Israel, opponents brave cold for exhibitions in Serbia

BELGRADE, SERBIA — National teams and developmental programs from Israel, Poland, Serbia and Slovenia braved freezing temperatures when they hit the turf at Careva Cuprija, the home field of FC BASK, on New Years Day. The set of friendlies was organized in a partnership with the Israel Lacrosse Association and Serbia Lacrosse.

For Israel, the exhibitions represented the culmination of a 10-day Winter Service Trip. Earlier in the day, the participants hiked Masada at sunrise and learned the historical significance of the hallowed ground they stood on. After hearing how their ancestors fought honorably, the team received their national team uniforms and reflected on their week of growing the game throughout the country; every detail reminding them to represent Israel with pride, passion and sportsmanship.

By the time the blue-and-white had landed in Belgrade, much of the exhibition schedule was already on the books. From the Israeli desert to the frigid Serbia was quite a contrast, but, despite the weather conditions, all of the matches were high-spirited.

The girls took the field first, with Israel taking on Poland. The teams were evenly matched throughout the evening, finishing their pair of exhibitions with ties at 8-8 and 6-6. Emily Wesoky, Sydney Leeds and Annabelle Gersch led the Israelis in scoring while Brooke Allen anchored the defense with a notable performance between the pipes.

The boys came away with two solid wins, defeating Serbia 8-3 and Poland 6-3. Kalman Kraham put Israel on the board and kept them there as the leading scorer in both games while Nick Lipsher was strong on midfield, assisting on numerous goals. Zach Workman was a force to be reckoned with on the defensive end and the big difference-maker against Poland. Liam MacKay was stellar in net, making a number of key saves for the blue-and-white.

More important than the games, this competition provided an opportunity for growth in camaraderie amongst fledging lacrosse organizations. The event was a platform for the European Lacrosse Federation to distribute donated equipment — sticks, gloves, helmets, goggles, and other protective gear — to newcomers to the sport in the four participating countries. During breaks, the players from different teams mingled, shared their stories, and traded apparel.

For the Israel delegation, the exposure to lacrosse players from multiple countries served to solidify the purpose of their journey — using sport to make a positive influence and connecting people from different backgrounds.

“The European lacrosse community continues to grow tremendously but remains tight-knit,” said Israel Lacrosse executive director Scott Neiss, who is currently serving as Men’s VP for the European Lacrosse Federation. “The New Years friendlies are an example of such a collaboration. I would like to thank all of the participants, especially Slobodan Melovic and the Serbian lacrosse community for hosting this event.”

The Israel Lacrosse Winter Service Trip brings Jewish boys and girls lacrosse players to Israel over their winter break to take part in one week of touring, volunteering, and lacrosse, including domestic competition with and against top Israeli high school teams. The itinerary generally includes a stopover in Europe, where the group competes as Israel against several European teams. For more information please email David Lasday at [email protected].