There’s little room for error at the 2023 World Lacrosse Men’s Championship, with the format sending five pool winners and four second place teams through to the playoffs.
For Hong Kong, China, that meant the team’s backs were against the wall after a frustrating opening loss to Italy, one of the most talented teams outside of Pool A.
The team had a day off but faced a stiff test in its return to competition in Scotland, a group that had finished 11th at the 2018 Men’s Championship and was 2-0 with wins over Mexico and Austria.
If Hong Kong wanted to make the playoffs, it faced a virtual must-win game just four days into the tournament.
The game turned out to be a rollercoaster with seven lead changes. Hong Kong took a two-goal lead in the fourth but Scotland responded. Hong Kong scored again, only to be rebuffed once more.
The pressure mounted, but the team found its mettle and scored twice, before holding off the Scots for the rest of the game to save its playoff hopes and open the race back up for second place in the pool.
“It was a great feeling,” said Logan Ip, who was involved in Hong Kong’s two fourth quarter goals. “The guys really came together as a team and bounced back after the last game.”
It took a spirited film session and a lot of trust between players and coaches to rally back in such a short period to deliver when it counted.
“The team has really come together and we all trust each other,” said Ip. “We’re a really athletic bunch and the leadership has stepped up on defense and offense. The coaching staff has helped us a lot – we’re really just coming together as a team.”
“Last game was really tough and Italy had some good players, said Evan Mok-Lamme, an attacker. “We were pumped to see it all come together.”
The strength of the collective is a feature of team with 18 players from Hong Kong. The team is also has experience with each other, with 15 players returning from the 2018 squad and seven players joining the team after playing for the U21 squad in Ireland in 2022.
The togetherness may have been an x-factor in a game that was nearly dead even across all of the stats from face-offs and ground balls to shots and saves. It came down to a few plays and Hong Kong seemed to execute at just the right time.
“Coming into these tournaments you don’t have a lot of opportunities to see these other teams play,” said Mok-Lamme “It’s always a little bit uneasy going into the game but once we got into a rhythm it felt really good to come together as a team and get a win.
Hong Kong still has two games left, but if it can handle Austria tomorrow, it sets up an enticing contest with Mexico, who lost to Scotland by just one goal, on Monday with all sorts scenarios possible to finish in a playoff spot.
“We’re trying to take it one game at a time,” said Ip. “We’ll celebrate this one, then learn from our mistakes and move on and try to win the next game against Austria.