A smothering defense and dominant faceoff play carried the United States to its first three wins in the World Lacrosse Men’s U21 Championship. On Monday, the offense had its turn.
Nine different players scored in the first 18 minutes, as the U.S. defeated Australia 17-2 to finish unbeaten in pool play in Limerick, Ireland.
The U.S. (4-0) led 5-0 before Australia (2-2) had its first possession. Consecutive man-up goals made it 9-1 early in the second quarter and the U.S. converted on six of seven possessions in the third quarter to pull away.
Co-captain Cole Kirst led the onslaught with three goals and three assists. CJ Kirst added three goals and two assists in a banner day for the brothers. Alex Slusher (three goals, one assist), Brennan O’Neill (two goals, one assist) and Brendan Grimes (two goals) also posted multi-goal outings.
Injuries have taken a toll on the U.S. The team has been without starting attackman Pat Kavanagh the last two games and faceoff specialist Jake Naso since the tournament opener against Canada. Starting defenseman Michael Alexander also was sidelined Monday.
But the versatility and depth of its 23-man roster has served the U.S. well. Alec Stathakis shouldered the load again, winning 14 of 18 faceoffs. Cole Kirst, Slusher and O’Neill each operated comfortably in Kavanagh’s role as ball carriers behind. Quentin Matsui started in place of Alexander on defense.
Stathakis benefitted from outstanding wing play, including on the opening faceoff, when long-stick midfielder Jackson Bonitz swooped in for the ground ball and scored just seven seconds into the game. Bonitz and short-stick defensive midfielder Danny Parker each finished with three ground balls.
The game was delayed twice due to inclement weather in the area, the second 30-minute stoppage coming after Slusher made it 16-2 with 10:48 remaining. When play resumed, the Kirst brothers connected. CJ Kirst converted a Cole Kirst feed with 2:25 left for the final margin.
The U.S., which has outscored its last three opponents 47-7 while allowing just three goals per game throughout pool play, has the day off Tuesday and will meet the winner of a play-in game in the championship bracket quarterfinals Wednesday at 7 p.m. local time (2 p.m. Eastern). The game will be on ESPN+.
Game stats available at: https://www.worldlax2022.com/results