by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | Champion Challenge Blog
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla — For all the new talent infused into the U.S. men’s national team since its gold medal performance at last summer’s world championships, its most reliable weapons Sunday were those most familiar with the program.
Goalkeeper Adam Fullerton, who backed up Brian Dougherty in Manchester, made 12 first-half saves, and attackman Kevin Leveille, an alternate for the 2010 U.S. team, scored four goals in Team USA’s 12-7 victory over Notre Dame in the final game of Champion Challenge, a US Lacrosse event at ESPN Wide World of Sports.
Fullerton, the former Army standout who also backs up Jesse Schwartzman for the Denver Outlaws, expects to be deployed to the Middle East within the next six months as an artillery officer. He was named the most outstanding player of Champion Challenge.
“It’s a different role for me, but I embrace the new challenge,” Fullerton said of starting for the U.S. “I hope I can be that guy for the next few years.”
Fullerton is currently stationed at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs. More specifically, he’s a fire support officer, specializing in indirect fire artillery, mortar fire and deconfliction of air space.
“Kind of complicated, but it’s nothing too crazy,” he said. “My job will translate over to a combat situation eventually, and I’ll take what my training gave me in Colorado Springs and I’ll translate it over there.”
With the same matter-of-fact demeanor he uses to deflect questions of his military commitment, Fullerton shooed away shot after shot from Notre Dame’s big guns from the midfield Sunday. He shut out the Irish in the first half, as the U.S. built a 6-0 lead.
Leveille — who said this week he wants to play for the U.S. when it defends its gold medal in Denver in 2014 — finished two feeds from midfielder Michael Kimmel and another from attackman Chazz Woodson in the first quarter alone. Woodson also scored on a blazing shot from the left wing that pinged inside the top-right corner of the goal. Team USA led 4-0 after the first quarter and extended its lead to six with goals by midfielders Doug Shanahan and Steven Brooks in the second.
Fullerton gave way to former Notre Dame goalie Scott Rodgers in the second half.
“I would have loved to keep [the shutout] going, but we’re both out here,” Fullerton said. “We took the time out of busy schedules, and it’s good to get Scottie a chance to play against his old buddies. He played outstanding as well.”
Rodgers called Fullerton’s first-half performance inspiring.
“Fully’s going to Iraq in a couple weeks. Inspired play. Watching him play for me being a rookie, watching the way he handles things and composes himself, I learned something today,” Rodgers said. “He played awesome. No goals allowed in the first half, made saves he should have, taking it in the body everywhere — awesome.”
Attackman Steven Boyle scored off a feed from Shanahan to put Team USA ahead 7-0 with 12:05 remaining in the third quarter.
Notre Dame, the No. 7-ranked team in Lacrosse Magazine’s preseason NCAA Division I poll, responded with a 4-0 run to close within three. Attackman Sean Rogers found line mate Ryan Foley with a crease feed from behind the net for the Irish’s first goal, over 35 minutes into the game. Subsequent goals by Rogers and attackman Colin Igoe — on a nice, backhanded putback of his own shot rebounded off a Rodgers save — made it 7-3. Midfielder Max Pfeifer scored on an inverted dodge behind with just 6.8 seconds remaining in third quarter to bring the Irish within three.
Notre Dame had new life going into the fourth quarter.
“We just settled down and played a little bit,” Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan said. When you look at the last 20 minutes of that first half, we didn’t play that badly, we just didn’t finish anything. When you’re not finishing anything, then it all counts for naught.”
After the teams exchanged goals to start the fourth quarter, the U.S put Notre Dame away with a 4-0 run of its own spanning just four minutes. Slick finishes by midfielder Stephen Peyser (from midfielder Stephen Berger), midfielder Peet Poillion (behind the back from attackman Craig Dowd), Woodson and Leveille (from Dowd) made it 12-5 Team USA with 8:29 remaining.
The U.S. held off Notre Dame despite six fourth-quarter penalties, including a two-man-down possession it killed. Rodgers finished with six saves in the second half against his former team.
But the laurels belonged to Fullerton, who admitted afterward that he had hoped to get the start despite the hype surrounding the addition of the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Rodgers to the U.S. team. Some criticized US Lacrosse for putting Fullerton on the 2010 U.S. team when Schwartzman, who starts in front of him for the Outlaws, was not invited to tryouts.
“You can’t complain. I’m sitting behind Jesse Schwartzman and Doc. Those are two of the best to play the game ever,” Fullerton said. ” So just to be a part of that, it’s great. I pick things up from them and I’m able to learn from those guys. I wouldn’t change it.”
Igoe scored two goals and Rogers finished with a goal and two assists for Notre Dame in the losing effort. Preseason All-American midfielder Zach Brenneman was held without a goal, but did contribute two fourth-quarter assists on goals by attackmen Nicholas Beattie and Edison Parzanese for the game’s final margin.
The Irish will return to Florida in three weeks for their regular season opener and a rematch of the 2010 NCAA championship game against Duke at EverBank Field in Jacksonville.
U.S. team faceoff specialist Chris Eck, who narrowly missed out being on the 2010 world championship team behind Alex Smith, won 13 of 21 faceoffs.
Afterward, he shared some tips with Notre Dame’s Jake Marmul, one of the players the Irish are looking to take hold of the position this year. Eck showed Marmul his variation of “the plunger,” and afterward wished Marmul good luck.
“Take it to Duke,” Eck said.
Said Corrigan: “That’s one of the best guys in the world at what he’s doing. I was proud of our young guys to go in there and battle with him. They can break that thing down a thousand ways – it’s good to see that kind of curiosity in our guys.”
Doc’s new office
A strange sight, maybe for some, was to see Dougherty on the Team USA sideline as a coach, instead of in the crease as a goaltender. Dougherty, who won gold with Team USA in Manchester, England, in July, assisted Team USA head coach and current Lehigh coach Kevin Cassese. It was Dougherty’s first game on the sideline with the U.S team.
“I could look myself in the mirror and say I had a pretty sweet career, accomplished a lot of things, pretty much nothing left to accomplish,” Dougherty said. “This is something that I really love. I had a great experience last year with the national team. I want to continue to be a part of it. Playing is not going to be there anymore, so give a chance to some of the younger guys. I’ll do whatever I can to help coach, or do whatever they need me to do.”
Dougherty was also hired this summer as the head coach at Division II Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, a program in its second varsity season.
“We’re young,” Dougherty said of the team with no juniors and seniors, only freshmen and sophomores. “Nowhere to go but up.”
News and notes
Notre Dame was without preseason All-American midfielder David Earl, who is nursing a back injury. “He’ll be back at practice this week,” Corrigan said. “Just wouldn’t make sense to put him out there if he wasn’t a hundred percent…” Sunday’s game will be rebroadcast on tape delay by ESPNU at 10 p.m. The U.S. women’s national senior team’s 16-4 victory over defending NCAA Division I champion Maryland will follow at about midnight.