NETANYA, ISRAEL — Israel finished seventh at the 2018 FIL World Championships on home soil, matching its result from its first appearance in Denver four years ago.
As the host nation, Israel ran through its competition early, first defeating Jamaica 11-3 in its opener in front of 6,171 fans in attendance at Netanya Stadium, with Josh Offit, Max Seibald and Ari Sussman leading the team with two goals each.
The team clinched first place in the Red Division days later with a 19-2 trouncing of Russia with 11 different players getting on the scoresheet, but none as often as Zachary Pall, who scored five goals, the second-most scored by an Israeli in an individual game in the tournament. Netanya native Ori Bar David also netted two goals in emotional moments for him and the Israeli youth players he coaches who were there to witness it.
The pool play win sent Israel into the knockout rounds, where they met newcomer Philippines, earning an 11-8 win after a 3-1 third quarter helped the team add some cushion between itself and its challenger. Hat tricks from Pall and Seibald were vital, with Pall’s three fourth-quarter goals in particular coming at just the right time.
It was much smoother sailing for the hosts in its next game for a berth in the quarterfinals. Israel met Ireland, who had defeated Latvia and Italy in back-to-back days to be there. Kyle Bergman went off with six points on two goals and four assists, playing a large hand in Offit and Seibald’s hat tricks. The Irish didn’t have enough left in the tank as Israel walked through them 16-4 to set a date with Australia in a rematch of the quarterfinal showdown from 2014.
Unfortunately for Israel, the 2018 edition of the matchup went similarly to the 2014 one. Israel jumped out to a 4-1 lead in front of a raucous crowd at Wingate Institute, but ultimately couldn’t stay in front, falling 9-6 for the Australians and moving down to the fifth-place bracket. Offit, Pall and Seibald were responsible for Israel’s goals, each contributing two to the cause.
A hard-fought game against Japan for a spot in the fifth-place game saw the Israelis come up just short, 10-9, in a drawn-out thriller. Defender Isaac Paparo posted a hat trick with his long pole, dazzling spectators with his agility and speed, and Pall and midfielder Daniel Leventhal added two goals of their own, respectively, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Japanese midfielder Tatsuki Hashimoto’s four goals and the balanced attack from the rest of the Japanese.
Israel regrouped for its final game of the tournament, though, and took its frustration out on the Puerto Ricans, toppling them 12-1 and securing seventh place. Pall surpassed his previous mark of five goals, slotting six into the Puerto Rican net while goalie Eric Schneider played out of his mind, making nine saves with a 90-percent save percentage.
While finishing seventh out of 46 teams is a good result, Israel hoped for better when it started its 2018 campaign. There is disappointment among the squad, but there are plenty to positives to take from the experience, namely what successfully hosting the largest international lacrosse tournament in history means for the future of the sport in the country.
“Certainly, wanted to finished better,” said Israel head coach Bill Beroza. “At the end of the day, the exposure we got with the young kids in Israel and their participation in the program was more important than us finishing in a medal position.”
During many of the tournament’s games, Israeli children lined the sidelines eagerly helping to chase balls and get a taste of the action. During Israel’s games, the stands were filled with Israeli flags and chants rang throughout the stadium. Even if the team did not finish as high as it hoped, Israel’s results coupled with the impact of hosting the tournament was a huge positive for the future of lacrosse in Israel.
“It was an overwhelming success,” Beroza explained. “The bottom line is how guys stuck together throughout the whole tournament. The positives are what we’ve done for the youth of Israel Lacrosse. I think that’s the most important thing.”
Israel ended the tournament with two of its players named to the FIL Presidents Team: Seibald and Paparo. Pall led the Israelis in scoring, potting 21 goals, the 12th-most of anyone in the tournament. Seibald and Offit chipped in 11 each to tie for second in scoring on the team. Schneider ended the tournament with 46 saves and a 55-percent save percentage.
With the 2018 World Championships behind them, the next major field competition for the senior team will be in two years at the 2020 European Championships in Poland. In 2016, Israel narrowly missed gold in the competition, falling by one goal in the tournament’s championship game. With four added years of experience and development, the team will have high hopes to bring a European title back home.
Caps (x7): Max Adler, Ori Bar David, Kyle Bergman, Eric Cantor, Matthew Cherry, Eric Fischer, Matthew Flapan, Chris Friedman, Ryan Hunter, Ian Kadish, Andrew Kruter, Daniel Leventhal, Seth Mahler, Josh Offit, Zachary Pall, Isaac Paparo, Matthew Popeck, Jonathan Rathauser, Eric Schneider, Max Seibald, Jacob Silberlicht, Ben Smith, Ari Sussman
Thu, July 12 in Netanya, Israel – Israel 11, Jamaica 3
Sat, July 14 in Netanya, Israel – Israel 19, Russia 2
Mon, July 16 in Netanya, Israel – Israel 11, Philippines 8
Tue, July 17 in Netanya, Israel – Israel 16, Ireland 4
Wed, July 18 in Netanya, Israel – Australia 9, Israel 6
Thu, July 19 in Netanya, Israel – Japan 10, Israel 9
Fri, July 20 in Netanya, Israel – Israel 12, Puerto Rico 1