Thirteen of the 21 players on Team USA’s roster hail from the greater Charlotte region
Team Carolina’s 15-under squad began its quest for an international title in July as they competed in the National Lacrosse Classic.
The tournament, which concluded July 21 in Richmond, featured teams from 16 states, regions and Canadian provinces and was the first-ever victory for a Carolinas team in the 10-year history of the event at any age level.
Not only did it provide Team Carolina its first victory, but it also allowed the 15-Under squad the chance to represent the United States in the Brogden Cup, a three-game international series against Canada which was held Dec. 27-29 at Jacksonville (Fla.) University.
The Brogden Cup had only this year expanded to include and Under-15 division after operating the past six seasons as an Under-19 event, and Team Carolina coach Tim Price said his team was ready to go as they entered the holiday tournament.
“Carolina’s championship at the National Lacrosse Classic was especially impressive since it attracted players from different parts of the state – primarily Carolina hotbeds of Charlotte and Raleigh – and relied heavily on the young players’ talent and IQ,” said Price, who founded Ardrey Kell’s lacrosse program after previous stops at Charlotte Latin and Providence Day. “With limited practice time, the coaching staff put together a basic framework and then added nuances throughout the week based on the players’ response. It speaks volumes to the programs the kids came from that they possessed such strong skill foundations and understanding of the game.”
In the Brogden Cup opener on Dec. 27, Team USA jumped out to a 2-0 lead early after goals by Emmett Houlihan and Tate Jones. However, Team Canada would mount a comeback, and led 4-3 at the half.
Jackson Price, who was named the Game 1 Offensive MVP, took over in the second half, scoring three times and adding a key assist to DJ Batton that gave Team USA a 9-8 win and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series. Gage Turner earned Defensive MVP honors for the game, but the win was a team effort.
“The team’s chemistry and unselfish play made successfully reuniting for the Brogden Cup that much easier,” Price said. “They had a blueprint for success in place from the summer and followed that plan again in December…As a result, the players were very at ease, enjoyed the bonding opportunity, and played incredibly unselfish lacrosse.”
Team Canada took advantage of a sluggish start by Team USA and broke a 2-2 game open with six consecutive goals to take an 8-2 lead into the half in Game 2 on Dec. 28.
Team USA did not lay down, however, and with increased defensive intensity and on-ball pressure from defenders George Murray, Game 2’s Defensive MVP, and Colton Curtis and outstanding play in goal from Gage Turner the defense tightened down and allowed just one score the rest of the game.
Batton, who was named the game’s Offensive MVP, scored five times in the second half, helping Team USA tie the score at 9 late in the fourth quarter with a chance to win late, but Canada held firm to force overtime.
After winning the initial overtime face-off, Houlihan assisted Batton for his sixth goal, capping the comeback and earning the 10-9 overtime victory.
Team USA had already wrapped up the best-of-three series win, but went for a tournament sweep in the finale on Dec. 29.
Team USA used 10 different goal scorers – including offensive MVP Ryan Stines – and eight second half saves by Nicco Moraitis, Game 3’s Defensive MVP, to drop Team Canada 11-6 in Game 3 and pull off the sweep.
Of the 21 players on Team USA’s roster, 13 hailed from the greater Charlotte area.
Those players, who are all current freshman at local high schools, included Seth Barnes, Northwest Cabarrus; Blake Barwick, Charlotte Catholic; Colton Curtis, Myers Park; Brian Garcia, Lake Norman; Will Habel, Hough; Jack Hines, Episcopal School; Emmett Houlihan, Myers Park; Cole Jessey, Providence Day; Taylor LaFar, Charlotte Country Day; George Murray, Myers Park; Jackson Price, Ardrey Kell; Ethan Robinette, Providence Day; and Gage Turner, Ardrey Kell.
“I feel that this team will reunite down the road a year or two and try to duplicate its accomplishment at the next level,” Price said. “In addition, many of these players will compete against each other this spring at the high school level and again this summer on the club circuit.”