Irvine, CA – Matt Brown‘s summer can be described with one word, golden. After losing in the National Semi Final game against Duke on Memorial Day weekend, Brown has been on a bit of a tear. The director of the Denver Elite Box program first guided Team Canada to a decisive World Cup victory over the heavily favorited and much hyped Team USA. Brown then led his Denver Elite Box program to 3 gold medals at the USBOXLA Nationals this past weekend establishing Denver Elite as the newly crowned box lacrosse powerhouse in the USA.
“The event was again a well run competitive event showcasing the top Box programs in the USA, another successful step in the growth of the sport in this country” says Brown. It’s our program’s highlight coming to LA to play in this event.”
The weekend event started with the USBOXLA Academy on Friday where over a hundred players from pee wee to high school elite received individual instruction to get them primed for the upcoming tournament. Coaches were Matt Brown (Team Canada/DU Associate Head Coach, 3xMinto Cup Burnaby BC), Shaydon Santos (World Champion, 12 Year NLL, San Jose Stealth Captain, Whitby ON), Ben Prepchuk (World Champion, Minto Cup, Presidents Cup, Mann Cup, Sherwood Park AB) John Gallant (World Champion, Colorado Mammoth Captain, Minto Cup, Six Nations ON) , Jamie Lincoln (DU, Hofstra, Stealth, Mann Cup Champ,Mammoth, St Catharines, ON), Jamie Shewchuk(Colorado Mammoth, Minto Cup Champion, Sherwood Park AB) and Dylan Sheridan (University of Denver Assistant Coach, 3x MCLA All-American). The morning session featured pee wee and bantam aged players while the afternoon session of the USBOXLA Academy featured midget and high-school elite players. A number of University of Denver commits and future D1 recruits filled the floor for this uptempo display of talent.
“These players were going full tilt” says Jamie Lincoln, both a University of Denver and Hofstra standout. “You get to really what a player is made of out here, a player’s weakness is really exposed, but if they look good in this practice they will look amazing on the field. There’s no other way, we test their limits, in field its tough to push to these extremes” continues Lincoln, who lead Hofstra in scoring for his last 2 years of NCAA ball.
“You’ve got the top offensive mind in the game of lacrosse molding players out there, you’re seeing him emphasize certain aspects of Box skills that he uses for his field program’s offensive dominance” says Shaydon Santos. “There’s 2 extremes in Box development in the USA, there’s kids out there across the country paying big money for nothing more than ‘pick up’ or ‘pond hockey’, getting absolutely nothing out of it and then there’s the USBOXLA Academy, where coaches are shaping players into what powers the top teams in the world” says Santos. “There’s so many kids in the USA that aren’t blown away from their Box experience, well the Box experience in the USA is pretty horrible, it’s nothing like the actual game. But our kids are being trained by the best, they are playing actual games against the best, these are real programs, we’re beating some of the top Canadian teams now.”
“Our kids can play with the best, the biggest thing that separates our USBOXLA players from the best Ontario kids is knowing where and when to move, to be efficient and smart, we do everything 100 miles an hour, which is good, but we make our mistakes at 100 miles and hour too. We just need to build on the understanding of the game and that comes with more high level events like this” says Cali*Lax ALL-STARS coach Colin Doyle, one of greatest players in the history of the Box game.
While the players were on the floor, USBOXLA Referee in Chief Steve Verba was once again leading the USBOXLA Referee Certification Course in the classroom. This year referees from Denver, California, Arizona, Ontario Canada and Maryland made up the officiating crew of the event. “We have our experienced crew mixed in with some new refs for the upcoming tournament, we’ll run some 3 man teams to ensure the quality is there. The only way to move the game forward in the USA is through coaching, referee and player development and my job as Referee in Chief is to ensure the game can be played at a high level, safely, by the exact standards of the USBOXLA Rule and Situtaional book” continues Steve Verba, Referee in Chief of the US Box Lacrosse Association.
Games commenced on Friday evening and fans were treated to the most competitive Box lacrosse event in the USA.
The Cali*Lax ALL-STARS, the perennial Box Lacrosse powerhouses in the USA, took home the first gold medal of the tournament with a Pee Wee gold medal beating a Jr Stealth team.
“Drake Domme, Stephan Pouteau, Lawton Corrigan and Wells Bligh were our workhourses” says coach Elliot Bender. “Wins were a total
team effort and think this undefeated tournament came down to having better stick stills up and down the line up than our opponents” says Bender.
“This Cali*Lax ALL-STARS team finished in a disappointing fourth place in the Calgary ‘A’ division this summer so there was a little bit of redemption for these boys, they had something to prove out there. This gives our Pee Wee program a perfect 10-0 record over the past 2 years at this event.”
