Jamaica has turned heads early of the 2023 World Lacrosse Men’s Championship, starting 2-0 in Pool C with a disciplined approach that has wore its opponents down.
Jamaica finished 13th in the 2018 Men’s Championship in Israel, and is one of the fastest growing teams in the game, with the U21 men’s team finishing in the top 10 in the junior championship in Limerick, Ireland in 2022.
This team had to earn its spot in San Diego through Pan-American Lacrosse Association Qualifying, but it passed that test with ease and has been assembling a squad designed to keep pace with many of the rising powers in men’s lacrosse.
Now, the pieces are starting to come together at the right time with a team featuring eight returners from 2018, six players from the U21 team, and a coaching staff helmed by Mark Wilson, who was an assistant in 2018 and in the PALA qualifier.
It showed in the opening game, a 5-3 slugfest against Germany, which finished ninth in 2018. Jamaica’s defense was physical and forced Germany into uncomfortable shots.
“A lot of it is trust,” said defender Tony Diallo, who plays collegiately in the United States in the NCAA Division I at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Jamaica’s defense is bolstered by Goran Murray, an All-American at the University of Maryland in 2014, Channing Thomas an NAIA All-American at Keiser University in 2019 and goalkeeper Nate McPeak, who played at Syracuse University.
The defense allowed just 14 shots against Germany and six shots on goal. In the next game against Switzerland, Jamaica saw its opponents commit 16 turnovers. Jamaica is tied for third among all teams so far in goals-against-average after the first three days of the tournament and is tied for second with 12 caused turnovers.
“We have a great goalie in the cage and a great defensive coach too. Everyone has each other’s back and we’re able to work together seamlessly.”
Offensively, Jamaica has been methodical and intentional about its pace, playing matchups and letting different players take over when necessary.
“We balance our fast pace and slowing the ball down when we need to,” said Diallo. “Making sure we’re set up, everyone is in order and attacking the cage. We’re also switching up the lines well; all of us work great together so the more we can switch up matchups, the better for us.”
In the first game, Isaac Newland scored four of the team’s five goals against a strong defensive team in Germany. In game two, Khairi Sears stepped up and poured in five goals. Both players have Division I experience – Newland at High Point University and Sears at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
The talent across the field has coalesced when it matters and Jamaica’s hard-nosed approach is attracting admiration from around the lacrosse community. The 2-0 start means Jamaica is on its way to an appearance in the playoffs if it can continue to impose its style on its opponents.
“I think our start speaks to the level we want to play at,” said Diallo. “Jamaica isn’t a country to mess around with and this is a hardworking team. We have a lot more to prove and we’re a very hungry group.”
Jamaica faces Poland on Saturday before a final pool match against New Zealand on Monday.
“Our chemistry is big for us, and we don’t get complacent,” concluded Diallo. “We’re 2-0 now but the first message is that we have more to do and the job’s not finished.”