The experience in Israel was amazing. Two weeks of playing lacrosse with everyone from around the world. My brother Jim and I both played lacrosse at Hagerty High School. I was a goalie from 2007-2010, He played defense from 2010-2013. We both went to Berry College in Rome, Ga and played lacrosse there as well. I played FO/middie from 2011-2014. My brother Jim was there from 2014-2017. We got to play on the same team my senior year in college, his freshman year. He went to Germany over the summer with a team from USAAI and played a few teams while they were over there. One of the teams was the Slovakian team. While over there my brother explained to them that we were Slovakian. Martin, one of the guys who kind of runs the team asked if we would like to play with them in Israel. Four years later we met up with them in Tel Aviv for the 2018 world games.
After only receiving half of our luggage because the airlines didn’t load the other half, we made our way to the team hotel in Netanya. Hotel Margoa was where we stayed. It was a nice hotel and very accommodating and welcoming. We stayed with the Uganda team and France team. The culture experience was awesome. Between learning about our Slovakian heritage to the Israeli life to all of the different cultures at the games. The guys on the team were very welcoming to us. We hit the ground running as soon as we got there. We arrived on Monday and had practice Tuesday morning at 7:00am. It was a good time to find out what everyone could do and how the temperature would be like. It was definitely a hot one and very humid just like Florida which kind of gave my brother and I and advantage. We also had a practice later that night as well which was much cooler temperature wise.
Night and day really do make a difference over there. For the first 3 days there my brother and I were living out of my carry on that I luckily packed a few clothes in. His checked bag, that did not make it, had all of our clothing in it. We also had to borrow sticks because our heads were in his carry-on. We made it work and three days after we arrived we finally got our clothes and his carry on bag. Two days our first practice we were starting games. We had a game that morning at 8:45am against Switzerland. We came out strong to start but the heat got the better of us and they came back and won. We had the opening ceremonies that night which was an amazing experience. It really hit you when you walked out there with the team that you were representing a whole country.
The next day we didn’t have a game until 9:15pm that night. Lucky for us our hotel was right on the beach so everyday ended up being a beach day. The cool thing to see with that was being from Florida we’ve all been to the beach and can go pretty much anytime we want. In Slovakia they don’t have beaches. The Slovakian guys were loving just being there. It really put into perspective something that a lot of us Floridians take advantage of. Later that night we played against Taiwan. They were a young program, it was their first World Games. We ended up winning that game 13-1. My brother scored his only goal of the tournament in this game. With that win it made us 1-1 and second in our group.
We had Saturday off and went on a tour of Jerusalem. Our next game was Sunday against Denmark. That was a tough game as well. They were a good, physical team. We came out of that game winning 8-5 and moving on to an upper game. After Denmark, we had a tough game on Monday against Jamaica. Jamaica was a very talented team. Probably the most talented team we played all tournament. We game planned for them and played a tough game but lost 12-5. With that loss we had to play and win the next game to get into a favorable bracket for seeding. That game ended up being against Argentina at 9:45pm.
We started out strong against them and got an early lead going into the half. They started coming back but fell short and we won 10-9. With this win it put us in the 21-24 place bracket. The first game of that bracket for us was against New Zealand. This game was an experience. Before every game the New Zealand team does the ‘Haka’ as a sign of setting a challenge to their opponent. I have seen this before on TV and videos but it is a different feeling and experience when it is live. New Zealand was a good challenge and a hot game for us at 2:45 in the afternoon in Israel. We ended up losing that game. This loss dropped us to the 23rd and 24th place game.
This game would be against Austria. This was kind of an Ironic game because the Slovakian and Austrian teams are good friends with each other and actually played a tune up game the week before the tournament and both teams traveled to and from the games on the same flight. Luckily for us we came out ahead this time and won which placed us 23rd in the world out of 46 countries. This was the best finish statistically for the Slovakians in the tournament.
We finished the tournament 4-3 overall. On the last Saturday there before we left on Sunday the team took a trip to the dead sea. These two weeks of lacrosse were amazing. We made some great new friends and brothers and learned a lot from each other. It was more than just another summer lacrosse tournament, it was a culture experience. My brother and I were lucky and very thankful for being selected to join the Slovakian team for the tournament.