Birthright/USA Lacrosse Stars Eke Out Series Win Over Israel

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Birthright/USA's Mitchell Armour defending against Team Israel's Matthew Cherry, June 25, 2014. Credit: Sportpic

Ben Herman and Matthew Opsahl scored three goals each to lead the Birthright/USA All-Stars past the Israel men’s national team 13-12 in front of a noisy crowd in Ashkelon on Wednesday.

The match culminated a three-game exhibition tour that pitted all-star squads of American college players on their Taglit-Birthright trip against the Israel men’s and women’s national teams.

“The whole trip was just a great experience,” said Birthright/USA captain Ryan Hunter, who chipped in one goal and one assist in the series’ deciding game. “None of us really knew each other, but we all bonded right away, on the field and off.”

Hunter, a junior at Ohio State University, was one of nine athletes on the men’s squad with hefty experience. Recognized as the 400,000th Taglit-Birthright participant, Hunter had the opportunity to meet Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and philanthropist Sheldon Adelson.

The Israel men’s national team, which is preparing to compete in the 2014 FIL World Lacrosse Championships, drew first blood two minutes in on a goal by Matthew Cherry, but Opsahl (Hobart) and Herman (New England) answered back to give Team Birthright a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

The All-Stars held a 4-3 lead after the first quarter, a 6-4 advantage at the half and a 9-8 lead three quarters in.

Mitchell Goldberg (Richmond) scored a pair of goals and Mitchell Amour (New England) added one to give Taglit-Birthright a 12-8 lead, its biggest of the game. The blue-and-white battled back as Noach Miller scored a pair and Jacob Silberlicht added one to trim the deficit to 12-11.

After Jake Levine (Delaware) reestablished the All-Stars’ two-goal lead with six minutes to go, Israel’s Aaron Tracy answered back to cut the score to 13-12. After a late flurry of shots, Birthright/USA regained possession and ran out the clock for the victory.

Goldberg (two goals), Amour (one goal, one assist), Levine (one goal), Daniel Gold (one goal), Logan Miller (one goal) also had a big night for Taglit. Herman was named MVP. Andrew Landsman (26 minutes, five saves, four goals against, Adam Daroff (27 minutes, four saves, three goals against) and Max Scheffler (27 minutes, four saves, five goals against) split time in front of the net. Scheffler was credited with the victory.

Miller led Israel with five goals, while Silberlicht (three goals), Cherry (two goals, two assists), Matthew Flapan (one goal), Tracy (one goal) and Seth Mahler (one assist) chipped in. Ben Levine (40 minutes, three saves, seven goals against) and Ted Bergman (40 minutes, seven saves, six goals against) split time between the pipes; Bergman took the loss.

The match was the nightcap of a full day of activities in Ashkelon; the Birthright bus conducted lacrosse clinics in three schools and met Israeli national-team players who immigrated to coach the country’s burgeoning youth lacrosse programs. The Israeli women’s national team edged the Birthright/USA women 10-8, and Ashkelon’s U-13 team hosted Tel Aviv LC, which Tel Aviv won 9-8.

Many of the participants of the Amazing Israel Lacrosse trip have extended their tour of Israel to volunteer at lacrosse camps in Ashkelon, Ramle and Tel Aviv in July.

Israel opens its 2014 FIL Men’s World Lacrosse Championships schedule against 10th-ranked Sweden on July 11 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, home of Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids.

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