By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While August may have been all about the Olympics, just prior the lacrosse community had its eye on the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Under-19 Men's Lacrosse World Championship. Three members of the Nittany Lion men's lacrosse program were a part of the action, earning a total of three medals, two gold and a bronze.
The tournament, held in Coquitlam, British Columbia, included 14 teams. In addition to the United States and Canada, other notable teams present were the Iroquois Nationals, and teams from England, Israel, and Korea.
Penn State freshman Mac O'Keefe was one of the 23 members representing the United States. On the USA coaching staff was Penn State's associate head coach, Peter Toner.
Team USA won the tournament, after coming from behind to beat Canada, 13-12, in the gold medal game.
"Canada was very well coached, they had a game plan, and they executed for 59 minutes out of the 60 we played," Toner said. "We didn't have a lead until the last eight second of the game. It was certainly exciting to be a part of."
Before the United States could earn its gold medal, hard choices were made picking the team. O'Keefe explained that there was an application process and additional tryouts over the course of a few weeks in the early months of the summer.
What made figuring out the team a bit harder was finding the right combination of players who could properly mesh with one another and complement each other's playing styles.
When it came down to it, the 23 chosen for the team were a group of selfless young men who, after only a few practices, played like a team who had been together for years.
"You basically have to have everyone check their ego at the door," Toner said. "It was a challenge to find guys who wanted to buy into our philosophy and our program, but I believe for the entirety of the tournament we genuinely had guys who wanted the win the gold medal for their country."
O'Keefe found it extremely helpful and beneficial to have the opportunity to be coached by Toner prior to starting his freshman year at Penn State.
"It was a little taste of the future," O'Keefe said, speaking about being coached by Toner before and during the tournament. "I got to see what he's like on the field, off the field and that was definitely nice to experience before college started."
In addition to O'Keefe and Toner, Penn State assistant coach Chris Doctor was also participating in the FIL World Championship, as an assistant coach for the Iroquois National team. The Iroquois Nationals won the bronze medal in the tournament after a resounding victory over Australia, 20-8.
Toner emphasized that he is extremely proud to coach the Nittany Lions during the season, but appreciated the opportunity to be a part of a unique tournament with Team USA."The biggest challenge is to constantly remind yourself that you're a part of something different," said Toner. "I'm 100 percent a Penn State employee, but being able to represent your country is a unique and special honor."