Haaretz Sports Staff
The Israeli national lacrosse team concluded its first ever foray in the World Indoor Lacrosse Championship tournament on Sunday with a fourth-place showing.
This tournament, a 10-day grind of back-to-back games and small rosters, was hosted by the creators of the game on the Onondaga reservation near Syracuse, NY. Israel came into the tournament with a slew of unknowns and a roster of individuals who had very little time to play together and gel as a team.
Despite the lack of a formal training camp, Team Israel sent shock waves through the international community as it won its group and continued on to the medal round.
After having beaten strong World Indoor veterans like Finland and Ireland, the Israelis were faced with their toughest challenge to date in the Czech Republic. The Czechs were coming off a first-place victory at the Ales Hrebesky tournament last summer and a fourth-place finish in the 2011 World Games. Riding the hot hands of top scorers Dominik Pesek and Jiri Kostal, the Czechs were the clear-cut favorite to move on to a date with No. 1 Canada.
Nonetheless, Israel came out scorching and led the Czechs 7-1 after one quarter. The Czechs, as expected, did not fold and were able to crawl back to tie the Israelis. After exchanging goals late in the game, Tel Aviv native and active duty IDF soldier Noah Miller was able put the Israelis up 13-11, a lead they would never relinquish.
Zach Higgins was huge in the net for the Israelis as the Czechs regained much of the momentum they lost earlier in the game, pouring in beautiful feeds and point-blank opportunities. But Higgins did not flinch when it mattered most and was able to stave off any hopes of a comeback.
With this win, the Israelis were able to punch their ticket into the blue division to face the strongest possible challenge in the three-time defending champion Canada. While they were able to remain close to the Canadians, trailing only 3-1 after one quarter, the talent, size and athleticism of the worlds top team proved too much for the Israelis, as they came away with a 19-3 defeat.
Moving on to the bronze medal game, the Israelis once again were overmatched by a well prepared American squad and fell despite another incredible effort. This game was played in front of over 10,000 fans in the Carrier Dome on the campus of Syracuse University, one of the most storied sites in the sport of lacrosse.
Even though they were not able to achieve their ultimate goal of earning a medal in their first ever World Championships, Team Israels shock performance elevated the squad to the premier blue division in the 2019 World Championships.
Team Israel was led by many individuals throughout the tournament, but standout players Higgins and Chad Culp distinguished themselves by being named in the LaxAllstars.com all-tournament team.