Team Australia Day 7 at the WILC

Posted: September 25, 2015 by Paul Rai in Alberta Lacrosse, Vimy Lacrosse
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Yesterday the Australian team played Serbia. The winner of the game would proceed to play England and give itself the opportunity to play for fifth place in the event. Serbia is coached by Edmonton resident Stu Sterparn, who I have known for almost 15 years after playing with him with the Edmonton Outlaws and winning a couple of President Cups together. One thing I will say about Stu is that he loves the game of lacrosse and he cares about helping the game out. Stu was brought into coach by Brian Gorodetsky, another Edmontonian, currently living in Serbia. Brian has been in Serbia for several years and five years ago started box lacrosse in the country. He was able to gather some equipment up with help from some of his North American contacts and get the sport started in the country. Five years later he was able to bring a team to the World Championship and he is playing in the event. This is what lacrosse is all about. It is about playing the sport, not about the politics and bureaucracy that can suck the energy out of the game. It is about getting people interested in the sport and experiencing the joy of competition. I have the utmost respect for Stu and Brian, paying out of their own pockets to assist in bringing the country of Serbia to Onondaga for the World Championship. Stu and Brian were also joined by another young Edmonton lacrosse player, Taylor Yaremovich, so Edmonton was going to be strongly represented in this game.

Serbia is led by Ilija Gajic, Alex Gajic and Nik Bilic, three players with NLL experience. After watching their previous game on video it was obvious those three players were leading the team as well as coaching the players on the floor. Everything was going to be running though those three players. I also knew there would not be a lot of structure to the Serbia team as their inexperienced lineup would make that difficult. They would be setting some picks and shooting away. When we were in the warm up we learned that Ilija Gajic would not be playing as he broke his wrist in the previous game. This would give us an advantage.

The game ended up following the same pattern as our game against the Turkey team. We were very sloppy. I think we came into the game a little complacent. Our energy levels were not what they were against Finland. There were some players in different roles and that may have caused some problems, but I think the mental focus of the team was not where it needed to be. We struggled all game to get a good lead on the Serbs. Whenever we had a lead we surrendered it and we were even down late in the third quarter 11 – 10. Nik Bilic, for Serbia, was on fire. We did not defend him well and he scored with ease on us. We paid the price for not being focused on defense.

In the end we pulled off the victory 17 – 13, but it was far from a pretty win. In a competition such as this one, there are going to be games where things do not go exactly as planned. The team has played six games so far and won five of them. There has been a lot of success so I will not make too much of the Serbia game. I do know the England game will be a battle. They have a world class goaltender in net and some strong offensive players. Our focus today will need to be sharp and our execution perfect. If there was one game where we need to stay out of the penalty box, it is this one. We struggle with the discipline and for once I do hope we can win that part of the game.

It has been a grind for these Australian players. They have been here for almost three weeks and I am sure they are getting worn down. I respect their efforts and their compete level. Even when the team is not doing well, the players work hard. It is getting near the end of the event and the next two games are so important in the final standings. A lot of work ahead, but also a lot of fun.

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