By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 1/13/13
There were no Southeastern PA players on the USA U19 team that claimed the gold medal last summer in Turku, Finland at the FIL World Lacrosse Championships.
But two players from New Jersey represented the Delaware Valley and were honored along with the rest of the squad Friday night at the Philadelphia Marriott in a special ceremony at the US Lacrosse National Convention.
The honorees included Tyler Barbarich, a face-off specialist who played for 2011 NJ state champion Bridgewater-Raritan and Twist Lacrosse and is a sophomore at Delaware; and midfielder Steve Pontrello, a St. Augustine Prep grad now a freshman at North Carolina.
The two were key players on a squad that overcame much adversity – losing twice in pool play, once to Canada and then to the Iroquois Nationals. But the US avenged both losses in the playoffs and capped it with a 10-8 win over Canada in the final.
“I thought it was an amazing experience to go to Finland with these 23 guys,” said Pontrello. “We had to go through the adversity and after those two losses it gave us a better chance of realizing what we had to do.
“We saw the competition has gotten better every four years. We had a huge team meeting and everyone came together as one unit to win the gold medal.”
In the title game, Barbarich – who is in line for the No. 1 FO spot for the Blue Hens this year – won 7 of 9 draws as the US took 17 of 22 overall to gain a huge advantage in possessions.
“It was great thing for us to get over the adversity,” said Barbarich. “A lot of us had some conflicts with each other in the beginning and the team meeting was supposed to last 15 minutes, and it lasted 2 hours!
“We got everything out; once we did that, it was probably the best experience.”
Barbarich said it surreal to win an International championship and compared it to winning a state.
“It was a big deal to represent your country,” he said. “Compared to winning a state championship in high school or a national championship, you’re representing the US and that was cool.”
The U.S. kept its streak alive of winning every gold medal since sanctioned U19 international began in 1988. Canada, which beat the U.S. 15-13 in overtime in pool play, finished in second place for the fifth time in tournament history. The Iroquois Nationals placed third after an 18-1 win over England earlier Saturday.