Team USA All-Stars vs. Duke University - Orlando Florida
Day 1: Arrival -Thursday Jan. 24th, 2008
I arrived early to beautiful Orlando, Fla. ready for a fun, exciting, and eventful weekend that I had been waiting for a long time. I enjoyed the journey on the Magical Express from the airport to the hotel, checked my luggage and got to my room, but I was wasting zero time and zipped over to the Disney World-Magic Kingdom. I was acting like a kid again, going on Space Mountain, Thunder Railroad, even trying to pull the sword out of the stone. I returned from Disney and the Team USA players were rolling in. I ran into a few other Maverik Lacrosse guys - Sean Lindsey, and John Gagliardi. We all caught up at a nice diner down at the Disney Boardwalk. Following dinner we headed back to the hotel and crashed for the night. The following day would be our first practice and I wanted to make a good first impression.
Day 2-Pool and Practice
The next morning I began to get really excited. Everyone from the squad was getting to the resort. It wasn’t too long until Team USA was taking over the pool. Matt Striebel, Blake Miller, and I had some fun with slide races. Chris Hupfeldt, the General Manager of Team USA, stopped over and talked to us about the weekend, giving us the low down about practice and our itineraries. We enjoyed a team lunch at the food court before we headed to practice. Practice was awesome; I mean it is pretty cool to be out there with all those guys, and it makes you feel very proud to have USA on your chest. Coaches Mike Caravana and Matt Kerwick (Hobart Head Coach) did a fantastic job of holding a solid practice where we worked on offenses and defenses to prepare for Duke. Following practice, I headed to a little place called Pleasure Island and enjoyed a fantastic meal at an Irish restaurant with Christian Cook, Chris Garrity, Ben DeFelice, and John Gagliardi. The older guys who have been on the team talked about having a good time this weekend and staying relaxed. There was a great Irish Band playing fantastic Irish jams, and I would have to recommend the Guinness steak. We headed back after dinner on the water taxi, not sure if that was the best call since we forgot the weather isn’t always sunny in Florida. It was a good day, practice was great, and I was starting to get really excited about Sunday.
Day 3-Practice, USA Women's Team
The next morning we had an early Practice. Wakeup call was at 8 a.m., and we were on the field around 9:30 a.m. As we entered the Wide World of Sports Complex, the Dukes men’s team was finishing their practice, and the Duke women’s team was getting ready to get their practice started. My first impression of Duke was they are big, as well as they had a ton of guys. All of the USA guys kept looking around, as there were only 20 of us, and Duke was stomping around with 50 or more guys. After practice the weather seemed to turn on us and rain fell. I ate some lunch with Kyle Harrison, Sean Morris, Joe Walters, and Brett Hughes as we laughed about old times (some Baltimore stories), talked about good movies, funny YouTube clips, and how great the pizza and milkshakes were. I took advantage of the down time and actually watched a Disney movie, of course, “We Are Marshall.” What a great flick!
That evening we headed back to the Disney Wide World of Sports complex where we watched the USA Women’s National Team play the USA Women’s Developmental team. I was excited to go because my sister is on the Women’s National Team. Unfortunately, she is not playing right now because she is on the Injured Reserve, recovering from her second ACL surgery. But let me tell, you she is nasty and definitely gives that squad speed and aggressiveness-as well as some Berger flash. Following that, we enjoyed a nice reception and dinner presented by US Lacrosse for the Men’s and Woman’s teams. This was really nice and made us really appreciate the game that we played as well as thank those that had made the event possible. Once the event concluded, there was only one thing on our minds and that was playing Duke the next day. We knew it was going to be tough, but we were all prepared to take care of business and get the W.
Day 4, Game Day
We all were up very early for a team breakfast before we headed to the Disney Sports Complex Sunday morning. That morning we had a USA Men’s Lacrosse team clinic for kids of all ages. We had about 125 kids involved, and it was fantastic. I saw a bunch of kids wearing Maverik clothes and using our gloves and sticks, that made me feel good! There were six stations that all focused on ways to improve your lacrosse game as well as increase your lacrosse knowledge. My station was the best, as Matt Striebel, Sean Lindsay, and I had the “And 1 Mix Tape” dodging station. We taught all the kids about the split, face, and roll dodges, and then showed them how to add a little flash to their moves; each lacrosse player may do the same dodges, yet they all need to separate themselves by having their own different style. Following the clinic, Joe Walters and I put on a shooting demo for the kids. We played a game of “PIG “and got some good “oohs” and “ahhhs” from the crowd. After the clinic an autograph session took place before we had lunch. We had a few hours to kill before the game, so I watched the women’s teams play and spent time stringing a couple of sticks before the game in case some guys broke their heads. Game time was approaching….
Sunday 3:00pm Game Time:
As soon as the women’s game ended we took the field, wearing the RED, WHITE, AND BLUE, and USA on our jerseys. I had goose bumps and could not wait to play. We had a great warm-up. The sun was finally shining, and the crowd was rolling in. What a day to play lacrosse! The game was a lot of fun, very competitive, and Duke definitely came right at us from the start of the game until the last whistle. They are a very athletic and very disciplined team, as they took advantage of our mistakes and made some great plays; yet it wasn’t enough to beat Team USA. We traded goals the entire game, and we took a late three-goal lead, 13-10 with two minutes to go. They scored two quick ones late to make it 13-12, but we held strong and played well as a team and came out with the W. It was a fantastic experience, and I was so honored to play for Team USA as well as play a great Duke team.
(Side Note- Duke looks really good and ready to make a run for the Trophy. Watch out.)
I could not thank US Lacrosse enough for what they did to put this event on. I would also like to thank all my teammates and let them know how much fun it was to play with them all weekend. I could not wait to do it again soon. I actually got a ball signed by all the guys on the team. It’s something I will keep forever to remember how great this event was and how special it was for me to be a part of. A special thanks to all the coaches, GM’s, equipment guys, trainer Anthony Ort, Jody Martin from US Lacrosse, and whoever else made this event a go. Thanks. Following the game I gave my pads away to some kids, signed some autographs, and said hello to my family and girlfriend who were there to support me.
To wrap the weekend up, my girlfriend and I visited Epcot, enjoyed a great meal in Mexico, and watched the unbelievable fireworks display they put on! This really finished off my weekend right, and I cannot wait for another opportunity like this to come along soon. It was a blast, and I was proud to be a part of it, GO USA!
Stephen Berger plays for the Long Island Lizards in the MLL and works for Maverik Lacrosse in sales and marketing in the Maryland and DC area. To learn more about Stephen Berger and Maverik Lacrosse, visit www.maveriklacrosse.com