Ryan Wade, a 165-pound lacrosse midfielder, isn't the kind of guy to back down from a good challenge.
The 19-year-old Severn graduate and Davidsonville resident left Wednesday for Vail, Colo., where he'll play club lacrosse for Baltimore's Mount Washington Tavern.
His teammates include such luminaries as World Lacrosse Team member Quint Kessinich (John Hopkins, goalie), Brown University's Darren Lowe (the NCAA's Player of the Year) and Jim Buczek (the University of North Carolina's Midfielder of the Year).
Also on the team are Brian Kroneberger and David Morrell, members of Princeton's NCAA champion squad.
"I'm not intimidated at all," said Wade, who just completed his sophomore season at the University of North Carolina, where he was a second-team All-American.
"In fact, I'm looking forward to it."
The former two-time All-County pick is also a member of the United States under-19 team that will challenge for the World Lacrosse Championships at Hofstra University. To prepare for the nine-day tournament, which begins on July 31, Wade and his 23 teammates have been playing weekly exhibition games on the East Coast.
"We've only been together three times, so honestly, I don't think we've shown as good as we're going to get," said Wade, named Player of the Year by both The Anne Arundel County Sun and The Baltimore Sun as a Severn senior. "We've got a lot more practices later on [this month], so I think that's when we'll start improving."
Wade scored twice in the Lacrosse Classic at Johns Hopkins early last month, where the under-19 squad edged the Maryland Junior College All-Stars, 15-14, in overtime. It was the first time the U.S. team played under the international rules that will be used in the World Lacrosse competition.
Under international rules, the game takes on a pace even faster than the collegiate style, while players are allowed to be more physical.
There is very little stoppage of play, for instance, because when the ball goes out of bounds, players don't have to wait for an official's whistle or direction before putting it into play again.
In addition, officials are more lenient with stick-checking, which gives defenders more latitude in challenging what usually amounts to a multitude of fast breaks.
Yet Wade appears undaunted.
"It's a little different from the college game I'm used to, but I can handle it," said Wade, who scored a team-high 27 goals with nine assists for North Carolina, which lost to Princeton in the NCAA semifinals.
"I've been playing college ball for the last two years," Wade said. "The college guys are a lot bigger, and I think they're faster."
The under-19 team consists of some of the best returning Division I players, including Howard High graduate Joe Wilson, Calvert Hall graduate Tony Nugent and Conestoga, Pa.'s Greg Traynor -- all of the University of Virginia.
Traynor scored the game-winning goal against the JuCo All-Stars.
Others include Loyola High's David Evans, who attended Bridgeton Academy and scored five goals against the JuCo All-Stars, and Syracuse University's Ric Beardsley and Roy Colsey.
"There wasn't ever any competition between us. We got along well right away," said Wade, whose younger brother, Jason, will join him as a freshman at UNC next year.
"There isn't going to be any one star on the [U.S.] team. I think everyone is going to play an integral part."
The current team reflects the cream of the crop from among about 150 prospects who reported to the three-day tryouts at Hofstra University last summer.
"Ryan's one of the most outstanding players in the collegiate ranks and one of the two middies on our team who saw the most action on his college team this year," said Tom Flatley, the team's manager, Monday from his home in Long Island's (N.Y.) )) Floral Park.
"He's got an outstanding shot and great speed and faceoff ability. His shot is hard and accurate -- a combination that's very difficult to find in many young college middies."
The under-19 squad leaves for Westchester, N.Y., on July 16 and will practice the next day for a July 18 exhibition.
It will arrive at Hofstra on July 27 and practice for three days before opening the tournament against Australia.
The tournament will be played in a round-robin format, with the two teams with the best records qualifying for the Aug. 8 championship finals and the third- and fourth-best teams meeting for the consolation title.
The Americans are favored to defend their title, while Canada and the Iroquois Nationals are listed as the primary contenders.
The Americans will play Japan on Aug. 1, Iroquois' National team on the second, Canada on the fourth and England on the sixth. "I think we have an advantage over the other teams," said Wade, who could see action as a center midfielder, handling face-offs.
"Most of us are from big schools, so we know what it's like to be in a big game."