It's still several months away, but Gewas Schindler is getting rather excited about the world boys' under-19 field lacrosse championships that will be staged this summer.
Schindler, from the Oneida Indian Nation, is the general manager of the Iroquois Nationals team that will participate at the world event. The 12-team tournament will be held July 12-21 in Turku, Finland.
"We're going for a gold medal," Schindler said. "That's what we've been talking about. And that's where this program is headed."
This world tournament is staged every four years. The Iroquois Nationals won the bronze medal at the 2008 event held in Langley, British Columbia. The United States won the gold medal while the host Canadians captured the silver.
The Iroquois Nationals' 26-player roster is expected to be announced in early March.
"I think we're experienced and very talented," Schindler said. "We have a lot of players with a lot of field experience and players with a lot of box lacrosse experience. I feel real comfortable playing against anybody."
Tryouts for the squad began last September when about 120 players were invited to compete at a tournament on the Onondaga Nation. Several tryout camps have been staged since then, in both the U.S. and Canada. The roster had been whittled down to 36 players, who participated in an exhibition contest versus Brown University in mid-February.
"We have to watch some film from that game and then we'll be making decisions on our final roster," Schindler said.
One of the players expected to have a key role with the Iroquois Nationals side is midfielder Johnny Powless, who is from Six Nations in Ontario. Though he's just 18, Powless is already playing in the pro ranks with the Rochester Knighthawks of the National Lacrosse League. And he's made quite an impression in the league despite being a rookie. In fact, he participated in the league's all-star game, which was held Feb. 25 in Buffalo.
"He's at a high, high level right now," Schindler said of Powless. "That's obvious since he's already playing pro as an 18-year-old."
The Iroquois Nationals' roster is also expected to feature three players who also participated at the 2008 world under-19 tournament when they were just 15-years-old. These players are goalie Warren Hill and midfielders Lyle Thompson and Randy Staats. Hill and Staats are both from Six Nations while Thompson is from the Onondaga First Nation. Schindler believes the Iroquois Nationals' roster will include nine players, who are currently playing in the NCAA Division 1 ranks.
The Iroquois Nationals will compete in the highest calibre Blue Division along with the other global powers of the sport. The others in this division are the United States, Canada, Australia, England and Germany. The world tournament will also include a six-country Red Division featuring host Finland, Scotland, Wales, South Korea, Czech Republic and the Netherlands.
Squads will only play within their own division for round-robin action. There will be some cross-over play for the playoff rounds. So it is conceivable - though an extreme longshot - for a team from the Red Division to win the tournament. Schindler believes his side could be the one celebrating following the championship match.
"I know we'll have the talent," he said. "We have all the tools and we're just looking forward to go for a gold medal."
The team will be coached by Freeman Bucktooth of the Onondaga Nation. The squad also has five assistant coaches; Ansley Jemison (Seneca Nation), Jim Barnes (Mohawk Nation), Marty Ward (Cherokee Nation), Delby Powless (Six Nations) and Jason Johnson (Six Nations).
The Iroquois Nationals will open the world tournament on July 13 versus England.