The round-robin portion of the 2011 World Indoor Lacrosse Championship (WILC) is over and, to no one's surprise, Canada has looked nothing short of unstoppable. This collection of athletes could quite possibly be the most impressive ever assembled for box lacrosse (of course, the Iroquois Nationals and the United States will still have something to say about that).
Team Canada finished the first half of the tournament by going 3-0, winning their group, and outscoring their opponents by a combined 81-8. However, going up against the less experienced nations of Australia, Slovakia, and England, anything less than perfection would have been unacceptable.
Jeff Zywicki leads all Canuck scorers with 10 goals, while Dan Dawson and Colin Doyle have potted six apiece. And that's only a glimpse into this roster filled with National Lacrosse League all-stars.
Goaltenders Anthony Cosmo and Matt Vince have been solid, but largely untested, while Tyler Richards hasn't seen much time between the pipes due to an undisclosed injury.
The Canadians received a bye into Friday's semifinals, where they'll face off against the winner of the United States-Australia quarter-final.
Tougher opponents await
Wednesday is an off day for the WILC, meaning that Canada will need to find ways to remain sharp while they await their most likely opponent, the United States.
"We will need to continue our strong work ethic and discipline. We need to stay focused," said Doyle, the team captain.
Whereas this group has not taken on a viable challenger to date, the Americans and Iroquois Nationals waged war on one another in a comeback 11-10 round-robin victory for the Iroquois. Each of those clubs took home medals in 2003 and '07 (the Iroquois took silver, the U.S. bronze) and have pushed one another to their physical limits. Will the two-time defending gold medallist Canadians be able to flip the switch and play at a high level when called upon?
With so many weapons on both sides of the ball, it can be easy for a younger player to get lost in the shuffle. When asked what teammate has been a pleasant surprise, Doyle did not hesitate to answer.
"I think a lot of players have been impressed with Steph [Stephan Leblanc], but it's not new for me," said the Canadian captain, a linemate of Leblanc's on the NLL champion Toronto Rock. "I have seen it for two years. I am impressed at how well we have meshed in such a short time."
Taking top spot in the nation's official summer sport is of course the purpose of the trip overseas. Nevertheless, there is downtime to enjoy the history and beauty that Prague has to offer.
"Many of the players have gone out to explore several of Prague's most famous sites such as Old Town, Prague Castle, and the astronomical clock," said Canada's team coordinator, Alan Tsang.
"It is great to see box lacrosse continue to grow in different countries around the world. Many of the nations here have improved their programs in such a short time, which is great for the international development of the sport.
"The WILC organizers have been exceptional and are very gracious hosts. The tournament is being very well run."
The amount of man-hours that have gone into making this world championship possible is uncountable.
"We've worked on this tournament for two years. Since May 14, myself and other managers have been working from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week," said tournament organizer Petr Chmelar. "There are over 60 volunteers on several shifts to make this possible. It is all worthwhile to see the best in the world playing in Prague and I hope this helps lacrosse develop further in Europe."
Here's a look at the playoff schedule:
- 7th/8th place: Ireland vs. Slovakia
- Quarter-final 1: USA vs. Australia
- Quarter-final 2: England vs. Czech Republic
- Semifinal 1: Canada vs. USA/Australia (10 a.m. ET)
- Semifinal 2: Iroquois vs. England/Czech Republic
- 5th/6th place: Two losing teams from the quarter-finals
- Bronze medal match
- Gold medal match
To watch the 2011 World Indoor Lacrosse Championship live or on-demand, and to get schedule information and stories, visit http://www.wilcprague2011.com/
Andy McNamara is a Toronto-area sports broadcaster and writer. He is the play-by-play voice for the Toronto Rock on the National Lacrosse League Network and for the 2011 World Indoor Lacrosse Championship. Contact Andy at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter @AndyMc81.