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PLL and WPLL players look forward to bringing the highest level of lacrosse to Japan

PLL and WPLL players give their thoughts on attending the 2019 World Crosse Exhibition in Japan and showcasing lacrosse at the highest level.

The PLL and WPLL are headed to Japan to participate in World Crosse, an international event consisting of multiple exhibition games that will include players from the PLL and WPLL facing off against Japanese All-Stars. As part of the event, 16 PLL players and 15 WPLL players will help compose the United States men’s and women’s teams, with all six PLL and five WPLL teams represented.

“Lacrosse participation in Japan continues to grow and we couldn’t be more pleased to bring the PLL’s top players overseas for World Crosse exhibitions,” says PLL Co-Founder and CSO Paul Rabil. “In 2018, lacrosse was formally recognized by the IOC, and we’re continuing to work with World Lacrosse and its members to position ourselves for 2028 Olympic inclusion.”

In addition to the exhibition game, the PLL and WPLL will host various youth clinics throughout the weekend to promote the sport and showcase the best players in the world to the Japanese lacrosse community.

“I think the PLL traveling to other countries to grow the game of lacrosse is imperative,” Chrome midfielder Romar Dennis said. “The tour business model was built in part to showcase the sport to large parts of the U.S. that have never even heard of the sport, so to go to an international market that is rapidly growing is just a great opportunity. The sport needs to grow on a national and international level.”

“I think in order to grow the sport internationally, it’s important to show them what the game looks like at the highest level and what they can strive for,” WPLL Pride attacker Mollie Stevens added.

This is the WPLL’s second trip to Japan, having sent a group of players to World Crosse in 2018. For a few players like Mollie Stevens, it will be an opportunity to pick up where they left off and see how much the sport has grown in a year.

“I’m excited to go back. [The people of Japan] were so welcoming,” Stevens said. “They took really great care of us last year. You can tell they’re really focused on growing the sport.”

When asked about the level of competition in Japan, Stevens had high praise for her Japanese opponents.

“The [Japanese lacrosse players] are really passionate about the game and extremely dedicated to it,” Stevens said. “They’re extremely disciplined and play the game by the book. They gave us some good competition last year and only lost to us by a few goals.”

WPLL stars pose for a photo in Japan during the WPLL’s trip to the 2018 World Crosse exhibition. (Photo by Caroline Cummings/Courtesy of Inside Lacrosse).

For other players like Romar Dennis, the trip will be a new experience.

 “Japan has been a place that I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. I’ve never been outside of the U.S. to play lacrosse and I’ve never been to Asia in general,” Dennis said. “I’ve only heard great things about Japan and I’m very excited to see it first hand and experience the culture. The lacrosse community there is growing fast and I can’t wait to be a part of it.”

The exhibition also provides an opportunity for PLL and WPLL athletes who may have never played with each other before, such as sisters Taryn VanThof (WPLL Command) and Taylor VonThof (WPLL Fire), to finally play as teammates.

“Taryn and I have had similar experiences throughout our lives. We played at the same high school, on the same club, and at Loyola—but never at the same time,” Taylor VanThof said. “I am beyond excited to share their experience with my sister and I know it is one we will remember forever. We are both so thankful that the WPLL has given us this chance to wear the same jersey at the same time!”

When discussing the trip, VanThof talked about how it is another opportunity to expand the lacrosse community.

“The lacrosse community is very tight-knit and we all know how much fun and dynamic the sport can be, but we want to be able to share that with as many people as possible,” VonThof added. “I think traveling to a place like Japan and sharing this with other people who feel the same way, as well as introduce lacrosse to others who may not know how incredible it is, is so important. 

Not only is World Crosse another opportunity to showcase the game internationally, but last year’s WPLL trip was an opportunity for Japanese player Ai Hirose to showcase her talents. After a strong showing in WPLL’s 2018 Draft Camp in Tokyo, Hirose made history as the first Japanese player to play in the WPLL and played in four games with the 2019 WPLL championship-winning Brave.

“We were blown away by the talent we saw at the WPLL Draft Camp in Tokyo, and Ai’s skill stood out in particular,” explained WPLL SVP Rachael DeCecco. “She is an incredibly quick and gritty defender who plays with great poise and confidence. You can’t help but notice her and respect her game.”

Whether or not more Japanese stars are discovered this year, the PLL and WPLL’s joint tour is an exciting opportunity for the sport of lacrosse.

“We are very honored to invite players from the best lacrosse league in the world to World Crosse held in Japan,” says Japanese lacrosse star Sachiyo Yamada. “We promise that we will do our best to prepare for World Crosse so that the audience, including kids who have never seen lacrosse before, can experience the on-field product of the best players in the world.”

World Crosse will take place from November 14-18 in Japan with game day occurring on Saturday, November 16 at Urayasu Athletic Field, just 30 minutes outside of Tokyo. The game will be broadcasted on-demand in Asia and live via SKY PerfecTV! in Japan. There are currently no plans to broadcast the games in the United States, but be sure to follow Pro Lacrosse Talk (@prolacrossetalk) on Instagram for exclusive coverage directly from PLL and WPLL players attending.

Hutton Jackson is a professional video editor, co-founder/host of Pro Lacrosse Talk and editor-in-chief of Lacrosse Playground. He is also an Emmy-winning associate producer with two major sports networks and oversees Lacrosse Playground's video content as the head coordinating producer. Hutton played four years of college lacrosse at DeSales University where his highest lacrosse accolade was being named to Inside Lacrosse's 2014 All-Name Team with current pros Challen Rogers, Deemer Class and Larken Kemp, an honor that didn't require stepping on the field. When he's not writing on lacrosse, he can usually be found diving around the crease in your local men's league and ranting about Baltimore and D.C. professional sports.

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