The Iroquois Nationals are gearing up to host the world in a historic lacrosse tournament starting tomorrow.?The Native men’s team is hosting this year’s World Indoor Lacrosse Championship (WILC). The 13-nation event runs from Sept. 18-27.
This marks the first time a world tournament will be staged partly on Native land. Some of the tournament matches will be staged on the Onondaga Nation, at the Onondaga Nation Arena as well as the Village Pavilion.?
Games will also be held at the War Memorial Arena in Syracuse. And both the gold-medal and bronze-medal contests will be at Syracuse University’s Carrier Dome.?
This marks the fourth time the WILC, which is staged every four years, will be held.?
Canada has won the gold medal at all three previous tournaments while the Iroquois Nationals have been forced to settle for the silver medal each time. The Americans have been bronze medalists at all three events.?
Landon Miller, the Iroquois Nationals’ general manager, said his squad is tired of simply being the runner-up at this quadrennial tournament.?“It’s gold or nothing for us this year,” he said. “Our only objective is the gold medal.”?
Miller anticipates the two toughest opponents once again for the Iroquois Nationals will be the U.S. and the defending champs.
?“Canada has never lost a game at this tournament,” he said. “Canada has a big strong team. We’re going to have to play our A game when we play them. We can’t make any mistakes against them.”?
The Iroquois Nationals will play their first game of the tourney on Sept. 18 against the U.S. They’ll then square off against Canada on Sept. 20.?The Iroquois Nationals will also have round-robin matches versus England on Sept. 22 and against the Czech Republic on Sept. 23.
?Also participating in the tournament will be Australia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Serbia, Switzerland and Turkey.?
Rich Kilgour, who played in the 2003 WILC for the Iroquois Nationals, will serve as the team’s head coach.?“From the small pool we can draw from, we have a lot of talent,” he said.?
Kilgous is thrilled to be involved with this historic event.?
“I can’t speak for the players but I hope they feel the same way I do,” he said. “This is a huge opportunity to prove to the world lacrosse is a Native sport and that we’re at the top level of the food chain.”?
Kilgour believes the hosts will have an advantage playing in front of their family members and supporters. ?“It’s going to be like hockey when they play on Canadian soil,” he said. “The whole country gets fired up for that. It’s a really proud time to be Native American and to host something like this on a world level.” ?
The Iroquois Nationals’ 24-player roster includes the four Thompson brothers – Jerome, Mike, Miles and Jeremy – who hail from the Onondaga Nation.
?“I think they’re going to be a big part of our team,” Miller said of the brothers. “But they’re pieces to our puzzle. We’re expecting all the pieces of our puzzle to perform as a team.”?
The Iroquois Nationals’ lineup also includes brothers Randy and Austin Staats. While 23-year-old Randy was expected to make the squad some people were surprised to also see his 17-year-old brother also crack the roster.
?“He’s young but he gives us another option on the left side,” Miller said of the younger Staats.?
Miller is well acquainted with Austin Staats. That’s because Miller is also the president of the Six Nations Arrows, a Junior A team. ?Staats was one of the stars of the Arrows, who captured the Minto Cup, the Canadian Junior A title, in late August.