At the Bantam level, the Cali*Lax ALL-STARS and Denver Elite squared off in the much anticipated Bantam Gold Medal game.
“Our team was fueled by the red hot stick of Ben Highfill, Nathan Rumph and first year Bantam player Quinn Marquez who is unquestionably the top face off guy in the entire tournament” says Santos.
Denver Elite proved too strong for the California team and took gold on the shoulders of an ultra strong performance of Denver goalie Chandler Nayman.
“Our Bantam team jelled and really came together as the tourney progressed. Jake Taylor has been the leader of this team for the past 3 season and thought he had a tremendous tournament. Griffin Wilson, big left hander came into the program and had an outstanding performance. Chandler Nayman, you talk about a player who has developed dramatically over the past few season’s well it’s Chandler, he would be my pick for the over-all MVP of the tournament. He was simply brilliant” says Denver Bench boss Matt Brown.
At the midget level, Denver Elite and the Jr Stealth faced off in the gold medal game.
“We were definitely the underdogs going into the game versus the Junior Stealth. They had a huge goalie in net who was very strong, they also had a bunch of imports. Mikey Bealer was great, the Rueth brothers were great as well. Caleb Rueth was a spark plug for our team when we were down by a few early in the game and he got some tough ground balls and played some real gritty lacrosse that the rest of the boys rallied around, got their emotions back on track. That was the turning point really. Amazing how that works. Championship teams have Championship goalies and Moose (Skyler Whinery) is exactly that, he was very good in net” says Brown.
Denver Elite took the gold in a 6-4 highly competitive match over the Jr Stealth.
The newly formed High school Elite level featured new comers San Diego Old School, a San Diego All-Star team directed by Toby Boucher. “Toby’s got a great Box background, has some years in the MILL, very excited to have these guys join the event” says Santos.
“The San Diego team was filled with extremely talented players, very fast, good stick work, complete athletes, but they don’t play in a Box program in SoCal. Field guys use a lot of their energy at the wrong times and places on the floor and makes these games difficult to officiate” says Santos. “We just need to play these guys more, Toby’s teams will be very good in the future and am looking forward to that, they just need to play” says Santos.
“Over the past 3 years Southern California teams that have entered USBOXLA events have gone a total of 0-26. They just don’t play Box in southern California, field is definitely king there.”
The High School Elite Cali*Lax ALL-STARS featured a number of new players to their program including 4 recent University of Denver commits wanting to take the leap into Box and their new offensive coach’s world. “We have 4 new players on this team from California who are going to the University of Denver. They know the success of the Box players at DU, the Matthews, the Bergs, the Flints, the Nobles, they want to develop these skills, they know the importance of it” says coach Shaydon Santos.
The Cali*lax ALL-STARS faced off yet again against the Denver Elite for the gold medal match at the High School Elite Division. This was the third and final time these two power houses faced off against each other in gold medal matches at the USBOXLA Nationals.
Many of the players on the floor fresh off the Team USBOXLA BC Intermediate Tour playing the top talent in the west coast. Denver Elite proved yet again too strong for the Cali*lax ALL-STARS and Denver Elite took home their third Gold medal of the weekend beating Cali8Lax
Matt Brown was very pleased with his team’s victory. “Chad Cruz is the captain of the team and was very good. Jarred Deanwas very strong in goal, I know his experience of playing up in BC with Team USBOXLA this past summer was huge for his development.
Taking shots and playing against the top offensive talent in the west will only make you better and that’s exactly what happened with Jarred. He was outstanding in net. I know all our guys that participated in that BC tour said it was the best lacrosse experience of their lives. A lot of our younger guys want a shot at BC’s best, they want to play on Team USBOXLA, they want to follow in the footsteps of the boys who just came back. As an organization we are here to develop not only the best Box lacrosse players in the USA but to make these boys the best players in the world” continues coach Brown.
Team USBOXLA, an All-Star team comprised of the top players in the West who just played Team Alberta in Calgary faced off against the tournament ALL-STARS on Saturday night at the
pee wee, bantam and midget levels. Making his triumphant Box Lacrosse coaching debut was 6 x National Champion and University of Denver Head Coach Bill Tierney who coached Team USBOXLA for these All-Star games.
The Tournament medal standing is as follows:
1) Denver Elite – 3 Gold, 1 Bronze
2) Cali*Lax ALL-STARS – 1 Gold, 2 Silver
3) Jr Stealth – 2 Silver, 1 Bronze
4) Alberta Mavericks – 1 Bronze
The 2015 USBOXLA Nationals are set at July 31-Aug 2nd, in Los Angeles California.
Moose Skyler Whinery