The Haudenosaunee Nationals announced the 23 players who will play in the World Lacrosse Men’s Championship in San Diego this summer on Tuesday, March 7. The roster is packed with elite talent, both established and up-and-coming, generating plenty of excitement to see them take the field.
General Manager Darcy Powless worked tirelessly behind the scenes with his coaching staff to get the roster to 23 individuals, focusing on athleticism and talent across the field. It’s just the beginning for the team, as they continue to prep for San Diego despite players being busy with NLL and NCAA lacrosse seasons.
Ahead of the announcement, Powless spoke about the challenges of training camp and continued work before the summer, the roster construction and philosophy, and the experience the coaching staff is bringing to this iteration of the Nationals.
*This interview has been lightly edited for clarity
Before we get into the roster, let’s back up. You guys have had a couple of practices the last few weeks. What have you been working on behind the scenes to slim down the roster to who you want to take to San Diego?
The biggest obstacle that we ran into was, because we got a late start, and with a lot of guys being in school and the NLL, we had to bounce and jump through schedules and try to coordinate to get as many guys out at our tryouts and and our camps as we could to have a fair look at everybody, give everyone that fair opportunity to come out, get looked at by the coaches.
That was probably the biggest obstacle we had was trying to coordinate all of that stuff for those guys to be able to show up. Just a lot of logistics. With Patterson, he was flying in. We had a couple guys from Wisconsin coming in to try out. It was good to have that variety of players out to broaden our team and broaden our name, spreading it more for the Native players that they are loved and can play with our guys.
When we look at the roster construction, there are notable names in there, especially positional changes. What was yours and the staff’s philosophy regarding roster construction?
We just wanted to take the best guys that were available to us. Probably about half the guys on the list are capable of playing offense or defense, and that’s a huge thing in case we run into injuries or somebody’s just having an off game, we’ve got guys that we can stick in there, and we know they’ll fill in and do a good job at whatever we ask to do. Zeddy’s asked to play defense, he’s one of the best attackmen in the world, and he showed up to Buffalo with a long pole. He said, “I’ll play defense if I need to.” And that’s what we’ve got him penciled in as right now is a defenseman.
That’s a scary thought. I remember his transition seasons in the NLL, and he knows how to lay down a hit.
Yeah, and he’s gotten even bigger since then, right? He’s just a big, solid man, and that’s fantastic to have him just lead the way and say “I will do whatever I need to do to help our team win” is fantastic. To have somebody of his caliber and his status, I guess you could say, that he’s willing to grab a long pole, kids see that growing up. That’s going to be huge down the road. There’s going to be a whole group coming up saying, “I saw Zeddy playing defense; I want to play defense like Zed.” That’s huge. Just him doing that is going to do so much for the program in the future.
You have a veritable who’s who on the team. We already talked about Zed, but you have a trio of Thompsons, both the Staats brothers, as well as Jerry, Kyle Jackson. You’ve also got a good mix of younger names or names that aren’t as well known. What are you seeing from your younger players that you like heading into San Diego?
The younger guys, they’ve got the school experience. Zach Miller, he was down in Denver. I think they won the championship while he was in Denver, if I remember correctly. He was one of the first ones. He’s had the skill, he’s had the talent, he’s just looking to finally get that opportunity. Patterson, same thing. We had him down in Alabama with us for Sixes, and he played great. He buried the ball in the net when he got his opportunities. He was a little hesitant at first just because he was out there with Cody Jamieson and a couple of other NLL guys, so he was kind of a little hesitant at first. But once he got comfortable, like, “Yeah, I can play, I need to put the ball in the net,” once he got comfortable, he started scoring for us. He had a couple of big games down there.
Just to be able to add him into the roster also is great to be able to play with these guys. They move the ball well in practice, like in the tryouts and stuff. The ball was flying around, and they were playing pretty good together, getting comfortable with each other. Even though they are a little bit younger – like I said, they’ve grown up watching these guys playing. Same with Larson. Larson, he’s playing in the NLL, but same thing, he’s got the college experience, and he’s won a couple of championships everywhere he’s gone. We’re hoping he can add another one here with us.
