Call it frustrating and sloppy at times, but the style of the U.S. national lacrosse team remains consistent.
The U.S. team endured yet another slow start and sometimes messy effort to wear down the Iroquois Nation, 20-8, yesterday before 7,038 at Homewood Field in the World Games round robin.
The United States improved to 3-0 and is now 53-1 in international competition. The Americans now prepare for the much-anticipated showdown at 8 tonight against rival Canada (3-0) for the top seed.
Yesterday, the United States waited until late in the second quarter to make its push, bagging the flashy and sloppy acrobatic shots and passes to concentrate on simple dodging and off-ball cuts to the goal. The U.S. team immediately improved its efficiency and broke away from a 6-5 lead with five consecutive goals.
Bill Miller, 28, the Americans' oldest attackman, led a balanced attack with a goal and five assists. Mark Millon, the team's top scorer, added three goals, as did midfielders Blake Miller and David Curry.
"Mentally, we have to have that killer instinct," U.S. coach Bill Tierney said. "What I am most proud of is that they keep plugging and keep hanging in there. Eventually, they get their goals and they get their shots."
That instinct was not evident early. For the third time in three games, the United States jumped ahead 2-0 before letting the opposition creep back.
After Jesse Hubbard's goal from 10 yards out 6 1/2 minutes into the game, the United States looked for the stylish goal on attack XTC and were flat-footed on defense. The Iroquois (1-3) slashed past U.S. defenders twice in the final seven minutes of the first quarter to tie the game at 2.
In the second quarter, the Americans pushed the margin to two goals three times, but couldn't shake the Iroquois. Gewas Schindler, who plays collegiately at Loyola, stuck a curling, one-handed shot with a dive along the crease to get the Iroquois to within 6-5 with 5: 15 remaining in the second.
The United States then assumed control with simple, direct moves to the goal, scoring three goals on its last five shots of the half. U.S. midfielder Rob Shek, a Towson State graduate, punctuated the second quarter with a high-bouncing shot at the buzzer to increase the lead to 9-5.
Midfielders Ryan Wade and Blake Miller added two more goals off quick dodges out front to open the second half and put the Americans ahead, 11-5, just 5 1/2 minutes after halftime. The Iroquois couldn't cut that deficit below four goals thereafter.
"Sometimes when you have a lot of great players all on the same court, you don't want to do too much early," said Bill Miller, a Hobart product. "We're slowly, game by game, pushing it back closer and closer. Hopefully, we can put four quarters together."
Ahead 11-7 with seven minutes left in the third, the United States used a continual rotation of fresh legs against the wilting Iroquois defense. The Americans scored eight straight times for a 19-7 cushion.
The United States doubled the Iroquois in shots (62-26) and dominated on ground balls (41-27) in posting its highest goal total this week.
"They're so strong down the whole bench they can have another team out there," Schindler said.
United States 2 7 5 6 -- 20
Iroquois Nation 2 3 2 1 -- 8
Opponent: Canada (3-0) Time: 8 p.m.
Series: U.S. leads 9-1
Last meeting: U.S. won, 16-10, in 1994 World Championship round-robin game.
Name: Matthew Nugent
Birthplace: Oldham, England
The skinny: Grew up in Middleton, where his father introduced him to lacrosse at the age of 15. His father played lacrosse noncompetitively. He discovered he liked lacrosse accidentally when he attended a practice session called Taste-a-Day in England, held by English and American coaches. He made the team and has played since then, including the past two years on the Welsh national team. He attended the University of Wales in Cardiff and now lives in Rochdale, Manchester, where he plays on the town's club team and runs a business called Presentation Gifts. Nugent's business makes cabinets, clock cases, golf gifts and other corporate gifts.
-- Ryan Basen
Pub Date: 7/20/98