Baltimore, MD – While we all wait in anxiety for what fall will bring us in the lacrosse world, it took a team from Japan and an ambitious schedule to give the Baltimore area a little taste of lax to tide everyone over. Keio University, a University level lacrosse team from Japan, is currently on a trip that has them playing some of the best college teams the U.S. has to offer. I had the pleasure of attending their games vs. UMBC and also a club team from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Lacrosse Ministry. In what, as far as I know is a lax.com exclusive, this article features game coverage from the UMBC game and exclusive pictures from primarily the UMBC game, but also a select few from the FCA game.
First, I would be remiss to not start out with some background information on Keio University’s Lacrosse Team and their U.S. swing. I had the pleasure of talking with Nobuhiko Hoga who serves as Keio University Lacrosse Team’s General Manager. They seemingly traveled without a coach. While lacrosse is still growing in Japan, it is growing at an astounding rate. The competitiveness that Keio displayed against the U.S. teams was evidence of this. The U.S. has always been cream of the crop in international lacrosse competition ( with the exception of one Canadian field lacrosse World Championship). College level lacrosse in Japan is similar to the U.S. in that there are varsity level teams (as Keio is) and also club teams.
The differences lie in the way champions are named and the qualities of the levels. In the U.S. it would be hard to argue that the best club teams could beat the best Division I teams. U.S. Lacrosse has a very strict, separate championship scheme. In Japan, the club teams are considered superior and at the end of their season they have a joint national championship, which is won by the club teams. Nobu said that “while Keio is the best College team, we can’t beat the top club teams.” The majority of Japan’s national team members come from the club teams, while Nobu said that Keio will usually have 1-2 members make the national team.
The Keio team and Japan lacrosse has a strong tie with UMBC and head coach Don Zimmerman. Back when Coach Zimmerman was still at Johns Hopkins he made the trek to Japan himself to give clinics and help the sport grow. When Keio made a similar trip to the U.S. two years ago, they played UMBC (though the outcome was a little more one-sided then this year’s 14-9 UMBC win). Last year, a Keio Player named Hiroki (I regret to say I didn’t get his last name – I asked, but had no idea how to spell it when he said it and felt awkward asking for him to write it down – poor journalism on my part), spent the year at UMBC as part of a study-abroad program. Hiroki practiced with the UMBC team for the entire season and was considered part of the team. Due to NCAA regulations, Hiroki was unable to compete in any competitions, but he did get to make every trip with the team as he took over the responsibility of taping the games. In just one year, Hiroki was able to become a full-fledged member of the UMBC team without ever stepping onto the field during a regulation game. Judging by the amount of ladies waiting for him following the game, he had also made great strides in that all-important area. Currently UMBC has another study-abroad student coming from Japan, who is doing exactly what Hiroki did last year.
As I mentioned, Keio had a very ambitious schedule: Navy’s JV, UMBC, Delaware, Washington College, Goucher College, a strong FCA team, and also a club tournament this weekend. Navy’s freshman and sophomores slipped by Keio by a score of 8-7. Keio took it to Division III Goucher College by a score of 9-4. The strong FCA team beat Keio by 5, and they don’t play Delaware or the club tournament until this weekend.
Now to the actual game…the beginning of the game started much as NHL hockey games do with two anthems: America’s and Japan’s (though not like NHL games this year, because it seems as if they’re might not be any – stay tuned for an article looking into how this might effect the NLL). I apologize again, but since this was a fall game rosters weren’t given out and at times I will have to list numbers only for the players.
The game started out much as you would expect, with UMBC taking it to Keio. An early goal was waved off due to an off-sides call for UMBC. A little over two minutes into the game, UMBC got on the board displaying nice ball movement as #20, who I’m pretty sure is junior middie James Hyland who had 21 points for the Retrievers last season, put a strong bounce shot past the goalie. We would hear from Hyland shortly after as sophomore attackman Drew Westervelt drove from X and fed Hyland who basically shot through two much small Keio defenders giving UMBC an early 2-0 lead.
