The Denver Elite had a unique opportunity in the summer of 2014 to not only face off against regional and national talent, but some teams even got to try their hand against international teams as well. Players and teams alike impressed the Denver Elite coaching staff with their hard work and dedication throughout the hot summer months. A total of seven different Denver Elite teams took the field and every one of them saw marked improvement as the weeks wore on.
The U11, U12, U13, and U15 teams all participated in the same four tournaments this summer. First up was the NSCLA tournament in Richmond, VA, followed by the Vail Shootout, the FIL World Championships, and finally the Adrenaline Middle School and Youth Shootout in Colorado Springs. In addition to these tournaments the U15 team traveled to Baltimore over the Fourth of July weekend to take part in the YounGunz tournament, one of the most competitive events in the nation for that age group. Meanwhile, the high school teams partook of a slightly different schedule. All three teams competed at the NSCLA tournament and the DU Team Camp. The 2015 and 2017 squads played in the Adrenaline Elite and High School Shootout, while the 2016 team traveled to Baltimore for the Under Armour Shootout.
When the dust settled the Denver Elite field teams a whole put together an impressive summer campaign. Both the U11 and U12 teams claimed championships in their age groups at the Adrenaline Shootout. The U13 team earned semi-final berths at Vail, the FIL tournament, and the Adrenaline Shootout, while the U15 team picked up a third place finish in Vail and a semi-final berth at the FIL World Championships. Denver Elite’s high school teams combined for four tournament championships throughout the summer, including two at the DU Team Camp where both 2016 and 2017 squads went undefeated; the 2015 team earned a semi-final berth at this tournament. The Adrenaline Shootout provided two more undefeated records en route to championship titles for the 2015s and 2017s. The 2017 team also earned a place in the semi-finals at the uber-competitive NSCLA tournament. Clearly it was a summer of highlights as every team finished at least one tournament with semi-final berth or better.
Jamie Shewchuk and Brian Wegner manned the benches for the U11 team. The NSCLA tournament provided a solid jumping off point for the team with game opening wins of 13-0 and 13-7, which went 3-3 over the course of the weekend. The travel allowed the team to cohere and grow closer. Back out West the team finished 4-4 at the Vail Shootout. Coaches and player alike gave it their all to achieve the best results and everyone had a great time at the picturesque mountain venue. A model of consistency back on the Front Range, the team once again finished with a 3-3 mark against some of the best U11 competition in the country at the World Championships. The U11s finally broke through the .500 barrier and put together a solid 7-0 campaign at the Adrenaline Shootout, capturing their first championship of the season. The team’s perseverance and hard work paid off in the championship final. They battled back from a 6-2 deficit to clinch the victory in an overtime thriller.
Denver Elite’s U12 team was guided by Denver Pioneers Mike Riis and Ryan LaPlante. According to the coaches, the summer’s events enabled the U12 team to mature as individual lacrosse players and as teammates. At the NSCLA tournament the U12’s finished with a 2-2 record. Fresh off of their east coast jaunt the team made the trip to Vail where they faced a new brand of competition playing up a division. Coaches Riis and LaPlante felt this was an excellent learning experience for the team because it forced them to play at a higher level. At the FIL World Championships this level of play continued and the coaches noted that the U12s on-field effort continued to display an increasing understanding of the Denver Elite system, demonstrated through solid team play. The team finished 2-2-1 at the tournament and they enjoyed their own overtime thriller coming out on top in their final game. Facing such stiff competition throughout the summer paid dividends for the U12s, too, because they won the championship in their age group at the Adrenaline Shootout, ending the season with a major highlight and reinforcing in each player that hard work and trusting their coaches pays dividends.
The NSCLA tournament provided a wake-up call for the U13 team. Current Denver Pioneers Christian Thomas and Colin Woolford reported that their team came out with a slow start at the tournament, dropping all three games on the first day. Despite these setbacks the team managed to bounce back and salvaged a disappointing start with a few wins by the end of the event. Although NSCLA didn’t go as well as anticipated, it allowed the team to develop some chemistry and to focus on how the Denver Elite offensive and defensive schemes work. In Vail the U13s began to click. Not only did individual players become comfortable in their roles on the team, the offensive and defensive units supported each other very well. A number of close games against stiff competition helped the team develop tenacity. Unfortunately, the team was derailed in the semi-finals by a team that built a lead too steep for the team to overcome and ultimately lost by two goals. Some of the U13’s best lacrosse of the summer was played at the World Championships. The contrast between the NSCLA team and the FIL team was stark as they evolved from a team that struggled to one that was dominant. The U13s won their first round playoff game over the number 1 seed before falling to the eventual champions in overtime in the semi-finals. Chemistry and resolve appeared once again for the U13s at the Adrenaline Shootout. Missing several key players, the team stumbled a bit initially, but managed to click and secured the third seed heading into the knockout round where they faced the number one seed. This semi-final match-up proved to be a competitive affair and ended regulation with the score tied. The U13s fell short in the extra stanza, and ended the tournament at 4th place overall.
