Eight current collegians started the process of making Team USA, the most freedom-lovin', deep-fried everythin' lacrosse team on Earth. After trimming the player pool to 52 players, only one collegian remained: Loyola's Joe Fletcher. Just making it past the initial set of cuts was impressive; there were a ton of experienced and capable bodies in the defensemen pool that Fletcher was competing against.
Then the real struggle began: As part of Team USA's training roster, Fletcher needed to establish an identity against the ultra-elite of the hyper-elite. He was not only competing against some of the best offensive players in the world, but was pursuing a spot on Team USA's 30-man roster against some of the best defensive players on Earth. Richie Meade and the national team staff carried 14 defensemen and long-stick midfielders through the second stage of the selection process (including Fletcher), and only about half were expected to make the final cut for the FIL World Championships.
The odds were slim for Fletcher to progress to Denver, but they were in his favor. The senior defenseman is headed for the Rockies in July:
Following a tryout process that included 98 players and spanned seven months, US Lacrosse has named the U.S. Men’s National Team 30-man roster for the FIL World Championship, July 10-19 in Denver.
Mitch Belisle, Boston Cannons, Cornell
Jesse Bernhardt, Chesapeake Bayhawks, Maryland
Tucker Durkin, Florida Launch, Johns Hopkins
Michael Evans, Chesapeake Bayhawks, Johns Hopkins
Joe Fletcher, Loyola
Kyle Hartzell, New York Lizards, Salisbury
Brian Karalunas, New York Lizards, Villanova
Lee Zink, Denver Outlaws, Maryland
Fletcher's inclusion on the roster wasn't a simple nod toward the college game. The senior defensemen earned his way to Denver, and the analysis regarding his membership on Team USA confirms that. From Lacrosse Magazine's Corey McLaughlin:
Fletcher, the only current collegian still in the tryout process, has stuck around for a reason and drew rave reviews from teammates and coaches at Champion Challenge, seeing a lot of time during the Blue-White scrimmage.
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1 — Current collegian to survive cuts, Loyola defenseman Joe Fletcher. Seven college players participated in summer tryouts. Fletcher, a card-carrying member of the fundamentally sound club, was the only one to survive a first round of cuts down to 52 players. He's now made it through again.
In tryout reporting and selection speculation, a chorus emerged — the fewest questions were at close defense. Lee Zink, Michael Evans and Tucker Durkin seemed like locks, and Joe Fletcher played his way into that conversation (with the exception of whether taking a current college player would be a hangup for the staff).