Right mix is key U.S. element Attack gets fresh legs

defense largely intact

July 16, 1998|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

John DeTommaso would like to be vacationing in the Bahamas, playing in the sand with his son and daughter. Instead, he coped with living in the cramped, cinder block-walled quarters of the Naval Academy last week, looking to catch a moment of relaxation between two-a-day practices at the U.S. national lacrosse team training camp.

But DeTommaso, who will play in his U.S.-best fourth World Games, can withstand the dormitory food to play in front of his 5-year-old son and close out his international career at his alma mater, Johns Hopkins. That's a good enough reason for the United States to retain DeTommaso since less than half of the 1994 World Champion U.S. squad returns as the World Championships begin today at Homewood Field.

"I was really thinking about not doing it after the third time," said DeTommaso, 34, an athletic director at a high school on Long Island. "Not that I mind being a senior guy, but I don't think of myself as that. I just try to blend. When I'm on the field, I am just playing like I did when I was 15. Sometimes I joke that I'm 34 feeling like I'm 44."

And age became a factor last year when U.S. team coach Bill Tierney and his assistants analyzed the 120 players who tried out for the national team.

The attack gets an injection of new blood with the additions of jTC recent collegiate stars Casey Powell, Jesse Hubbard and Michael Watson. The midfield receives some fresh legs with the arrival of David Curry, Andy Ross, Greg Traynor and Peter Jacobs.

However, the defense remains relatively intact with little turnover, boasting an average age of 30.

"I think whenever you have an All-Star team, you can't have 26 old guys because their name is out there," Tierney said. "Because ultimately, in a situation where you hopefully play six games in eight days, you can't count on 26 guys who don't have it. On the other hand, you can't have 26 babies. Therefore why I am happy when we picked the team and am still happy is that we have a great mix."

It isn't too difficult to dissect that mix.

During training camp week, the veterans usually spent their free time kicking back with a book or using a cell phone to check back at the office. Then there was the high-energy younger crowd, bouncing the ball off the wall and throughout the halls.

But you can't ignore the generation gap, when the U.S team is composed of current Division I coaches and assistants like defensemen Joe Breschi and Brian Voelker along with players just out of last season's NCAA tournament.

Although the younger players might refer to the veterans as "old guys" or joke off the field about hair lines, there is never any disrespect on the field. Hubbard remembers idolizing several of his U.S. teammates when they played in college and he was just in junior high school.

"A lot of these guys I watched growing up and kind of learned how to play from them," said Hubbard, 22, who played his final season at Princeton in the spring. "Being able to play with them is an amazing dream. Fortunately it came true."

And there is the common ground of retelling the glory days of lacrosse, which bridged the gap over a recent team crab feast.

"We were not on television so we keep the games in our heads," said defenseman Pat McCabe, 29. "So we're telling stories about this game and that game, recapping situations in our mind. And of course, they look better in our minds than to the people that actually saw them."

World lacrosse

What: International Lacrosse Federation World Championship, held every four years

Who: 11 nations, including four-time defending world champion United States

Where: Homewood Field, Johns Hopkins

When: Round-robin games begin today; championship game July 24

Tickets: Call 1-888-98CHAMP

Turning it over

A comparison of the average ages of the U.S. national team, which includes a turnover of 13 players on the 25-man squad:

Position .......... 1994 ..... 1998 ..... New

Attack ............ 26.8 ..... 24.8 ..... 4

Midfield .......... 26.6 ..... 26.3 ..... 6

Defense ........... 27.1 ..... 30.0 ..... 2

Goalkeeper ........ 28.3 ..... 27.5 ..... 1

Overall ........... 27.0 ..... 27.1 ..... 13

Under ............. 24 ....... 3 5 ...... --

Over .............. 29 ....... 6 6 ...... --

Pub Date: 7/16/98

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