Ray Finch wanted Carroll County lacrosse to get some exposure, so he decided to take on the world.
A team of 27 players from Carroll County will play two exhibition games today at Winters Mill High School in Westminster against teams from Wales and England. The two teams will be in the area to participate in the U.S. Men's Under 19 International Lacrosse Federation World Championships, which begin tomorrow and run through July 5 at Towson University.
Finch, president of Finch Services, a lawn and tractor company in Westminster and one of the sponsors of the World Championships, will be a Carroll County coach, with Tim Anderson.
"We just wanted to create an experience that these teen-agers will take with them to college and beyond," Finch said. "For some kids, this will be the last time they pick up a lacrosse stick."
Finch, who graduated from Westminster High School in 1977, is a longtime fan of the sport and a former recreational league coach in Gamber. He was a member of the first varsity team to play lacrosse in Carroll County after his elder brother Dan and two of his friends ran an advertisement in a local paper looking for players.
Finch, 44, a former state wrestling champion, knows the value of international competition.
"I participated in one international event when I was a teen-ager in high school, and you remember that," he said, recalling the time that he defeated his opponent from a Polish team that was touring the United States. "These games are something exciting and neat for the kids. I'm hoping to fill the stands at Winters Mill, which holds about 1,500, and hopefully that won't be enough. A typical lacrosse crowd around here is 150 to 200, and that's a good turnout. I'm envisioning around 600."
Finch also sees this as a good opportunity to showcase talent in Carroll County, which he thinks is slighted by the attention paid to Baltimore city and county. The Carroll County team will not be an All-Star team, but a composite of players from most of the area's seven high schools. He said about 40 players were invited to try out for the team. Underclassmen will be represented as well as seniors.
Finch assembled the team after learning that teams from Wales and England wanted to play games before the start of the under-19 World Championships to be held at Towson University.
The same Carroll County squad will play the team from Wales at 5 p.m. and the team from England at 8 p.m.
"It's quite an undertaking to do something like this because you have to get caterers involved, bring on logistics people, announcers, security, provide ambulance services," Finch said. "But once the youngsters are in the crowd, young men and women in Carroll County will remember this the rest of their lives. This is a good chance for the city to come out and see what Carroll County has to offer because we have some good players here."
Brett Walzl, 16, a defenseman who will be a senior at North Carroll High School, said while the team is "looking good," he is a little nervous about the game --which is his first against international competition.
Walzl said he has never met anyone from England, before, and he looks forward to getting together with some of the opposing players after the game.
Finch's son Alex, 17, a midfielder who will be a senior at Westminster High, said he thinks the team has a "good chance" to win despite having to play by English rules.
"It's not everyday you get to play a team from another country," he said.
Sun staff writer William Rasmussen contributed to this article.