The World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil, which concluded on July 13th with Germany winning the tense title match 1-0, was not the only world-wide sports tournament in progress.
Beginning on July 10th and running through July 19th in Denver, 38 nations met for the 12th quadrennial World Lacrosse Championships in Denver, with nine nations competing for the first time, one of which was Israel.
The 38 teams were divided into nine divisions. The Blue Division was the primary division with six teams (Australia, Canada, England, Iroquois, Japan, United States). The other eight divisions had four teams in each division and played one another within the division in pool play.
Israel found itself in the Orange Division with South Korea, Slovakia, and Sweden, none of which were first-timers in the tournament. Nevertheless, Israel fairly easily beat all three in the pool play: 19-4 over Sweden on July 11th, 17-2 over Slovakia on July 12th, and 19-2 over South Korea on July 13th for a remarkable start, thus winning the division with a 3-0 record. In these three games, Attackman Ari Sussman had 12 goals and 12 assists for Israel.
On Monday, July 14th, Israel faced off against Ireland (from the Yellow Division) in a first-round playoff game, and beat the Irish 18-9.
On Tuesday, the Israelis played the World Cup’s top nation, Germany (Red Division), and proceeded to destroy the Germans, 15-1, with Sussman scoring three more goals.
Thus, after five games, the first-time team from Israel was had a 5-0 record, outscoring their opponents by a whopping 70 goals, 88-18! This put the Israelis into the quarterfinals the next day against the fourth-place Blue Division team, which was Australia. The game turned out to be a thriller.
Team Israel took a 2-0 within the first two minutes of play on goals by Kyle Bergman and Benjamin Smith. Australia scored with about 12 minutes left in the quarter before Sussman and Cody Levine scored within a 75-second span. The first quarter ended with the Israelis up 4-1.
The Aussies scored twice in the second quarter and held Israel scoreless, thus making the score 4-3 at halftime.
Levine gave Israel a 5-3 lead about three minutes into the third period but Australia had a run of three goals to take a 6-5 lead. Matthew Cherry tied the score for Israel with about five minutes left in the quarter but Australia took the lead again 99 seconds before the quarter’s conclusion. Thus, it was 7-6 for Australia going into the fourth quarter.
About three minutes into the fourth, some sloppy play by Israel led to a goal by Australia, making it 8-6 Australia. The scored stayed as such until Sussman scored with about 10 minutes left to cut it to 8-7.
It stayed that way until Australia scored with about three-and-a-half minutes left to go up by two, 9-7. The Israelis applied much pressure in the final two minutes, resulting in another goal by Sussman, assisted by Cherry with 95 seconds left, to make the score 9-8. Furthermore, an Australia penalty on the play for an illegal body check gave the Israelis a manpower advantage for one minute.
The Israelis put the pressure on in the final minute in a thrilling finish that saw the Australian goaltender make several saves, including a bobbling one as time expired.
The 9-8 loss was a tough one, especially since the Israelis played so well for most of the game, outshooting Australia 46-32 for the game and winning 16 of 20 faceoffs.
Next up four Israel was a game on Thursday against England, with the winner possibly finishing in fifth place overall. For Israel, a win could promote the team to the premier Blue Division in the 2018 World Games in England.
Things started extremely well for England in the game with a run of five goals within the first 15 minutes for a 5-0 lead. A goal by Sussman made it 5-1, which was how the first quarter ended.
Sussman scored the only goal in the second quarter, and so Israel found itself down 5-2 at the half.
Any early goal in the third quarter made the score 6-2 for England. With about eight minutes left in the quarter, Cherry cut it to 6-3, which was the first of a four-goal run by Israel to tie the game 6-6. (Smith, Bergman, and Richard Cheifitz had the other Israeli goals.) England regained the lead, 7-6, with 94 seconds left in the quarter, but Sussman tied it up with 61 seconds left, and so the fourth quarter began with the score tied, 7-7.
England took a two-goal lead about eight minutes into the fourth quarter, 9-7, which remained the score as the clock showed under two minutes left. With 70 seconds to go, Bergman cut England’s lead to one off a pass from Casey Cittadino. The Israelis again applied the pressure in the final minute, with such paying off this time with Cherry scoring with 43 seconds left off another pass from Cittadino to even the score, 9-9, and thus forcing overtime.
With 34 seconds remaining in the first OT period, Nicholas Watson scored for England to make the score 10-9, and the Israeli kesem fell short the rest of the way. Thus, the Israelis lost two straight by one goal each and so would try to capture seventh place in the tournament on Friday in a game against the Blue Division’s Japan, Israel’s eighth game in eight days.
The Japanese took a 4-2 lead at the end of the first period/quarter (both Israeli goals were scored by Sussman), and so it was another poor start by Israel.
Jacob Silberlicht and Noah Miller evened the score for Israel in the second, but Japan regained the lead about midway through the quarter, and Japan had a 5-4 lead at the half.
Nevertheless, the third quarter was all Israel. Sussman tied the score, 5-5, 63 seconds into the quarter. With about nine minutes left in the quarter, Bergman gave Israel a 6-5 lead, and scored again less than two minutes later to make it 7-5. Yochanan Katz made it 8-5 with 4:21 left in the quarter, and Sussman scored 72 seconds later to make it 9-5 Israel, which is how the quarter ended.
The Israelis were not done! Within the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, Sussman scored his fifth goal of the game and Michael Grosz scored to make it 11-5. A goal by Japan with 14:29 left broke Israel’s scoring run at seven goals to make the score 11-6.
A goal by Silberlicht about three minutes later doubled-up the score at 12-6, and after a goal by Japan made it 12-7 about midway through the quarter, Daniel Leventhal and Bergman doubled it up again, 14-7. Japan scored three of the last four goals of the game to make the final score a respectable 15-10 loss for Japan.
Thus, in its first-ever World Lacrosse Championship appearance, Israel captured Seventh Place, and so is now ranked Number 7 in the world.
Overall, Israel’s record was 6-2, with each loss by one goal. Team Israel outscored its opponents in its eight games by 73 goals, 120-47! In these eight games, Ari Sussman scored 27 goals and had 15 assists, getting a hat trick (at least three goals) in seven of them, including two five-goal games (in the first game and the last game). Thus, Sussman, along with teammate Ben Smith, were the Israeli players named to the President’s Team for the 2014 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championship, which is made up of the Top 10 players in the tournament outside of the Blue Division.
[For the tournament, Canada beat the U.S. 8-5 in the title game on Saturday night and the Iroquois Nation defeated Australia 16-5 in the third-place game. Thus, the Top Ten national teams were, respectively, as follows: Canada, United States, Iroquois, Australia, England, Scotland, Israel, Japan, Germany, and Ireland.]
At least two Israeli players, Samuel Adler of Netanya and Alec Aloni of Tel Aviv, did not compete for the final 23-man roster in Denver because they decided to join the Israeli Defense Forces. Both Matt Cherry and Noach Miller indicated they will be joining the IDF at the tournament’s conclusion. Several other potential players did not make the trip to Denver because they were either called up for the reserves or were going through basic training.
Israel’s coach, Bill Beroza, a member of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, indicated tearfully that what’s going on in Israel was on every player’s throughout the tournament.
Miller was quoted in the Denver Post as saying following the 15-1 win over Germany, ‘Maybe this provides a little bit of light in the darkness that’s really in Israel right now. Because every time we step on that field, we represent something bigger than just the lacrosse team.”
For more on the Israel lacrosse program, go to:
[Written by David Bernklau for the 5TJT.]