The Iroquois Nationals are good to go for the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships May 21-28.
Iroquois GM Gewas Schindler told IL Indoor that preparations are going “perfect” and they will be on the floor of the Eden Arena in Prague for the tournament’s opening game against Ireland.
Schindler says the Iroquois will be travelling on their Haudenosaunee passports. The key difference between this year and last summer, when the Nationals were unable to attend the World Field championships in England, is that they have travel visas. Both the Czech Republic and Switzerland have issued visas for team members to travel to Prague, says Schindler.
The other hurdle standing in the team’s way has also been cleared up. The Federation of International Lacrosse recently sent an email to participating countries saying, “May I advise you that the finance matters relating to the Iroquois Nationals participation in the 2011 World Indoor Lacrosse Championships have now been resolved and we are delighted that they will be playing in this event.”
Speaking of good to go, Jeff Zywicki will be ready when Canada kicks off its tournament against Slovakia May 22. He’s played only three games this season, the last on March 13, but the Stealth forward says he is back to full health.
“I could have played against Rochester this past weekend, but we figured it was better to give me two more weeks to rest and get ready for the playoffs. I’ve had some great workouts, I’ve been running hard on the knee and it feels good.”
Slovakia has announced its team for the WILC. The Slovaks will be an exhibition entry, added to the tournament in large part to balance the preliminary pools at four teams each.
The team is composed primarily of players from two organizations, Tricksters LT and the Bratislava Bats. The Tricksters are a field-based club and their players for this year’s worlds also played for Slovakia at the field worlds last summer. The Bats are a box club.
A pair of North Americans supplement the roster. Patrick Crosby is a goalie with the U.S. National Development Team. Bradley Vrecko is a self-described journeyman forward who “played a couple of years of junior A lacrosse and got into a couple of WLA games with New Westminster and Maple Ridge” but has primarily played Senior B, Senior C and masters lacrosse since being drafted by the North Shore Indians in about 1995.
Vrecko started playing field lacrosse in 2009 and loved the game. He also found it easier on his back and knees playing on grass rather than indoors. Prior to last year’s championships in Manchester, Vrecko realized that he was going to be there to play in the Masters Festival games. He knew his background was Czechoslovakian but wasn’t sure which side of the border his ancestors came from. After some research, Vrecko found he was Slovak, so he wrote to an email address on the Slovakian Lacrosse web site.
“I basically said ‘I’m a 36-year-old over-the-hill Canadian lacrosse player,’” Vrecko says, “but I’m going to be there anyways so if you’re interested throw me on the roster, because the rosters for field were unlimited, so just put me on so I’m eligible. I’ll come out and throw the ball around and if you think I can help the team, great, I’ll play with you guys. If not, I’ll be a cheerleader, fetch water, whatever you guys need. It would just be cool to be a part of it in some way.”
It worked out well for both sides as Vrecko scored three goals in Slovakia’s first game against Norway and had a successful tournament as an attackman. “Since I’ve got over 30 years of box experience, that kind of close-quarters comfort seems to work well on the attack side.”
Vrecko says being new to the field game, he didn’t know any of the plays his teammates did, but that once he got the ball in front of the net, “it was just like any kind of lacrosse. I was nervous at first because it was the worlds and I wanted to represent my country, Canada, and show that Canadians can play this game, even old guys like me.”
When the opportunity arose for the Slovaks to join this year’s WILC, they jumped at it. The team did not, however, have a coaching staff. Martin Kramar and Stanislav Mraz, whom Vrecko takes pains to point out have done almost all of the work involved in making Slovakian participation possible, turned to him for some help.
Basically, Vrecko says, “They said to me, You’re Canadian, do you know someone who could coach us?” He got in touch with Travis Taylor and Brett Doig, who will be serving as the head and assistant coaches, respectively, and it was on.
Now the team just has to prepare for the games, including its opening match against (cue ominous music) Canada. Vrecko and the Slovaks are realistic about their chances. “It’s not about results at all. When they asked me to try and arrange a coach, I just wanted to make sure they had the right intent. It doesn’t matter if we got the best coaches in the world, it’s not going to change the outcome. We’re going to lose. The point is to grow the game in Slovakia, get the excitement going and be a really good learning experience for these players so they can pass that on to other players and get others involved. It’s the start of a legacy, that’s what’s required to really develop and grow the game locally.”
As for that first game against Canada, Vrecko says “I would like it if they gave us 10 minutes of their A game just so the players for Slovakia know just how much dedication and hard work it takes to get to that level.”
The Aussies have hit the floor as a team for the first time, hoping to be as ready as possible for their opening game against England. That matchup will basically determine who has a chance to make it to the medal round.
Canada is a prohibitive favourite to win Pool A. The Slovaks, as an exhibition entry, will be fourth even if they manage to pull off a huge upset and win a game. So the winner of Australia-England will almost assuredly finish second and play the third-place team from Pool B in the quarter-finals. The loser will play Pool B’s second-place team, meaning either the USA or Iroquois.
That makes it imperative for both teams to be ready to play on May 21, just one month from tomorrow, when the WILC kicks off.Stamp is a TV sports announcer and lacrosse lover whose skill set made him a defender but who always dreamed of being a goal-scorer. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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