By Matthew De George
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 11/9/10
The blustery late-afternoon conditions Sunday that sent players at the Quaker Fall LaxFest scurrying to the warm confines of their cars didn’t faze at least one team.
After a weekend that included a round-trip bus voyage of over 20 hours, any weather -however chilly – would be a welcome relief.
That’s why the Edge Lacrosse Jr. team based out of Ontario, Canada, who earlier in the week had to practice in a light dusting of snow on their home fields, were in no rush to head back to their motorcoach after winning their third game of the day.
Some of the players, while their local counterparts escaped to parts warmer, even remarked without a trace of irony that the weather was warm.
The tourney Sunday capped a busy weekend for one of Canada’s premier lacrosse clubs at the LaxFest, which featured 16 of the top East Coast boys’ club teams from Philadelphia, Long Island, Maryland, upstate New York and New Jersey. In all, more than 100 coaches from 79 colleges lined the four fields.
“It was very good quality lacrosse,” said Clancy Almas, coach of the Edge contingent starring at Radnor. “It’s good to see and it was good for our guys to see this type of game. To be honest, the level of competition was great.
“To come down to a tournament when there’s a lot of coaches is very important for all of our players. This is what their primary focus is, to play in the NCAA.”
The collection of Ontario’s finest spent Saturday in Maryland at the Maryland Fall Classic where it swept all three of its games. It pulled the same trick at Quaker, earning its players valuable exposure to college coaches along the way.
“We try not to come down here and showcase one or two players,” Almas said. “There are a lot of skilled players in Canada…So bringing our guys down here for us is to show the level of talent we have and get our guys on the radar. We’re not bringing guys down here who are signed.”
The Edge program also includes rigorous academic standards. Participation in the team requires satisfaction of certain academic standards. The traveling squad Almas brought last weekend included only players academically capable of being student-athletes at the NCAA level.
The trip was a labor of love and a test of devotion for players, but one they were amply rewarded for even before the letter from colleges may hit the mail.
“The guys that come down here have given up their hockey and their other sports to mainly focus on their lacrosse careers, so the dedication of their parents to make it down to tournaments like this and to come down to play lacrosse down here, it’s big,” Almas said. “Most of these guys here are all heart. They bring down a different type of game and a lot of hardnosed play and they love it.”
“It was amazing,” said Ian McKay, one of several Edge players participating in his first American tournaments. “Just an amazing experience coming out and seeing the different style of play the Americans have. I couldn’t ask for more.”
Almas, who is an assistant coach with Major League Lacrosse’s Toronto Nationals and has long been involved with Canadian lacrosse at various youth levels, took particular relish in the stylistic nuances of the American game compared to its neighbor to the north.
The Canadians, whose style is derived from the game’s roots as an indoor sport, had an added ideological battle to wage against their American opposition. Edge’s game plan stresses a more patient approach, choosing to infiltrate the center of defense rather than settling for long-range shots.
As a veteran of the international scene, Almas has seen firsthand the cultural exchange between the nation’s approaches. The interweaving of styles is something he is eager to expose his players to given their aspirations of playing at the NCAA level.
“Our game is evolving, and the US game is evolving,” he said. “Five years ago, there were maybe 20 guys in the US, now there’s over 200 Canadians in the US.
“We bring a little bit of a different style and it’s nice for the game…Our league five years ago, there weren’t many kids who were using both hands. There weren’t many kids who were good dodgers, so we didn’t have a lot of dodging midfielders and dodging attackers and kids who could switch hands fluently. They played box on field. Now we’re playing field lacrosse, and it’s a big difference.”
At a showcase such as this, though, any rivalries are kept on as civil of terms as passionate lacrosse players can allow.
“I think there’s some, ‘Oh they’re Canadians; their game’s a little different,’” said junior Justin DeMarchi. “But we don’t look at it as we’re beating Americans. We just try to play the best we can and that’s the most important part.”
“Sometimes, we get into some pretty heated games, and then you get the Canadian-American stuff,” Almas added. “It’s getting to be less as we come down here more frequently…But it’s a pride thing for us and it’s a pride thing for the American teams.
“We don’t want to lose to each other, and that’s there in the back of our minds also. It’s a game between the two of us, but I think the gaps closing up between the two of us all the way around.”