U.S. Meets World: The Camaraderie Behind the U21 World Championship


A big 'dance off' takes place between Uganda, Jamaica, Taipei and the USA while the teams wait for the opening ceremony to start.

LIMERICK, Ireland — Just minutes before teams marched onto Field 1 at the University of Limerick, a crowd was building.

What started with an exchange of pleasantries between the U.S. and Uganda quickly turned into an all-out dance party. Teams from as many as 13 countries gathered near the hurling goal posts, clapping as representatives of each team showcased their moves and waved flags above the crowd.

In the middle of what looked like a festival scene? U.S. U21 players Graham Bundy Jr., Danny Parker and Lance Tillman. Bundy Jr. pulled off the “Pin Drop,” while Parker and Tillman did tandem back flips that had players from Uganda and Kenya leaping up in exaltation.

“From what I’ve experienced, their culture has a lot to do with dancing,” Bundy Jr. said. “It was cool to experience how they dance and what they dance to. I just pulled the Pin Drop out of nowhere.”

Opening ceremonies were the largest representation of a theme that has carried through the first week of the U21 world championship — the U.S. team has the opportunity to connect with players from across the world and the power to inspire the next generation of international lacrosse.

From interactions in Kilmurry Village to the stands at various games during the U21 World Championship, the U.S. has interacted with a number of countries and created memories that will last beyond their respective careers.

“Walking around the village and seeing all the countries, it’s been great vibes,” Jake Caputo said. “Being able to communicate with these other countries has been one of the coolest moments of my life.”

The impact that this team can have was apparent from Day 1, when the U.S. met with Israel after its first practice in Limerick. Israel ssistant Ian Kadish addressed the U.S. after they dapped up Israel players and offered encouragement.

“When you guys come to events like this, and you guys act like the way you do with so much humility and grace and pass the game on,” Kadish said, “you make a real impact on the growth of lacrosse and the way our game in represented. I thank you for being the ambassadors that you are.”

The camaraderie continued into pool play, when Japan (neighbors of the U.S. in the on-campus cottages) met with members of the U.S. team and played catch and wall ball in the shared courtyard. For Jake Naso, the connection went even further with Japan faceoff man Yusuke Takeda.

Takeda direct messaged Naso weeks before he made the trip to Ireland, telling the Duke faceoff man how excited he was to meet him. When Takeda broke his faceoff head, he connected with the U.S. coaching staff, who asked Naso if he had an extra one. Naso gladly offered up one of his heads, and he was met with Takeda bowing in honor of the gift.

“As soon as I came out with my stick, they were bowing to me,” Naso said. “Later in the day, he direct messaged me with a picture of the stick and him smiling. I’m really glad I can help him out.”

Japan returned the favor by taking in a few of the U.S. national team’s opening matches, and greeting them in the courtyard after victories.

One of the highlights of the tournament so far came when Uganda scored its first goal in U21 program history on Aug. 12.

The U.S. contingent jumped up and down on the hills that encircled the field where Uganda celebrated its historic achievement.

“I talked to their coach and he highlighted how tough it is in their home country,” Jack Monfort said. “To see them dancing at the ceremony with smiles ear to ear made this whole trip worth it for me. It was really cool to get to watch them score that first goal.”

For many of the members of this team, the chance to meet players from across the world has been the highlight of the trip — until they play for gold on Saturday night.


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