U.S. Indoor Team Disappointed, but Proud of Performance at Worlds


The U.S. indoor team took home bronze after holding England on Saturday night.

LANGLEY, British Columbia — The scene on the floor at Langley Events Centre wasn't unusual. It was all too familiar.

Canada, having just won the gold medal matchup, crowded in the center of the floor, celebrating a much-earned world championship. The Iroquois Nationals stood disappointed that, yet again, they could not dethrone the kings of box lacrosse.

And there stood the U.S. national team, decked out in navy blue jumpsuits, having won earlier in the night and waiting for their turn to be honored with the bronze medal. 

It happened in the inaugural event in Ontario in 2003 and each year in between. Five straight world championships, the order has remained the same.

“Much like the Iroquois, we wanted gold,” coach Regy Thorpe said. “Canada and Iroquois are tough. Iroquois is chasing Canada and we’re chasing both of them. Then other teams are starting to chase us. Everyone is getting better.”

After jumping out to a big first-half lead against England, the U.S. national team held off a late run to clinch the 11-8 victory. Three hours later, they stood alongside the top teams in the world with bronze medals around their necks.

The end result of this World Indoor Lacrosse Championship was somewhat of a disappointment for Regy Thorpe and the U.S. program. Each had visions of gold when they traveled to Langley, B.C. two weeks prior.

But nothing about this run was the status quo. Something was always a little different with this team. 

It created an excitement unlike anything U.S. indoor lacrosse has seen.

“We’re close,” Thorpe repeated after the semifinal loss to Iroquois. “We took a good step forward these past few years, but we came up on the short end. We’re getting there. It’s a process.”

Thorpe was hired as the national team head coach in February of 2017 — at a time when Americans playing box lacrosse were few and far between. Tom Schreiber and Kieran McArdle had just debuted in the NLL, and Joe Resetarits had yet to break the 100-point mark in the league.

Over the next two and a half years, Thorpe and his coaching staff watched as more Americans made the transition to box lacrosse. Now, almost every single player on this U.S. indoor team had NLL experience.

Saturday night wasn't the U.S. indoor team’s most complete performance — scoring one goal in a second half marked by England’s surge — but it took home the bronze medal regardless. In the process, this program showed its worth on the world stage.

After the opening night loss to Canada, the U.S. went 4-2 against Blue group opponents plus a quarterfinal matchup with the Czech Republic. In each of the two losses to the Iroquois, the U.S. was within a possession of sending the game to overtime.

The growth process is far from over, but it may have more momentum than ever before.

“We have a lot of ground to make up, although I think we made some good strides these past two or three years,” Thorpe said. “It ended in the same result, but I think there are a lot of positives. We are moving forward and being more competitive.”

The bronze medal win over England, and the tournament as a whole, also signaled the end to Anthony Kelly’s illustrious career. At 39, he decided to make another attempt at the national team — 12 years after he previously played in the red, white and blue.

Kelly wore white socks with the letters “USA” emblazoned on them during Saturday’s game. The socks were, not coincidentally, 12 years old. The significance of his final lacrosse game made it so that no one blinked an eye when he said, casually, that he was wearing 12-year-old socks.

And to top it off, he dropped two more goals in the bronze-medal victory to bring his tournament total to five.

“I’m ready for a break,” he joked. “I’m ready to rest for a bit. I’m ready for a nice long nap and some ice.

At the end of the day, it’s not where we want to be, but we established that two days ago. Guys have had time to digest that and really think about it. Two days later, guys are still appreciative and honored to be where we are. To be able to go out there and get the bronze, it’s still an honor.”

The World Indoor Lacrosse Championship also gave Seattle native and assistant captain Chris O’Dougherty the chance to play box lacrosse once again. He ruptured his Achilles tendon at a training weekend in Columbus last October, leaving his eligibility for the world championship in jeopardy.

But rehabbed for six months, waking up at 6 a.m. to work out before going to work for CitySideLax. He made the roster for the U.S. national team and was a contributor on defense and in transition.

The large contingent of O’Dougherty fans, who made the three-hour or so trip from Seattle to watch him play, nearly erupted when a breakaway opportunity almost beat goalie Frank Scigliano for a goal.

“I was thinking about other career opportunities. I was thinking about fire fighting,” said O’Dougherty, whose father was a New York City fireman, about his injury. “Once I started recovering, I knew I had more in the tank. Team USA was my motivation in the recovery process. This was my chance to prove to the world that I can play at this level.”

It also provided a showcase for some of the American talent that could play a role in the next world championship and beyond. Gale Thorpe, the son of the head coach, dropped 27 goals in six games to finish third on the team.

The younger Thorpe, 24, was also picked by his father’s New York Riptide in the NLL Entry Draft, held the night of the American’s first practice in Langley, B.C.

Among the U.S. indoor team’s top five scorers in the three playoff games were Connor Kelly (14 points) and Matt Rambo (6 points), both of whom won the PLL championship and immediately made the trip to British Columbia.

And Gowah Abrams, who made an appearance with the Philadephia Wings last season, came up big against quality opponents — especially the Iroquois.

It’s the talent that gives optimism to the U.S. national team program.

* * *

Once the buzzer sounded at the end of the win over England, U.S. players breathed a sigh of relief. After pushing the lead to 11-4 in the third quarter, they withstood a four-goal rally from England to capture the bronze medal.

It’s not the way the Americans wrote it up. It wasn’t quite the ending fit for a team that showed well throughout the tournament.

But the bronze medal that players wore around their necks felt just as heavy as the last world championship. With the progress this program has shown in four years, it could be a different medal in 2023.

“We want more than bronze, but I think for the future we’ll keep building and working and hope to be back in four years,” Thorpe said.

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