Joe Spallina admitted that he was nervous during the entire World Series of Youth Lacrosse championship game against rival Long Island Express in Denver (Colo.), but with a few minutes, the Team 91 '23 Bandits head coach allowed himself to exhale.
"We were up three and then Eric Grahn made a big save late with about two minutes to go and we cleared the ball," Spallina said. "We called timeout and we told our guys that we preferred not to shoot, but one of our kids had the chance to shoot with Express locking everyone off. That's when we knew we had it."
The Bandits ran the table with a perfect 8-0 mark, outscoring Team 5280, 3d Georgia, PrimeTime, Tri State, Utah Hoppers, Big 5, Evolve Elite and the Express, 96-39. Jack Speidell (22-5-27) and Jack Ponzio (18-9-27) each led the team with 27 points, with Speidell scoring five goals in the title game and Ponzio adding three goals and an assist. Cole Marsala added eight goals and 11 assists. Jake Spallina won 67.6 percent of his faceoffs to go with five goals and two assists, while Grahn led a defense that yielded less than five goals per game. Click here for full tournament stats. Ponzio, Spallina, Speidell and Matt Bove were named to the All-World team, as chosen by the tournament.
"Express is a great team, and it's not easy when you have to play a team multiple times," Spallina said. "It comes down to execution. Both teams executed really well. I thought both teams had an equal amount of shots and defensive stops, but it really came down to Eric making saves and us burying our chances at the end. We had seven goal scorers in the final, and when we have that kind of diverse scoring, we're a tough team to beat."
Spallina has known for a long time that this team had big-time potential, particularly since it's a team that's become close with his other 91 team, the '20 Crush team. That team is considered by many to be the top '20 team in the country, and the two teams often practice and travel together. The camaraderie between the two was evident as the Bandits celebrated on the Sports Authority Field, too.
"This team has always been kind of Crush's little brother, and there's a lot of interest in the younger guys from our older guys," Spallina said. "When we were celebrating, my phone was lighting up from texts from the Crush guys. They've really formed a bond together, and it's really pushed the kids to emulate the success that the older kids have had. This is a group that has stayed together and stayed local to the process. Skill and player development is a big part of what we do at Team 91, and it's not about having the best individual players. It's about having the best team with team-oriented defense and assisted goals."
Now, that team stands above all others as World Series of Youth Lacrosse champions.
To come and see what our program is all about, click the Evaluation Camp flyer below.