SYRACUSE,NY — Bursting onto the world stage this year is a new lacrosse power emerging from the Middle East.
The Israelis sent a surprisingly good U-19 team to the World Indoor U-19 Challenge hosted at Six Nations earlier this summer, and a men’s team that made it to the medal round in its first appearance in the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships in Syracuse last week.
Adam Colbertson, who coached the Israel team in U-19s, explains how his nation has been getting ready for its impressive world debut.
“Since about 2010 the sport has really caught on with Israeli communities,” says Colbertson. “Scott Neeson is the director of lacrosse in Israel and has been working hard at getting the youth involved with the sport.”
Representing at the World Indoor U-19 Lacrosse Challenge at the ILA, and the World Men’s Indoor Lacrosse championships just completed in Syracuse, are some players living in North America (still Israeli citizens) augmented with Israeli national citizens who made the trip for both tournaments.
“Scott Neeson played pro-lacrosse here in North America and around 2010 he realized it’s a great opportunity with him being a dual Jewish and American citizen to bring lacrosse to Israel,” says Colbertson.
Neeson met with the Israeli government and everyone else he could in order to establish a competitive team.
“Since we are such a young organization, we wanted to engage ourselves with the best competition in the world,” says Colbertson. “We thought we’d bring our best players over here and go up against the best in the world and see how we are doing.”
What an introduction it was as the U-19 team showed a lot of potential in the games at the ILA, and to find themselves playing for a medal in their very first appearance at the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships in Syracuse. It would seem Israel has certainly exploded onto the world lacrosse map.
At the WILC hosted on Haudenosaunee Territory for the first time ever, they surprised a lot of people.
After three hard fought round-robin games, the Israeli men took top spot Green Division with a 2–1 record, beating Serbia and Ireland but losing to Germany to earn a berth in the playoff round.
In the playoff round, Israel defeated Finland 14–4, to get into the quarterfinals. There they defeated Ireland 12–7 in a seeding game, taking No. 5 seed of a field of 13 teams. After defeating the Czech Republic, they found themselves playing against the USA for the Bronze Medal in their very first appearance. Although they lost the game, they won the admiration and support of many lacrosse fans in North America and abroad.
According to The Jerusalem Post, most of Israel’s players are active IDF soldiers and participate in the Israel Premier Lacrosse League (IPLL), the highest level of lacrosse in the Middle East, with teams in Ashkelon, Haifa, Netanya and Tel Aviv stocked with active NCAA athletes competing in a summer season.