ASHKELON, ISRAEL — The Israel men’s national lacrosse team earned a 13-6 win over Turkey on Thursday in front of a near-capacity crowd at Ashkelon Municipal Stadium. The friendly, which was Israel’s first ever home international, was the culmination of the lacrosse associations’ pilot youth program conducted in conjunction with the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership.
An enthusiastic and curious crowd cheered the blue-and-white as they built a 7-0 halftime lead. Noah Miller, who moved to Ashkelon from the United States in June, was a clear fan-favorite, as he scored three first half goals to the delight of the hundreds of spectators.
Ashkelon residents and local lacrosse coaches Seth Mahler (one goal, one assist) and Matt Cherry (one assist) also chipped in on offense, while native Ben Bretter contributed one goal.
Jerusalem LC goaltender Ben Levine got the start in goal and did not disappoint, shutting out the Turks in the first 40 minutes. Reuven Dressler (30:00, 3 GA) and Yoel Barnathan (10:00, 3 GA) split the second half.
Although the team was mostly composed of Israel-based players, several Jewish players from abroad joined Israel, including 2012 European Championship standouts Dan Leventhal (Tufts University), Richard Cheifitz (Kean University) and Sacha Stout (University of Manchester) who scored a goal apiece. Gabriel Leonhard (Arad) added an assist.
Israel is now 2-0 all-time against Turkey, after earning a 13-9 win last year in exhibition play in Istanbul.
Goksun Sofu (three goals), Ozan Can Saribas (two goals) and Burak Cindik (one goal, one assist) led the Turkey offense.
For international lacrosse development, the week was an important milestone for two neighboring nations with strained relations. Through a shared passion for the game of lacrosse, the relationship could not be stronger.
In addition to playing Israel, Turkey competed in exhibitions against Jerusalem Lacrosse Club and an all-star team of players with strong NCAA experience from the United States. The Turks toured Israel and visited Yad Vashem, the Western Wall, Masada and the Dead Sea, and attended a Shabbat service and dinner with their Israeli rivals. Most importantly, they taught lacrosse to Israeli youth in Ashkelon, building bridges through their newly shared passion for the sport.
Dozens of Ashkelon boys and girls attended the game wielding their new lacrosse sticks from the STX Teethadesh (first stick) program, and while their allegiance was to the blue and white, the men in the red were warmly welcomed by the near capacity crowd.
The series is expected to continue annually with a neutral site exhibition in Denver prior to the FIL 2014 World Lacrosse Championships.
Tryouts for the 2014 Israel men’s national team are being held July 9-11 at the Wingate Institute in Netanya.