Lacrosse's Future Looks Bright - Reflections on Duel in Denver

COMMERCE CITY, CO – Denver couldn't have provided a better setting for a preview heavyweight match-up between the only two teams that win the world championship every four years. A 70-degree night created a near perfect evening to see the world's best slug it out for bragging rights ... until the 2014 FIL World Championship, which will be contested at the same location. The stands were almost packed with just over 4,500 lacrosse fans at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. They came to watch the likes of Paul Rabil, John Grant Jr, and other stars of the game.

Watching things develop, one thought kept occurring to me as an East Coast-born, Denver transplant: "What a great sign the game is growing." This thought was reinforced by the fact that the East's biggest retailer of lacrosse equipment, Lacrosse Unlimited, was a newly minted headline sponsor of the game and opened it first store west of the Mississippi in January in Highlands Ranch not far from downtown Denver.


Spending the second half in the stands with a group of Aspen players and their coach put in perspective just how popular lacrosse is becoming in the state of Colorado. They drove 3˝ hours each way – the day after their football game on Friday night – to see lacrosse played at its best. Their eyes were glued to the field.

With star-studded rosters for both sides, neither disappointed. The fluidity and movement of the Canadian team was impressive. Their ability to continue a play and make 'one more pass' was fun to watch, an example of the Canadian mantra that "everybody is open no matter how little space there is." One imagines what a nightmare it must be to cover an offense where players catch and shoot so quickly. It's no wonder that Matt Brown (University of Denver and Team Canada assistant coach) has been so successful developing schemes to take advantage of the skill sets of the many Canadian players on the Pioneer roster.

The USA team did look a little tired, especially in the first half, which could have been due to the just-ended MLL season and the fact that many buzzed into the altitude shortly before the event - compared to the youthful Canadian team with 9 current collegians, whose season ended well over three months ago.

The stand-out performances of the game belonged to the two Canadian keepers, Evan Kirk and Angus Dineley. The pair combined for 23 saves, routinely stuffing the Americans all evening. Kirk allowed only two shots on goal to cross the plane in the first half, and Dineley made an unbelievable shoulder save in the second half that ricocheted off him and hit the pipe. Mounting a comeback was definitely tough with both goalies standing on their heads like that.

As a Denver-area coach and a former player, it was gratifying to see how far our game has come. Both this exhibition and the upcoming 2014 FIL games are key indicators that lacrosse is alive, well, and expanding. Thanks to the players, coaches, and event staff for putting on a great Duel in Denver, and we'll see you and the rest of the world right here in the Rockies in the summer of 2014.



Mike Baldassare is the son of LaxPower's Director of High School Boys' Lacrosse, George ‘Baldo' Baldassare, and has been playing lacrosse since a young age. He currently resides in Denver with his wife, where he coaches at a local high school. If you would like to contact him or have ideas or questions, he can be reached at mike@laxpower.com.

2012-09-11



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