Israel fell to England 8-7 in the final game of the five-part series between the European powers Sunday at Shapira Field in Netanya.
England jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, continuing its momentum from Saturday’s impressive performance. Israel would fight back after facing a 6-3 halftime deficit, though. The Blue and White scored four-straight in the second half to take a 7-6 lead, including a punishing goal from midfielder Ori Bar David, who thundered through an English defender with a plowing shoulder before beating goalie Will Baxter to give Israel its first lead of the game.
But England answered the call, scoring twice in the final 10 minutes and holding Israel off in the final possession of the game to secure another one-goal victory, the team’s third in five games.
Ryan Hunter topped Israeli scorers with two as Max Adler, Marc Skolnick, Matthew Flapan, Kyle Bergman and Bar David added the rest with one each. Hunter, Flapan and Matthew Popeck also contributed one assist each. Goalie Andrew Landsman finished with 14 saves.
Josh Sherry-Brennan led the English with two goals. Ryan Hunns, Elliot Leonard, Will Hardy, Zac Guy and Josh Hurry scored one each as well, with Russell adding an assist. Baxter ended with six saves.
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The tour was equally beneficial for England. None of the coaches or players had ever been to Israel before, so getting new life experiences and a preview of what the World Championships will be like in July when they’re hosted in Netanya have been invaluable. English head coach Tom Wenham feels much better about his team now than he did a week ago.
“We learned a lot about our players, our play and where we need to go back and rethink a few things,” Wenham explained. “But we’ve also learned a lot about ourselves off the field: how do we conduct ourselves, what image do we present as a group, what are our values, what’s important to us. We’re really starting to come together as a team and starting to live those values.”
Outside of the lacrosse knowledge gained, the game made strides in Israel as a result of the tour. Five high-level games were played in five different cities across the Holy Land, including the nationally televised game played in Ashkelon on Friday. The sport was exposed to thousands of Israelis, some of whom may have never heard of lacrosse before. As useful as it is for Israel and England to grow as teams from this experience, the impact on the sport is most important.
“I have cousins who watched the game on TV, and they had never watched lacrosse before,” Landsman said. “They called me after the game, and they told me how amazing it was, how great it looked. They want to come to more games. They asked me where the tournament is so they could go. At the end of the day, it’s mission accomplished.”