Donning the Red and Blue is a point of personal pride for many of Penn’s athletes. The colors represent the essence of the University, a reminder of its long and storied athletic tradition.
This summer, however, three members of the men’s lacrosse team will add white to their color scheme and play for a different and perhaps more meaningful purpose.
In July, the Canadian city of Coquitlam will host the Federation of International Lacrosse World Championship, where teams from around the world will compete in a nine-day tournament that stands as the pinnacle of the sport. Along with the main draw, youth squads will take the field, and Penn freshmen Alex Roesner, Tyler Dunn and Noah Lejman will join 22 of their countrymen as members of the U-19 U.S. Men’s National Team.
After a rigorous selection process, which saw a pool of 105 athletes narrowed down to 25, Roesner, Dunn and Lejman will begin training in June as part of the national squad. The Quakers will also be well-represented on the sideline, as Penn associate head coach and recruiting coordinator Patrick Myers will join his three players as an assistant coach for the U-19 squad.
Myers had high praise for the effort exhibited by the three freshmen, who have yet to play a game for the Quakers, in making the team.
“For Alex, Tyler and Noah, it’s been years and years of hard work,” Myers said. “It was a very competitive talent pool, and the guys who ended up making the team have put in a lot of hours over the years to make themselves into elite lacrosse players. It’s a real credit to them over the course of their high school careers.”
Myers views the tournament as beneficial in several ways, ranging from personal to athletic.
“I think, along with developing into better players, playing for the national team is about developing them as men. The people that they’re meeting, everything from life skill development to the speakers that they’re listening to and the fellowship with the other athletes and coaches will make them better people,” he added.
“And then, of course, iron sharpens iron so I think being around the best players in the world is always going to make you better.”
Myers also stressed that the three young players will be confronted with even greater challenges in the summer. International lacrosse differs from the high school and collegiate game, forcing players to adjust to new rules and to employ different offensive and defensive strategies.
“The pace of play is different. You can hold the ball longer, there’s not really a shot clock,” Myers commented. “Because the game isn’t as fast, you have to be ready for more of a six-on-six game, which is a definite change from the college game.”
Despite the difficulties ahead, the players themselves are ecstatic and honored at the prospect of representing their country.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Roesner said of his selection. “You don’t even know what to think. In the tryout process, I was trying to make it to the final 50 and I would’ve been happy with that.
“To be able to represent the United States of America is a dream for any lacrosse player. I’m excited to get on the field with guys I’ve been playing against my whole life. But this time, we’re on the same team.”
Dunn, who is projected to play midfield for the Quakers, reflected on the motivation behind his auditioning for the national squad.
“I think the first thing that came to mind was that I wanted to become part of the U.S. lacrosse family,” Dunn said. “I wanted to represent my community, Penn and my family. Everyone who’s supported me to this point, I wanted to do it for them.”
Penn’s national status will certainly be on full display over the summer, as it is one of only four programs — along with North Carolina, Penn State and Ohio State — to send three players to Canada.
Head coach Mike Murphy views this distinction as a ringing endorsement of the future of his program and as emblematic of Penn’s allure among elite lacrosse prospects.
“We knew it was a good class a year and a half ago when it was first [put] in place. A couple of publications ranked it in the top five and the U.S. selections validated that. We hope that it’s a permanent change in the way we do things on that front,” Murphy said. “This tournament will be extremely impactful for these players. They’re going to get a lot more competitive lacrosse and will almost be playing a whole other season.”
While the selections have certainly provided a lift to the Quakers’ morale, there is no doubt that their priorities lie firmly in the present. With practices in full swing and the season opener approaching, athletes and coaches alike do not have much time to dwell on anything else.
But as they walk onto the field, draped in the colors of both school and country, they are justified in envisioning a brighter future.
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