Having come from behind against Team Canada to eventually lose in a heartbreakingly close game, 11-9, the Iroquois Nationals once again showed why they're so tough, coming from behind yet again to defeat Team USA 15-13 at the World Championships in Turki, Finland on Tuesday afternoon. This was the Nationals final game of round-robin play, and the win bought them a first-round bye going into the next round.
This marks the first time that Nationals have bested Team USA in international field competition (they've beaten Team USA in indoor matches), which, considering Team USA draws from a pool of roughly 150,000 players nationwide and is a multimillion dollar operation while the Nationals draw from a pool of about 86, is astonishing.
The U.S. led 5-2 after the first quarter and 8-6 at halftime, but the Nationals fought back to go up 9-8 in the third quarter. These two squads played valiantly, tying the game at 11 and again at 13, but Hank Delisle put the Nationals up 14-13 with 5:35 left in the game and they never looked back. Delisle's mom was in the crowd, going crazy for her son as mom's are wont to do.
“It was amazing,” Kwetioo Goodleaf, Hank's mother, told Kahnawakenews.com. “It seems like the whole world is rooting for the Iroquois Nationals and Hank has his own little group of fans. Everyone was so nervous and at the edge of their seats and the victory was crazy! All the other countries were jumping up and down along with our home crowd! What a feeling to watch my son play the sport he loves against the world and come out on top. I’m a proud Isten’a. I feel like Isten’a to most to these boys because we have been to endless tryouts, tournaments and road trips together. The Iroquois Nationals are one big family and it shows!”
Team USA had a man-up opportunity with three minutes left on the lock, but eventually the Nationals' Lyle Thompson put on a show of nimble footwork, escaping several defenders in an effort to kill the clock, drawing two penalties in the process. That gave Delisle score an insurance goal with 49 seconds to go, cementing the historic win for the Nationals.
Team USA is a tough opponent, evidenced by their 38-2 international record. They have already lost, to Team Canada, 11-9, and now sit at 2-2 and await the winner of Germany-Wales.
The Nationals are now 3-1 and will be seeded second for the medal rounds. They've earned a bye to the semifinals, where they could end up facing Team USA again. Team Canada will be the top seed.
“We asked the boys to play a more composed and settled game,” Delby Powless, one of the Iroquois Nationals coaches, told Kahnawakenews.com. “They bought into the system and played with more patience than most Iroquois teams usually play. Defensively we played smart.”
The Nationals beat Team Australia on Monday, 17-9, and have their eyes on the gold medal.