Japan sprinted to an undefeated round-robin record with a fleet-footed brand of lacrosse. But that style took it lumps against the physical Iroquois Nation.
Shoving Japan around at times, the Iroquois eventually wore down their Far East opponent, 12-9, last night in the World Championships play-in game at Homewood Field. The Iroquois (2-3), who left their physical mark with nine penalties, now advance to a semifinal tonight against the four-time defending world champion United States.
Japan (5-1), which was perfect in the Red Division for emerging nations, will face Germany today in the consolation round. Although Japan couldn't pull off the upset, it showed a marked improvement since 1994, when it lost to the Iroquois twice by an average of nine goals.
It's the first time in the semifinals for the Iroquois, who lost to the U.S. team by 12 goals on Sunday.
"We are all riding this feeling of pride and accomplishment," said Iroquois midfielder Scott Burnam, who had two goals and an assist. "If we play 60 minutes against the U.S., who knows? Stranger things have happened. And I hope strange things do happen [tonight]."
Similar to the occurrences last night, when undersized Japan finished with the edge in shots (36-34), faceoffs (15 of 28) and ground balls (33-31).
Nevertheless, a couple of physical lapses in the second half proved to be the downfall of Japan, which was playing its sixth game in six days.
The Iroquois' final push came with less than two minutes remaining in the game after Japan had pulled to 10-8. The Iroquois powered their way to the victory on goals by Cory Bomberry and Gewas Schindler in a 43-second span to expand the lead to 12-8 with 1: 08 left.
Japan struck first, when Tomohiko Kobayashi scored on a roll along the crease with 7: 22 left in the first quarter. But Japan had troubles clearing the ball in the opening quarter, failing on three of seven attempts as the Iroquois' aggressiveness threw Japan out of sync.
That allowed the Iroquois, who had missed on their first six shots, to tie the game on an extra-man goal by Bomberry with 1: 08 left in the first. The Iroqouis continued to push Japan around in the second quarter as well as solving goalkeeper Yuji Shimada. Scoring on their first four shots, the Iroquois took a 5-1 lead.
After that surge, Japan settled into its style of lacrosse, a patient, ball-control attack that began to frustrate the Iroquois. Japan drew seven penalties in a span of 16 minutes, which included a three-man up situation at one point.
"It was a frustrating game because it seemed like just when we touched them, there went a flag in the air," said Schindler, a Loyola College senior who had two goals and an assist. "We felt we could have blown them out. But we have to put it behind us."
Iroquois 1 5 2 4 -- 12
Japan .. 1 2 3 3 -- 9
Goals: IN--Co.Bomberry 3, S.Burnam 2, Schindler 2, Alexander, Powless, O.Benedict, D.Burnam, Lyons; J--Jinzai 3, Kanda 2, Kobayashi 2, Maruyama, Muramatsu. Assists: IN--S.Burnam, Schindler, Alexander, Powless, C.Barnes; J--Muramatsu 2, Maruyama, Kobayashi, Takeuchi. Saves: IN--Solomon 13, Hopps 0; J--Shimada 6, Hidekazu 9.
What: World Games semifinal
Opponent: Iroquois Nation (2-3)
When: 8, tickets available
Series: U.S. leads, 3-0
Last meeting: U.S. won, 20-8, on Sunday in a round-robin game.
Pub Date: 7/22/98