The View from the Space Needle Shootout

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The holidays are over, 2015 is here, the Seahawks are in the Super Bowl, and the 2014 Space Needle Shootout is in the books. One of these things is more important than the others, but I’m gonna write about the lacrosse tournament instead.

As I’ve written in the past, the SNSO is one of my favorite events of the year, and arguably the best winter tournament around, certainly the premier contest featuring Canadian and US teams playing field lacrosse. Our friends from the north were in full force this weekend, featuring 14 teams from eight different programs. This year we also got to view lots of teams from Oregon and perennial SNSO attendees, the Rockfish all the way from Maryland.

This year’s fete also marked the debut of teams from Cityside Lax, the wildly successful upstart program featuring players from the urban jungles of Seattle. Valhalla Lacrosse, the new program from Southern Washington started by King’s Way coach Josh Peck, who brought two youth teams. Both programs showed well, with all their teams reaching the semi-finals of the 5/6 & 7/8, and each winning a championship; Cityside’s 5/6 defeated Valhalla, and Valhalla’s 7/8 knocking off Bellevue.

High school aged teams were split into two divisions, 9/10 and Elite. These were a mix of club teams and school teams. Victoria BC’s Claremont School dominated both divisions, defeating a strong Woodinville squad in the 9/10, and beating an overmatched Issaquah program for the Elite championship. It was a good showing for one of the best programs in North America.

As usual, since the WLF has taken over managment, the SNSO has become one of the best run, most organized tournaments around. Tournament Director Dejon Hush wielded his unflappable personality on players, parents and volunteers to ensure that things never got out of control.

Once I got over my typical Norman Rockwell-esque reaction to the joy this tournament brings the Northwest lacrosse community, I checked my notes and came away with a few takeaways from this year’s events:

  • The level of play in all divisions continues to increase in leaps and bounds.  I thought that while there were still some teams that are head and shoulders above the competition, the talent after that was pretty well distributed between the 2nd tier teams. In other words, the region’s overall lacrosse skills are getting better, there was much less bad lacrosse being played. It was rare to hear parents cheering merely because their teams were able to complete three or four passes in a row. That hasn’t always been the case.
  • Canadian stick skills still stand out. Their abilities to quickly catch and shoot in traffic were really obvious and should be emulated by all American players. Bill Tierney, legendary coach at Denver University, is on record as saying kids shouldn’t play field lacrosse until high school, he’d like them to only play box as it develops skills much better. You can certainly see his point when watching the Canadians play.
  • In the same vein, nothing chaps me as much as watching a kid who finds himself on the wing with an open time and room shot, take five steps and three steps to get a shot off. The defenders always close, the goalie is always ready, and the goal is rarely scored. Have your player watch some NLL shooters, there’s great game broadcasts online.
  • Based on their 9/10 team’s performance, Woodinville is a team to watch the coming years of WA high school lacrosse.
  • I’ve learned that using this tournament as a predictor for the upcoming high school season is folly. You never know which teams are missing key players, teams are often looking at their incoming freshmen and distributing playing time equally, and they all have substitute coaches. Having said that, it looks to me like Mercer Island and Issaquah are the early favorites.
  • It sure looks to me that Valhalla and Cityside are doing things right. They’ve got some momentum in their youth programs and that’s bound to translate into high school programs in the very near future.
  • When the dust settles from this tournament one thing is true: everybody that played in this SNSO got better. Playing any lacrosse in December puts your kid way ahead of kids who spent the weekend playing Xbox. Be proud of your player just for showing up and strapping up. And enjoy the moment, their playing days will end way too quickly.

Final tournament results are available here.

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Two quick notes:

  • If you are interested in reffing, and you should be, this year’s mandatory training sessions start Feb 1. You can find out all the information you need here.  Sign up this year and help out. WA lacrosse can use you, and you’ll have a great time.
  • Do you have interest in sports photography? Join the crew here at Soundlacroose. We’re looking for sideline photographers and game reporters who can help provide photographs to SoundLacrosse. If you need it, we can provide instruction/training, and you’ll feel great knowing you’re helping out WA lacrosse. We’re having a 2015 Season kick-off meeting, on Thursday, March 5th at the Owl & Thistle in Seattle. Send me an email to RSVP or ask for more information.

50 days until the high school season starts. I’ll see you at Bellevue at Bainbridge.

McNutty

 

 

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