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U.S. teams face last bump on smooth road

The United States men's and women's lacrosse teams are looking for an All-American Fourth of July weekend celebration as they go into today's Under-19 world championships favored to retain their titles.

The unbeaten U.S. teams have been so dominant in sweeping the competition at this first tournament combining the International Federation of Lacrosse men's championship and the International Federation of Women's Lacrosse Federations championship, that each has had only one close game.

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Those came against the teams they will meet in tonight's finals at Minnegan Field at Towson Stadium - the women vs. Australia at 5 p.m. and the men vs. Canada at about 8 p.m.

The men, who defeated Canada, 14-10, last Saturday, have outscored the opposition 87-31 in their five games. The women, who came from behind to beat Australia, 13-9, in the tournament opener June 27, have scored 101 goals more than their opposition (125-24) in six games.

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Both teams have dominated competition in the past, too. No other nation has ever won the men's Under-19 crown as the Americans are looking for their fifth straight title in the quadrennial event. The U.S. men haven't lost a single game in the history of the championships.

The women have been nearly as dominant although they did lose one game - the championship of their first Under-19 event to Australia in 1995 in Haverford, Pa. The Americans avenged that loss four years later in Perth, Australia, and are looking to become the first women's team to win an Under-19 title on home soil.

On the men's side, after watching his team struggle to find rhythm and consistency on offense and give up the occasional easy goal on defense earlier in the tournament, U.S. coach Bob Shriver has seen the U.S. team play its two best games - both blowouts against England - coming into the final.

"We think we're at our peak," said Shriver, who said his team must limit Canada's transition game and take away its passes inside.

Canada is led by its attack trio of Scott Janssen (18 goals, nine assists), Kevin Huntley (16 goals, three assists) and Jason Barratt (12 goals, eight assists). Said Canada coach Gary Gait, whose team staged a second-half rally to trip Australia, 13-12, in Thursday's semifinal: "They [U.S.] are very deep, they're sound defensively, and we are going to have to win faceoffs and value possession."

The Americans, who defeated Canada to win the 1999 title, weren't sorry to see their top rivals reach the final.

"I want to play Canada. That's what you dream of: U.S.-Canada," said attackman Matt Dan- owski, who leads the U.S. team with 15 goals and eight assists.

The dream matchup on the women's side is the Americans vs. Australia. The two have met in all three Under-19 finals and both had a pretty easy time dispatching the rest of the field. Australia outscored its opposition 103-39.

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In the opener, the United States struggled with its shooting and a few of the changes in international rules, falling behind the Aussies 9-7 with 16 minutes left before rallying.

"We were shaky against the out of bounds [hard boundaries] and the other international rules," said U.S. team captain Coco Stanwick. "And it's not easy when you're at practice and then you step on the field against a completely different style of play. Now, after a week, everyone's found their role and our offense is really clicking."

Kristen Waagbo, The Sun's 2003 All-Metro Player of the Year, leads the U.S. team with 25 goals and 13 assists. Stanwick, a two-time All-Metro player at Notre Dame Prep, is second with 17 goals and 12 assists.

The Australians, led by Casey Magor's 11 goals and 14 assists, have struggled with injuries and the heat. Talia Shacklock, who plays at Loyola, has missed much of the action with a quad pull and Jacqueline Surendorff missed three games after being overcome by the heat on the first day.

This afternoon, temperatures may reach the mid-90s.


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