MANCHESTER, England _ Team Canada players mingled with family members and supporters at a closing tailgate party to bid farewell to the 2010 world field lacrosse championships.
They wanted gold and had to settle for silver but it was a life experience they’ll never forget.
“It’s always difficult when you lose, however, looking at where the Canadian national team program is, being able to compete every shift, every quarter and every half with the United States makes us very proud of our players and coaches,’’ said general manager Johnny Mouradian.
“The support by players’ families and friends who were over here just shows you how Canadian lacrosse has developed as a fraternity and as a family.’’
The United States jumped to an early lead, relinquished it briefly in the fourth quarter, then scored the last three goals to defeat Canada 12-10 and win back the title Saturday.
Tournament MVP Paul Rabil and Mike Leveille scored three goals each to pace the American attack, while John Grant fired in three for Canada.
“It was one of the greatest teams I’ve ever been on,’’ said Grant. “It was the closest-knit bunch I’ve been involved in so (losing the final) makes it sting all the more _ that we didn’t come out on top.
“It was a close game and a couple of bounces went the other way and now we have silver. It stings for me more because it could be my last. It hurts.’’
The Americans scored the first three goals and led 3-2 after one quarter and 8-4 at halftime. It was 8-8 going into the fourth quarter and a goal by Grant put Canada up 10-9.
“We worked awfully hard to get back in the game and then managed to take the lead but the Americans made some good plays at the end so hats off to them,’’ said head coach Dave Huntley. “They made more plays at the end than we did but this is the best team I’ve ever coached and I’m really proud of these guys.’’
It was a hard-fought game that could have gone either way, said Canadian defender Brodie Merrill.
“It seemed like whoever was going to get possession last with the lead was going to win,’’ he said.
The Americans passed the ball around endlessly to kill time in the last five minutes.
“In the international game you can really eat away at the clock,’’ said Merrill. “We got some tough calls down the stretch and we just weren’t able to get the ball back.
“We felt we had some momentum going into the fourth quarter, but all credit to them. They hung in there and responded. It’s tough to take right now because we feel like this is a championship team. They were the better team today but I’m awful proud of our guys and I’m proud to be a Canadian.’’
Zack Greer added two goals for Canada and Mark Steenhuis, Shawn Williams, Garrett Billings, Kevin Crowley and Kevin Huntley had one each.
In seven games, Grant and Greer led Canada with 13 goals each and Huntley was next with 11.
The other U.S. goals in the final were scored by Brendan Mundorf and Ned Crotty, with two each, and by Matt Striebel and Ryan Powell.
Canada won the title in 2006 for the first time in 28 years in an upset over the U.S. and the U.S. was determined to get it back, especially after losing 10-9 to Canada in the preliminary round. This was their ninth triumph in 11 tournaments.
Chris Sanderson, who will resume chemotherapy sessions upon returning home in his ongoing battle against cancer, was named the tournament’s top goalie. Losing the final wasn’t the way the 36-year-old goalie wanted the tournament to end.
“We just ran out of time,’’ said Sanderson. “We were a little tentative when we came out today and then we got into our rhythm.
“In the second half, I felt everything was going our way. Took a couple of penalties and they made some plays on a couple of ground balls that we typically battle for and win the battle.
“They deserved it. They played great. Obviously, I’m really proud of our guys. We had a great tournament. It’s hard to take the jersey off right now.’’
Winning goaltender Brian Dougherty praised the effort by Canada’s team.
“Down 8-4 and holding us without a goal in the third quarter, they did a great job,’’ he said. “It was two heavyweights going down to the end and you never know how it’s going to turn out. I think it’s going to be like that for years to come.’’
Dougherty said he couldn’t find enough words to describe his admiration for Sanderson’s determination in life and in lacrosse.
“Playing an opponent, you don’t want to like him,’’ said Dougherty. “You want to find ways to not like him to get yourself motivated but what are you going to say about Chris Sanderson?
“He’s battled back so far, and he played his you-know-whats off today. Keep battlin’ Chris. I can’t say enough about him.’’
Defenceman Billy Dee Smith injured his left knee falling while trying to make a check early in the first quarter and was unable to return to the action.
Grant was named top attacker and Merrill top defenceman in the tournament.
Everybody knew it would be a close game, said Williams.
“They scored the last two goals and that was basically it,’’ he said. “It was ours for the taking. Both teams played awesome. It was definitely fun to be part of.’’
There was nervousness on the U.S. sideline when Canada tied it then went ahead.
“They made a great run to come back,’’ said Leveille. “But we made some big plays at the end.’’
Sanderson’s story inspired not just Sanderson’s teammates but all the players in the tournament, Leveille said.
“It was so great to see him out there playing at such a high level,’’ said Leveille.
Dean French, Team Canada’s executive director, closes out this final dispatch with two thoughts.
1. “This experience has taught me what happens when you combine the best players in the world with the best coaches in the world. Seeing someone with coach Huntley’s experience work with these players over the last 14 days is something I’m going to remember for a long time.’’<
2. “Canada has a history of doing more with less and when I look at the American program I’m envious of their funding and I want to go back and build on some ideas I have for next time around.’’
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