Team Canada is eager after four days of hard work on the practice field to get at Japan in its opening game of the world field lacrosse tournament Friday.
An 18-7 win over Japan in the opening game in 2006 started Canada on its way to its first title in 28 years and a similarly impressive outcome this time would be a good omen in the quest to repeat.
`We’ll try to be the best team we can be,’’ head coach David Huntley says in assessing the Canada-Japan clash. “The only thing we control is what we do so I think if we play our best we’ll probably be happy with the result.
“The guys have worked hard to come together as a team and I have every reason to believe they’re going to do well.’’
Chris Sanderson, who was to recite the athletes’ oath on behalf of all the players from the 30 participating teams during opening ceremonies Thursday, gets the goaltending start against Japan. Sanderson has faced Japanese teams a handful of times and knows one thing for sure.
“You have to win the very first faceoff and hold the ball because they can possess the ball for hours if they get it,’’ he says. “They don’t like to shoot.’’
All of this makes faceoff specialist Geoff Snider a key player for Canada. Snider’s dominance on draws earned him the 2006 tournament MVP award.
“It’s a good thing we have Geoff,’’ says Sanderson.
Canada has plenty of battle-hardened veterans who know no opponent should be taken lightly regardless of past results, and that includes Japan.
“They’re very athletic and they’re very disciplined,’’ says Shawn Williams, one of Canada’s four captains. “They’re fun to play against.
“They definitely work hard, and their skills have improved immensely during the time I’ve been involved with the national team. We’re definitely going into this full throttle. Never take anything lightly. We’re just excited to get going.’’
Takeshi Sugai, an assistant coach for Japan, understands fully that his team is the underdog.
“It will be our first game and we will try our best but we know Canada is the best team in the world,’’ Sugai said. “We try to change and to be better each year.
“Of course we will try to win but I know it’s difficult to beat the best team in the world. Their faceoffs and offence are the best. We need to play smart.’’
Neil Stevens, Team Canada media contact