The United States lacrosse team has once again dominated the globe en route to the semifinals at the World Lacrosse Championships in Denver.
An epic tournament featuring 142 games in 10 days and including a record 38 nations has seen the field dramatically reduced, with Australia standing in the way of yet another finals berth for the United States.
Winners of the Blue Division thanks to a 5-0 record, the Americans were given Wednesday off to prepare for the encounter, which is sure to be a hotly contested affair considering the two sides have already met once in the past week.
Like the World Cup did for soccer earlier in the summer, lacrosse is starting to gain global steam thanks to this spectacle once every four years, so Thursday is a great way to get on board the train and support one of the sides left in action, or merely observe the impressive feats of athleticism and hand-eye coordination.
What: 2014 World Lacrosse Championships Semifinal
When: Thursday, July 17 at 6:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: ESPN3
The United States, which won the title four years ago with a 12-10 triumph over Canada, making it nine total, has run roughshod on the field once more.
Not only did team USA—composed of 23 men hand-picked over the course of an 11-month tryout process—overcome the Blue Division that included teams like Canada (4-1), Iroquois Nationals (3-2) and yes, Australia, Paul Rabil and Co. racked up 85 goals to just 23 allowed in the process.
Rabil, the MVP and All-World selection from last go-round, shared his and the team's feelings on Twitter about making it to this point:
The path has not been as smooth for Australia, a team that has accumulated a 3-3 record so far and was clearly in for a rocky ride when it needed two overtime sessions just to upend Japan—a team that finished 1-4—on the opening day of action.
Tuesday night was even more difficult though, as weather delays caused the game to go much later than most had anticipated. Australia hardly survived Israel, 9-8, and only because goalie Tom Vickery came up with two major saves in the final minute.
Lacrosse Magazine's Sean Burns made a valid point concerning the effort the Australians had to put forth just to reach the semifinals:
The last time the two teams met, it was a rather ugly affair as the United States went on to win, 16-7.
That contest was marred by 16 penalties overall, five of them being the unsportsmanlike conduct variety. Australia's Callum Robinson explained after the fact that it was a matter of respect, as captured by Matt DaSilva of Lacrosse Magazine:
They gotta earn respect from us and we gotta earn respect from them. We don't want to give them too much, and we don't want to give them too little," said Robinson, a Wembley Lacrosse Club export who is one of the top defensemen in NCAA Division III at Stevenson. "We just tried to beat 'em up a little bit and run with 'em.
It was surely a physical brand of international lacrosse, although not close to enough in the end. The United States started hot with an 18-4 shots advantage in the first period and proceeded to win that battle, 43-23.
Chris Eck and Greg Gurenlian combined for a 17-of-23 faceoff performance, and netminder Drew Adams went all 80 minutes with six saves. As for scoring, Rabil and David Lawson shared the load with four apiece, while Matt Diver led the way for the Australian side with three goals.
Thursday, expect the play to be even more chippy with so much on the line. Australia faces immense pressure to finally get over the hump in the face of an American side that continues to click on all cylinders.
For the United States, consistency is key. Australia, however, has to come out with a new approach, as just keeping it close didn't work last time around.
No matter which team wins out, the winner of Canada-Iroquois Nationals awaits and will make for another memorable final worthy of the growing international audience.