By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 7/21/14
It was ironic that until they found themselves playing together for Team Turkey at the Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships in Colorado, Upper Dublin natives Jacob Adoni and Tyler Rinko didn’t really know each other.
But Adoni and Rinko were key players for Turkey in its first international appearance and helped the Turks finish 22nd, second-best among new programs (in a 38-team field).
Adoni, a rising junior goalie at Gettysburg College who played at Germantown Academy, starred as the Turkish netminder. Rinko, a 2009 Upper Dublin grad who played at Roanoke College, was shifted from midfield to attack and finished as one of the Turkish team’s top scorers.
Both players found totally different paths to the Turkish team, but each found the 10 days in Colorado an incredible experience on and off the field.
“Seeing 38 countries and being around all these guys was amazing,” said Adoni, who led all goalies at the World Championships in save percentage (.681) and was second in saves (96). “Seeing all these people representing all their countries, it was crazy to see how big the game has grown outside of the United States.
“Everyone was so nice and every time you would walk by someone – from your team or someone from another team – they would say, ‘Hey good luck, I hope you have a good game.'”
Adoni said the stars of the event were Team Uganda’s players. Many people in the US helped raise the funds to help Uganda make it to Denver.
“Every time you’d see them you’d get a high-five,” he said. “It’s all such a small little community and Uganda is the first African nation (playing lacrosse). They have been getting a lot of attention so every time you’d see them you’d get a big smile. It was great to see how everyone was interacting.”
Adoni – who enjoyed a strong high school and club (Mesa Fresh) career – was the Gettysburg backup the past two years, but will vie for a starting spot in 2015. He knew he was eligible to play for Turkey since his grandfather was born in Turkey and lived in Istanbul his entire childhood.
“I actually looked up Turkey lacrosse myself and wanted to see if I had any opportunity to play in the tournament,” Adoni said. “They called me back and once I confirmed my grandfather was born there I found out they were going to have a tryout at Gettysburg. They came there to see me and four other players that tried out for the team.”
Adoni also said he learned some history from his new Turkish friends, who may not be as experienced as the Americans, but learned quickly, he said. From their discussions, Adoni believes his ancestors came to Turkey in the late 1500s from Spain when all Jews were exiled and then welcomed by the Ottoman Empire.
How did the team perform?
“Our defense was so strong,” Adoni said. “At times we had only three poles playing because a couple guys got hurt. But they were giving them shots that we knew I could save and we were keeping guys on the outside.
“I give all the credit to the defense, honestly. We had a guy that played at Providence, and on from Tufts’ National championship team, and another guy that played D2, so we had talent on defense. You could see every day on the field we got better and better and I think they (the Turkish players) enjoyed the experience more than anything.
“For a lot of them it was their first time in the United states. They are some of the nicest people I ever met. They were so welcoming to us and I think we learned a lot from them off the field and they learned a lot from us on the field.”
Adoni said he hopes to play for Turkey in four years when the tourney moves to Manchester, England.
Rinko has no family ties to Turkey, but he became eligible to play because he has been teaching math and economics at an international school in Izmir (South of Istanbul on the Aegean Sea) for nearly a year. Rinko contacted Turkey lacrosse founder Patrick Dougherty (an Upstate NY native who moved to Istanbul in 2009) and then tried out for the team in Istanbul.
“When I first got to Turkey I searched Turkey lacrosse and got a hold of Patrick Dougherty,” said Rinko, who led Turkey in goals with 13 in the World Championships. “I was trying to start a lacrosse program in Izmir and then went to try out for the national team.”
Rinko began coaching as a senior at Roanoke (he did not play that year) and also has coached in Philly. He never thought he would play again, but this experience has been an eye-opener.
“After I decided not to play in college my senior year, I pretty much thought my competitive career was probably over,” he said. “But it’s been pretty cool to play again. I grew up as a midfielder, but I had to learn to play attack here.
“This whole experience has been amazing. Even though I am not Turkish, it’s been cool to represent the country. All my teammates and friends I made in Turkey are great. I played in the (Jewish) Maccabi Games when I was younger, but as an adult experience this is something I will never forget.
“It’s nice to see the Turkish guys – who were really playing in their first lacrosse experience at the international level – and show them how lacrosse is played. The goal is to grow lacrosse in Turkey by going back and taking what they learned now that they know what it is all about.”
Rinko said he hopes to stay involved with the national team in the future perhaps as a coach. He intends to build a program for players of all age when he returns to Izmir.
Now that he has gotten to play with Adoni, he recalls once playing with him in Philly.
“We didn’t really know each other, but I do remember playing with him in a pickup game once or twice last summer at GA,” he said. “I went to Upper Dublin and he went to GA. It’s funny how things come together.
“Lacrosse is such a network of connections and it’s funny how you live across the world from somebody and yet grew up next to them and get to play on the same team in a world championship.”