UMBC possessed the ball for the majority of the first quarter, but couldn’t generate good looks at the net, and when they did get a shot off, they were either wide, or the athletic Keio goalie was making a nice save. With about 2:36 to go in the 1st, UMBC notched another goal off of a Brendan Mundorf feed. Keio got on the board shortly after as they brought the game to 3-1 with 1:59 left in the half. Mundorf continued to show why he notched 48 points last year as a sophomore for UMBC as he took the ball himself from X and notched UMBC’s 4th goal to send the game into the 2nd with a 4-1 UMBC lead.
The Retrievers wasted no time in the 2nd as they notched two more goals in the first 1:19 of the quarter. The first, I believe was senior attackman Rob Cross’ contribution, while the second was Mundorf’s 2nd goal of the day. Keio displayed one of their strong points, man-up, with 11:51 to play in the quarter as they beat the UMBC goalie with a strong bounce shot. UMBC answered with another two goal run, as they notched one at the 10:56 mark and another at the 9:46 mark off of transition. Both teams seesawed through most of the rest of the quarter, until finally Keio #4 fed from X to #38 who finished it. Mundorf responded with fifty-one seconds to go in the half with his 3rd goal of the night as he drove high, showed a nice inside roll and stuck it for UMBC’s 9th of the day. Keio would add a goal with only :07 left in the half to send the game into the half with a commanding 9-4 UMBC lead.
UMBC owned most of the 3rd quarter, as their defense turned away a long Keio offensive possession. UMBC notched goal #10 at 8:40, #11 at 7:57, and who I assume is senior attackman Joe Cahill (judging by his #1 and last year’s roster) notched #12 with 6:51 in the 3rd. Cahill’s goal stretched the lead to 12-4. Keio recorded a transition goal at the 5:44 mark and #99 (I loved Keio’s use of numbers, they represented with a #52 and a #99 – both of which were solid players) added a goal with just 1:21 left in the quarter on a nice righty jump shot. Those efforts cut the UMBC lead to 12-6 heading into the 4th.
UMBC again would start out strong notching the first two goals of the quarter, putting the game out of reach at 14-6. Keio, however, traveled too far to just stop playing. With 4:42 left in the game, Keio exploited a defensive breakdown (as the coach’s yelling pointed to) and brought the game to 14-7. With about a minute to go, Keio used a nice diagonal feed splitting the UMBC defense, finished by a nice shot to cut the lead further to 14-8. Then with just :03 left in the game, a Keio attackman used his quickness and the luck that his defender fell, to bring the game to a more respectable 14-9 from the doorstep.
While it was clear UMBC was the superior team, Keio proved that it can compete at their level. UMBC had some nice offensive moments, but they do have to work on their possession of the ball, as they had a few careless mistakes. In goal for UMBC, all-american transfer from Essex Chris Petrush looked good. He didn’t start the game but came up with a couple of big point blank saves.
As could be seen by watching the game, and commented on by Hiroki after the game, one of the biggest differences was the style of play. Hiroki had this to say, “It’s so interesting, you know? American players have pretty big bodies, muscle…power. But we have quickness, it’s interesting to see. We’re struggling with the size, but at the same time they’re struggling a little with our quickness.”
Keio faced much of the same problem the following day against the FCA team, as they lost by what I think was a score of 7-2. One of the major differences was the defense they were playing against. The FCA defense featured recent Loyola grad Damien Hall, recent Navy grad Bucky Morris, with FCA staff member and UMBC ’03 grad Matt Hall, and in net Chris Garrity, former All-American at Penn State and current MLL goalie.
After both games, the Keio players were very interested in talking with the players of each team and asking for tips and advice. Following the UMBC game, ’04 grad and face-off specialist Pat Muston gave a little clinic to a few Keio players (though I must say Keio’s face-off guy #10 did a very good job facing off, he was very good on quickness moves, but the UMBC guys beat him when they used power moves). They also ran over to the FCA sideline after the game, some wanting to ask Garrity for advice, the rest flocking over with shirts, pinnies and whatever else they thought they might be able to trade the FCA players for. Both teams shared pizza and mingled with the Keio team after in what was a great sign of breaking down cultural stereotypes. It was also especially cool to watch Frank Kelly, a former stand-out at Cornell and for the US World Team give his testimony and pray along as one of the Keio players served as a translator.