Looking at your coaching staff, it’s a world class unit: Lars Tiffany, Tom Mariano, Scott Marr, Vince Longboat, Chris Doctor. How has it been working with these guys, and what are they bringing to the table?
Just all their knowledge. They’re so smart. It’s a huge advantage for us to have the American coaches, because they’re familiar with American players, right? Vince, he coaches at Brock University here in Ontario, so he’s familiar with a lot of the Canadian guys. It’s pretty good to be able to have that mix of guys. Same with Mariano. He’s the assistant GM, but same thing, he knows tons of guys, he knows tons of players.
He’s the one that brought in Hoggarth, because he coached Hoggarth when he was the head coach of the Bayhawks in the MLL back in the day. They won a championship together there. He’s a great player, but Hoggarth had some logistic stuff and then his NLL contract and stuff, he was kind of iffy on coming to tryouts. We were able to talk to him and see if he was interested. Tom was the leader in getting him to come out to be available to us.
That’s huge when you can add a guy of his size with his hands and finishing ability to the roster.
Yeah, he’s going to open up a lot of space for Lyle and Randy and Bomber on the right-hand side there
What is scary to think about from a depth perspective, is of the players who might be coming off the bench
Yeah, the depth of guys on offense is probably one of the best teams we’ve had, but we’ve always said that scoring has never ever been our issue. It’s always been our middies and defense and getting the ball back, because there’s no shot clock, right? Like a lot of our guys play box lacrosse. We’re used to that 30-second shot clock, and that’s what Lars has been really stressing on these guys, “You’ve got to take that 30-second clock out of your head.” Ever since we were little, like when we get to novice, there’s a shot clock, so you’ve got 30 seconds to get a shot on net. So right from when you’re seven years old, you’re taught when you get the ball, you’ve got 30 seconds to get a shot on net. So, that’s always in the back of our guys’ heads. It takes a little while to get that shot off, to be patient with the ball and take our time.
Thinking about that, is your defense designed to stand out there for long stretches of time and get those stops? You’ve got an all-world goalie in Warren Hill between the pipes, and Jack Van Valkenburgh, young goalie out of Albany, backstopping him, but the defense in front of them will have to be out there for long shifts. Is that the philosophy?
Yeah, the way we picked the defensive middies and long poles, that was a focus, that we’re probably going to be out here for at least two minutes or maybe a minute and a half before we get the ball back, so we need to be patient, we need to be smart, we need to be able to run, stick with the ball and hang with these guys to get the ball back and limit their opportunities. I know a few times there, like that Canada/US game a few years ago, I think there were five shots in the last eight minutes of the game. Each team just got the ball and just held onto it. As a fan, it’s frustrating to watch, but I know as a coach and GM, that’s what you want. That’s what you want them to play, you want them to be smart with the ball. If we don’t have the ball, we’ve got to have the legs and the bodies to get it back. That’s the way that we picked the defensive midfielders and long poles.
The roster’s finalized and about to be announced. Going through training camp, these are guys that have played together for years and years. What’s the prep going into San Diego?
The best benefit of us is we are such a smaller community of players. They are so familiar with each other that we are able to – it’d be good to have some extra practices in there, but with everyone doing NLL and guys in school, it’s going to be tough to get this group back together a couple of times from now until June. We’re hoping to, but right now we know everybody on the list is playing somewhere, so that’s a huge bonus. Nobody’s sitting at home just waiting for practice. Everybody here on this list is up and busy, they’ve got their sticks in their hands. It’s just a matter of fine-tuning everything.
The guys have been doing online coaching sessions, the ScoreBreak program. They’re allowed to upload videos and do a Zoom chat while they’re going over video and stuff. It’s a great addition to our program. Tom Mariano said he used that at his school, and he brought it into the program. Guys love it; guys buy into it. When we get to the camp and get to practices, guys already have a heads up of what we’re doing and what we need to do. It’s just a matter of getting on the field to execute it.