Several Major League Lacrosse players, including All-Stars Grant Catalino, Matt Gibson and Chazz Woodson, will take a break from the offseason this weekend to participate in the eighth annual Champion Challenge at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The three-day event will see both United States Men’s and Women’s National Teams playing matches against the top college programs in the nation.
The U.S. Men will face 2012 NCAA champion Loyola as well as national semifinalist Notre Dame, while the U.S. Women take on defending NCAA champion Northwestern and national runner-up Syracuse. This is the first year in which the defending NCAA champions on both the men’s and women’s sides will participate.
U.S. Men’s head coach Richie Meade took some time to talk to MajorLeagueLacrosse.com about the upcoming games and what he expects to see.
“The purpose of these games is to watch these guys play,” Meade said. “We obviously expect to win but what I’m more concerned about is being around this group of players and accomplishing the things that we set out to do. Number one, this is an evaluation so we’re going to use these two scrimmages to see who can play, follow our directions and do the types of things we’re asking of these guys. We’re also going to look at who can handle doing what they’re told to do off the field and all the other things to make sure we’re going to get the right group of guys who are going to make the U.S. National Team.”
Asked if he expects any player to stand out in particular, Meade’s answer is very concise.
“I expect all players to stand out,” he continued. “We’re going to play for the world championship [in 2014]. We’re playing two college teams and you should stand out against college teams.”
“Now there are other criteria as well,” he then expanded. “We know by nature of the way these guys play in MLL, that they don’t have enough time to practice and get the drill situation to develop the off ball communication and coordination skills we need to win the World Championship and that is something we know is a point of emphasis defensively. Offensively it’s going to be a little bit different because we are going to be playing the new college rules which increase the pace of the game. We are looking for disciplined guys offensively. We’re looking for guys who can play with other people, who can shoot the ball at the appropriate time make the right play at the appropriate time, give the ball up or dodge at the right time and be efficient with the ball.”
Coach Meade know exactly what he’s looking for as he evaluates players who may be named to the 2014 FIL World Championship roster
“One of the things we’ve told everyone and will continue to tell everyone is that we are not interested in their game,” Meade said. “We’re interested in them being able to play our game. There are some guys who are disciplined enough and focused enough to be able to do that and there are some guys who aren’t. We have to find the guys who are focused and disciplined and are able to make the right choices so we can be successful as a team. That is the result I’m looking for.”
When asked if he plans to have other test matches during the summer, Coach Meade was very mindful of the MLL season.
“One of the things that we’ve tried to do is we’ve tried to be as non-invasive of the MLL season as we can be,” he continued. “We’ve designed our tryouts so that we can have them after the MLL season is over. We may have another evaluation if we can put it together for the current college players, players who haven’t been drafted or kids we think we can look at from the college ranks and other leagues. The MLL is really important to us and we don’t want to distract the players form their season. With the [FIL] World Championships being next year, we know we’re going to require quite a bit from the national team players and we don’t want to do it two years in a row.”
Finally, Meade touches on his “other” job, building the new lacrosse program at Furman University in South Carolina.
“We’re doing great here.” He concluded. “Furman is an incredible university in the wonderful city of Greenville, S.C. Lacrosse in this area is booming, we have youth and high school programs popping up everywhere. We have tremendous enthusiasm here at the school from our board of trustees, our president and our students are really excited about Lacrosse. We are laying the ground work, renovating facilities, putting down field turf and preparing to bring on two new teams. It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of fun and we are making good progress. I can tell you this. The kids coming down here to visit for recruiting purposes are very impressed with the school’s academic programs and the commitment of the university in the academic area. We are very focused on being successful in Lacrosse at the DI level and we are going about our business to achieve that.”
You can catch the U.S. Men’s Lacrosse match against Loyola Live on Sunday, January 27 at 1:30 p.m. on ESPN 3. The game will re-air on ESPNU at 10 p.m. that