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Sprawling Thoughts on the FIL World Lacrosse Championships

We'll look at this through the lens of Division I lacrosse.

The 2014 FIL World Lacrosse Championship is over. Canada took gold over the United States in the final, weaving together an almost-perfect 8-5 victory over arguably the strongest team the Americans have ever put on the field. The Iroquois took the bronze with a defiant 16-5 win against Australia.

The event was a nice mid-summer distraction, one that provided digestible lacrosse at a time where the game is focused on summer prep events and Major League Lacrosse (two things I have only a marginal interest in). I jotted down some thoughts about the tournament as it unfolded, distilling them to a Division I focus. If you have anything to share, the comments are yours to unload your feelings.

Sprawling Thoughts

  • The impact of Division I lacrosse on the tournament was significant. All but one member of Team USA -- Kyle Hartzell -- played Division I lacrosse. Over half -- 12, to be exact -- of the team's players came from a current or former ACC school or Johns Hopkins. The growth of Canada's and the Iroquois' field programs -- the other medalists in the event -- is heavily influenced by the continued relevance of Canadians and Native Americans in the Division I game. Hell, 21 members of Canada's 23-man roster played Division I lacrosse and three -- Brennan Donville (Cornell), Jesse King (Ohio State), and Wes Berg (Denver) -- are currently on a Division I roster. The Iroquois weren't that far behind the Canadians with a host of players -- Sid Smith, Cody Jamieson, Jeremy Thompson, Randy Staats, Brendan Bomberry, Ty Thompson, Zach Miller, Miles Thompson, Lyle Thompson, Warren Hill, etc. -- either having Division I experience, still running in the Division I game, or preparing to entering college lacrosse's highest level of play. Professional experience is inimitable, but Division I lacrosse is serving as an important and lasting incubator of elite field talent and national programs outside of the USA are benefitting from this. The most striking thing to me was that, in a very unscientific count, around 25 current -- including players enrolling for the 2015 season -- Division I players participated in the world championships. The volition of Division I lacrosse not only concerns the viability of college lacrosse, but it also has important roots in national competition.
  • Current Division I players littered the final individual leaders in the event:
    Goals per Game Thomas Flibotte (Italy/Bucknell) 2.62 12
    Eli Lasda (Latvia/Albany) 2.43 18
    Points per Game Eli Lasda (Latvia/Albany) 3.86 16
    Lyle Thompson (Iroquois/Albany) 3.29 30
    Game-Winning Goals Eli Lasda (Latvia/Albany) 3 2
    Thomas Flibotte (Italy/Bucknell) 2 3
    Groundballs per Game Michael Tsiang (China/Villanova) 6.00 9
    Shots per Game Thomas Flibotte (Italy/Bucknell) 8.75 3
    Eli Lasda (Latvia/Albany) 7.71 13
    Goals Against Average Hayden Johnstone (Finland/Stony Brook) 4.44 3
    Warren Hill (Iroquois/Syracuse) 6.92 7
    Save Percentage Hayden Johnstone (Finland/Stony Brook) 62.8% 3
    Warren Hill (Iroquois/Syracuse) 53.5% 12
    Saves per Game Warren Hill (Iroquois/Syracuse) 8.62 13
    Faceoff Percentage Michael Tsiang (China/Villanova) 60.1% 16
  • Dillon Ward -- the tournament's most valuable player -- shocked a lot of people with his performance in Denver. His effort was surprising to me, though, only because he hasn't really had a lot of field experience since leaving Bellarmine after the 2013 season. Great players come from everywhere. This is the beauty of contemporary Division I lacrosse: Incredible players aren't playing for only ACC schools and Johns Hopkins; talent is all over the place, developing and performing at insanely high levels. You don't need to play at a legacy school to become an All-World talent. There is so much value in Division I lacrosse that it seems ridiculous to limit caring to just a handful of hyper-elite schools.
  • There were numerous mentions on the broadcasts over the last week about the NCAA's coming rules congress and whether the adoption of a shot clock is going to happen. Against the backdrop of a fair degree of stalling that took place in the world tournament, I think a lot of people want to pivot the world tournament's situation toward the college game. I would be very careful about applying play from the world tournament to college lacrosse, mostly because the two games are vastly different in purpose, talent, and scope.
  • From an outside perspective, the tournament appeared to be very well run and strongly attended. The time that ESPN dedicated to the tournament was spectacular and I thought the big publications -- Inside Lacrosse and Lacrosse Magazine -- did an amazing job with their reporting during the event. US Lacrosse deserves a giant party at a petting zoo for pulling this whole thing off without hitch, even with the storms that disrupted the early stages of the event. Good job all around. More importantly -- this tournament may have been the perfect dry-run for Denver to host Championship Weekend. The time has come.
  • USA, Canada, and Iroquois were what they were, but I was pleasantly surprised with the level of execution from outside of the medalists. The was obviously a college flavor to a lot of these teams -- which raises odd questions about how these national programs should be constituted relative to "nationality," but I don't care about any of those questions -- and the quality of play was pretty good outside of the Blue Division. I don't know exactly what the FIL is going to do about the 2018 tournament in terms of division construction -- does the federation create a new incredibly elite division to try and avoid Canada, the Iroquois, and USA smashing teams not on their level? -- but I would be shocked if these national programs don't continue to mine the Division I ranks for current and former players that can contribute.