U.S. edges Aussies, 13-10 Surprised Americans need two late goals for World Games win

July 18, 1998|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Lacrosse's version of the Dream Team received its wake-up call last night.

Any thoughts of walking to a world title quickly evaporated as the four-time defending champion United States national team needed two goals in the final six minutes to hold off Australia, 13-10, before 6,519 at Homewood Field in its 1998 World Games debut.

Mark Millon, MVP of the 1994 World Games, had four goals and one assist for the United States (1-0), which improved to 51-1 in international competition. The U.S. team won by an average of 15 goals in 1994.

Australia (1-1), the 1994 runner-up, is now 0-10 against the United States, but it used a ball-control game to give the host country its biggest scare since a two-goal game between the teams in 1994.

"It's the first time for all of us," U.S. coach Bill Tierney said. "You have to give the Australians credit. We had the ball 20 minutes of the 80. In one respect, you're disappointed because you feel like you can play better. Then, in the other respect, you had a good, tough game as your opener against a good, tough team and we won. So it's a bit of a combined feeling."

The U.S. team, which routed Australia by 14 goals in the 1994 semifinals, made its final surge behind fast-break goals from Millon and Ryan Wade late in the fourth to widen an 11-10 lead. The three-goal margin represented the Americans' biggest advantage in a contest that featured six ties.

After the game, Tierney delivered a stern post-game speech to his players as the Australians were cheered during their warm-down jog around the field.

"The effort was there, but we just didn't come together offensively or defensively," said attackman Michael Watson, a St. Paul's School graduate who had two goals and an assist. "We haven't been together awhile. I don't want to make excuses, but we certainly didn't play sharp today."

The U.S. team appeared at its best when playing outside a set system, seeming hesitant in its offensive flow and scoring more than half of its goals in transition. On the defensive side, the Americans worked well at times, but broke down on certain slides against the possession-minded Australians.

Still, the U.S. team revved up when needed. With the game tied at 8, the Americans showcased their athleticism as Darren Lowe cranked in a short-range shot with 5: 56 left in the third period after two rapid clearing passes.

The United States continued to run to open the fourth, receiving quick-look goals from Jesse Hubbard and Millon in the first two minutes. Australia answered with back-to-back goals in the middle of the fourth to reduce the U.S. margin to 11-10 with 10: 22 remaining before the Americans rolled at the end.

"It's not playing slowdown, it's playing smart," Australian coach Jon Denic said. "If they haven't got the ball, they can't score. When we made mistakes at the end, they made us pay. It's pressure at a level you can only get by playing college or club ball, something we don't have at home."

The U.S. team did show flashes and maintained the edge in nearly every statistical category, including shots (35-31), ground balls (26-22) and faceoffs (16 of 27). But Tierney seemed fixed on the bigger picture.

"We're all right but we just have to get a better feel for one another," he said. "When you look bad at times, you have to give the other team credit. We're happy with the win right now, but we have to get better if we want to win this thing."

Millon put the U.S. team ahead immediately, scoring just 1: 38 into the contest. It scored again when David Curry converted a fast break with 7: 15 left in the first quarter.

Then Australia caught some breaks and capitalized on nearly all of them, scoring three straight times to take a 3-2 lead.

However, Australia couldn't maintain its composure for the entire half. Holding a 5-4 lead, the Australians got flustered, jump-starting a 3-0 U.S. spurt.

American defenseman Brian Voelker started the run by scoring off a clear with 6: 14 left in the second quarter. Then the HTC Australians committed three penalties, including a delay of game foul, that gave the U.S. team a pair of two-man advantage opportunities. The Americans worked the ball around for two easy shots and went into halftime with a 7-5 lead.

Next for U.S.

Opponent: England (0-2)

When: Tonight, 8 p.m.

TV: HTS

Series: U.S. leads, 8-0

Last meeting: U.S. won, 24-3, in 1994 World Championship semifinals

Pub Date: 7/18/98

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