Denver Elite’s U15 team was lead by coaches Kenny Crowley and Denver Pioneer Eric Adamson. The coaches had the fortunate opportunity to coach an extremely talented group of young men that left an impression at every tournament they competed in this summer. The NSCLA tournament imparted a number of lessons on the team. Looking fresh in the first game of the tourney, the team came alive in the second half, outscoring their opponent, before falling short in the end. Undeterred by the loss, the team refocused and finished the day with a convincing 14-6 victory. Day two at the NSCLA featured a raging contest between the U15s and a team from New Jersey. In a close and physical game, the U15s ultimately dropped the contest, but strong play up and down the roster provided a confidence boost as the team headed to Vail the following day. There was no rest for the weary, and on the opening day of Vail the U15 team struggled, losing the first game, but quickly returned to form, making a run on the remaining teams in the field to earn a spot in the semi-finals. Fatigued by a week of non-stop tournament play, the U15s dropped their semi-final match up. Nevertheless, the team exited Vail on a high note. Spurred by an 8-0 second half run in the consolation game, the U15s scooped up third place and proved to themselves that when firing on all cylinders, they can play with the best in the country. That confidence accompanied the team to Baltimore for the YoungGunz tournament, where the best teams across the country assembled to compete. Although the team went 0-5 at the tournament, their record does not tell the whole story. The team lost three of their games by one goal, and registered the lowest point differential of the tournament against eventual champions, the Baltimore Crabs. Notably in the first half, the U15s kept pace with the Crabs in a dogfight that put the team from Maryland up by a score of 4-3 at the midway point. In the second half, the Crabs managed to pull away to secure the win. Despite what the team’s record said, the effort put forth by the players demonstrated that they were capable of winning every game they played. Proof of this came quickly, and the U15s took the field at the FIL World Championships. When the team committed to their teammates and the Denver Elite system it proved to be a veritable force. As evidence, the team ran the table in pool play, boasting a +10 goal differential heading into the semi-finals. Similar to the U12 team, the U15s drew an opponent older by a year. Despite losing to their high school aged opponent, the coaches observed a U15 team that began to exhibit its true potential by playing as a fearless, focused, resilient, and graceful team up-and-down the roster and throughout the game. A different U15 team took the field at the Adrenaline Shootout, as several players from earlier tournaments were absent, and their spots filled by a new group of young men from California, USBOXLA players, and others. With so many fresh faces the U15s struggled to find synchronicity on the field but remained competitive throughout the tournament. The U15s registered a 5th place finish in the tournament, and coaches once again caught glimpses of graceful play and physical toughness from many players on the team. The team’s maturation over the summer left the coaches excited for the future as the team plans to re-assemble for the fall season.
Denver Elite’s high school teams engaged in a few different events from their younger counterparts. The 2017 team, coached by Walter Rooney and Mike Babb, opened their summer with a loss to the Baltimore Crabs at the NSCLA. However, the team rebounded to finish the tournament with a 4-2 record. Hampered by the absence of several players in the semifinals the team fell by a single goal. Back on home turf at the DU Team Camp, the 2017s ran the table with a 6-0 record and a championship. According to the coaches the team was clicking on all cylinders at the DU Team Camp. Yet, the tournament that impressed the coaches the most was the Adrenaline Shootout in Colorado Springs. Once again the 2017s went undefeated with another pristine 6-0 record, and even defeated a very solid group of 2015s to take the gold for the tournament. Coach Rooney saw significant improvements up and down the roster throughout the summer not only as individuals, but also as a team and in their ability to make adjustments in-game. Featuring a perfect balance of standout and role players alike, Coach Rooney claimed the sky was the limit for this team.
For the 2016 team, the NSCLA tournament stood as a metaphor for the entire summer. Under the tutelage of Chace Calkin and Bryce Parietti, the team started out a bit slow, and despite having a game or two cut short because of flights, they managed to play right around .500 ball in Richmond. Much like the 2017s, when the 2016 squad got back to the Front Range they dominated at the DU Team Camp in their age bracket, going undefeated and claiming a championship of their own. The final showcase of the summer was the Under Armour Shootout in Baltimore, MD. Facing high school powerhouses like Gonzaga and Loyola-Blakefield, the 2016s played hard but fell short against such stiff competition. Although the team finished the tournament with a 2-4 record, the coaches noted that athletically the 2016s were more than capable of keeping up with other teams. The 2016 team proved to be workman-like in that they scrapped for every win, earning victories the hard way.
High school seniors in the upcoming school year occupied the roster of Denver Elite’s 2015 team, which was mentored by current Denver Pioneers Sean Cannizzaro and Garret Holst. According to the coaches, one of the team’s most impressive performances came at the beginning of the summer at the NSCLA tournament. Undoubtedly, the best game of the tournament pitted Denver Elite against one of the top club teams in the country: the Baltimore Crabs. An intense contest with several lead changes throughout, the 2015s kept it close until the Crabs pulled ahead in the waning minutes of the game to secure the win. Despite the loss, the 2015s quickly learned that they were on a par with the best teams in the country. At the DU Team Camp the team battled to a 2-3 record, falling to the Seattle Starz in the semi-finals. The 2015s made their final appearance this summer at the Adrenaline Shootout. Here the team swept through the competition en route to an undefeated record and a tournament championship, an impressive feat for any summer tournament! Over the course of the summer the team greatly improved in some of the advanced schematic aspects of the game. On defense, the team developed better off-ball team defense, executing proper slides and recoveries. On the other side of the field, the offense progressed in their ability to anticipate the play and with off-ball positioning. Players and coaches alike recognized how far the team progressed in playing together as a cohesive unit. Many of the 2015s had played together on Denver Elite teams in the past, so their ability to seamlessly work new players into the fold reinforced their commitment to the team. More than anything else, the coaches noted that the team consistently played hard. Capping the summer with a tournament championship demonstrated what a team can do when they have chemistry, execute a game plan, and play as a team.