Strengths: Experience, Quick Chemistry, Surprises.
Goldstar is a tough cookie to call. The box game has come quickly to the Israelis, with the national team finding success on this same floor a year ago. Whether or not this is a similar roster to last year’s WILC roster will really depend on how Goldstar will be able to stack up against the impressive teams present at this year’s LASNAI. Every Israeli team I’ve seen has bought into the team system, and I’ll expect that to benefit them here this weekend.
Key Strengths: Loose ball battles, Systemic offense, Box experience
The Onondaga Redhawks are the home team. With a barn to defend, it’s safe to say that the local boys will be going all out and laying it all on the line to try to claim the first ever LASNAI cup. The Redhawks won the President’s Cup back in 2014 with a roster loaded with talent. Not all of that talent is still on the active roster today, but with a solid core group of guys, as well as a promising youthful speed, the Redhawks are poised in a great spot to make a run at the cup this year.
Key Strengths: Deadly Transition, Physical Defense, Home Team Advantage
Group C Predictions:
- Onondaga Redhawks 2-0
- Goldstar Tel-Aviv 1-1
- Lacrosse All-Stars House Team 0-2
Group D: The New Kids on the Block
UnCommon Fit Lasersharks (USA)
Brooklyn Dodgers (USA)
Here we have a different group. While I believe I can predict the winner of the group, what really interests me is the battle for second place. With the sheer size and experience parity between the top and bottom, I’ll look most forward to seeing the lesser experienced teams learn and progress.
The Lasersharks got an awesome draw for pool play, but that might line them up on a collision course for something wicked out of Pool B in the playoff round. I don’t see either team in Pool D giving UC Fit much of a challenge, but I’ll be interested to see what systems and adjustments the Lasersharks can make in preparation for playoffs. Lackluster performances will get them pool play wins, sure, but that lethargic play is sometimes difficult to put away and can sink a ship later on.
Key Strengths: Aim, fire, chomp.
As an American, I’m pumped to see not just American teams, but American CLUBS that play in other places besides just their primary league in their own local area. New York City isn’t famous for its box lacrosse, but they are world-renowned for their attitudes and work ethic. Being the best in the boroughs might not bring home hardware, but it might provide the boys with the opportunity to turn some heads and to bring home some hard-earned respect.
Key Strengths: Hustle plays, learning curve, fuhhhhhgeetttaaaboutttttittttt
This weekend, this tournament, this game; everything is in the spirit of welcoming and accepting more new friends into the family. By making the trip to play in the first ever LASNAI tournament, Jamaica is also attending it’s first ever international event. To share the floor with the best in the business and to show how hard they’ve been working will be an amazing thing. Personally, I’m elated to be fortunate enough to see a young program have it’s debut performance on such an amazing stage. I’m playing for Nova Scotia, I think the Thompson Brothers are going to win, and I’m rooting for Jamaica.
Key Strengths: Physical Condition, Adaptations, Capitalize on Opportunities
Group D Predictions:
- UnCommonfit Lasersharks 2-0
- Brooklyn Dodgers 1-1
- Jamaica 0-2
This is going to be an amazing tournament. If you’re in the area, please come on down and see some amazing games. If you’re a box lacrosse fanatic, there legitimately is nothing else on the planet going on right now to satiate your cravings. If you aren’t able to join us and watch the action live, ALL the games will be streamed LIVE on the LaxAllStars YouTube channel!