Lake Placid 2021
Days Two and Three
Dan Witmer |August 5, 2021
I’m probably preaching to the choir – no need to tell Upstate New Yorkers about how very awesome the Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Classic is – but I feel like I owe my Utah, Florida, and Massachusetts readers at least one more narrative. Like photos of the Grand Canyon, my words cannot possibly do the LPSC any justice… and yet still we try.

Day Two of the 2021 Classic went pretty smoothly, with most of the 90 boys and girls scholastic teams playing two games on Tuesday. We had nine divisions – five boys and four girls – and we were treated to beautiful weather… a sunny morning that led to a clear and breezy afternoon. A team’s pop-up tent got airborne down at the Horse Show Grounds and smashed a car’s windshield, but other than that, the day was fairly uneventful…

That is, until 3:30 PM, when the men’s and women’s USA Sixes teams showed up. There was a buzz going through the NEAF site, and everyone was asking, “What time are the USA teams playing?”

The women faced off at 5 PM, and the men followed at 6 o’clock. Split into Blue and White squads, each team had one goalie and about 10-11 field players. No FOGOs, no long sticks. Men’s and women’s teams played by (almost) the same rules. Four eight-minute running time quarters. Thirty and sixty-second penalties. A 30-second shot clock.

USA Lacrosse brought the teams to Lake Placid as their second training camp. The first was in Baltimore back in the beginning of the summer. In preparation for Tuesday night’s exhibition, the players had worked with coaches Andy Shay, Tony Resch, Regy Thorpe, and Bobby Benson in Saratoga on Monday and again on Tuesday morning, and then jumped on their bus to come up to LP.

A sizeable crowd watched as the women played first. A group of us served as the sideline timers and scorekeepers, and let me tell you – the games moved quickly! The rosters I got from Coach Regy didn’t exactly align with the stats I kept, but I can tell you this – the White team beat the Blue by a 22-14 score. That’s 36 goals in 32 minutes (imagine a college men’s game with more goals than minutes!). I scrambled from one sideline to the other trying to record goal-scorers and teammates who threw assists, and as I spoke to one team, the other team would score while I wasn’t looking, so then I had to ask their team about what I had missed. The players and coaches were very helpful, and it was a lot of fun watching this new variant from a great vantage point.

According to my unofficial stats, leading scorers for the White team included Olivia Dirks (4-0), Emma Tyrell (4-0), Ellie Masera (3-1), and Andie Aldive (2-2), while the Blue team was paced by Caitlyn Wurzburger (3-0), Emma Ward (2-1), and ten others with one or two points. In goal, I had the White goalie with 17 saves (54.8%) and the Blue goalie with 18 saves (45.0%).

In the men’s game, offensive output was even more impressive. The White team won again – in overtime, 23-22 – and spectators were treated to 45 goals in 32 minutes! Leading the way for the White team were Matt Brandau (7-0), Justin Guterding (5-2), Romar Dennis (3-2), and Dan Bucaro (3-1). Goalie Jack Kelly registered 13 saves, for a 37.1 save percentage. For the Blue team, Connor Shellenberger (5-0), Kevin Rogers (4-0), Ryder Garnsey (2-2), and #49 (who wasn’t on the roster I was given) went 4-1. Goalie Adam Ghitelman had just 8 saves, giving him a 25.8 save percentage.

Is this the rendition of lacrosse we’ll see in the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama and maybe the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles? Maybe. Is this what all lacrosse will look like in the next decade? Doubtful. Are lacrosse fans going to accept and embrace this hybrid descendant of men’s and women’s, field and box lacrosse? That remains to be seen.

But it was fun to watch.

After the games were over and we were done for the day, I took the scoresheets and rosters to dinner with me, tallied the numbers and connected jersey numbers with names, while I enjoyed yet another great quesadilla at Players Sports Bar. Then it was back to the condo and more Tokyo Olympics on TV.

Yesterday – Wednesday, Day Three – scholastic games started at 9 AM and continued until 2 PM. Between 11 AM and 1 PM, we crowned nine separate divisional champs, as follows:

Boys 2024-2025 Silver – Sweetlax National

Boys 2024-2025 Gold – Sweetlax National 2024

Girls 14U 2025-2026 – Salt City Snipers 2025

Boys 2022-2023 Gold – FCA NHS Team (2023)

Boys 2022-2023 Silver – Baldwinsville 22/23

Boys 2022-2023 Summit – Annapolis Hawks

Girls 2022-2024 Silver – Ultimate 2024 Elite

Girls 2022-2024 Gold – Mass Elite Red

Girls 2022-2024 Northstar – Baby Blue

As has been the case for the past few years, I had the enviable task of presenting T-shirts and making a brief speech to each championship team as they posed for team pictures. I talked about the three tenets of the Summit Society – Competition, Camaraderie, and Respect, congratulated the teams, and thanked them for coming to Lake Placid.

At each presentation, I was joined by tournament photographer Casey Vock, which made the day that much more special. After all he’s been through in the past few months, it was great working with him again – just like old times! We set up a strategically-placed staging area, with the iconic Olympic ski jumps in the background, of course.

Then, justlikethat, the day transitioned from hectic and frantic to (almost) serene. Ninety scholastic teams left, and about 30 older men’s teams – age divisions 55+, 60+, and yes, even 65+ – came on site to begin their four-game schedules, and nowhere was it more busy than in the athletic trainers’ tent. In the morning we had grandparents watching grandchildren, and here, just an hour or two later, the tables had turned – we had grandchildren cheering for grandpa!

That’s not to say that the lacrosse wasn’t competitive. There was a first-round overtime game and a brief scuffle in another early bout. A couple players went down and calls for athletic trainers were heard on the radios. The handshakes and hugs we saw everywhere seemed long-forgotten once games began.

Wednesday afternoon had offered three rounds of games – 2:30, 3:45, and 5 PM – but maybe the afternoon’s highlight happened afterwards. As the day’s contests ended, about a hundred players – many sporting gray whiskers and/or baldness – gathered for a collective memorial for John Zulberti. I might have missed some earlier speakers, but I heard Casey Powell and Todd Oudemool give some moving testimonials. Todd referenced a comment apparently made by former West Genesee HS coach Mike Messere, “We’ve lost our Johnny Appleseed.” Among other roles, Z certainly sowed some seeds for younger players to cultivate, clearing a path for others to follow. It was a fitting, from-the-heart tribute.

Today another 50 teams come – age groups ranging from masters on up to 55+. Tonight the 2020 and 2021 Legends of Lake Placid ceremony will take place, which I’ve been looking forward to for more than a year. I’ve already written about the inductees, but the event itself will probably receive some ink in the next few days – along with my road trip adventure down the Northway to help with the men’s and women’s open divisions playing in Albany Friday through Sunday.

It’s not quite business as usual or back to normal… but it’s close.

And it feels great!

Drive carefully, everyone, and stay safe, stay smart, and stay kind. Thanks for reading!

- Dan Witmer daniel.witmer@oswego.edu

Dan Witmer is the author of three books.  The Best of Road Trip Dad – The Laker Lacrosse Collection  is an accumulation of 45 articles written for JustLacrosseUpstate between the years 2012 and 2018, about the history and traditions, the people, and the stories of the Oswego State men’s lacrosse program. The book is available on Amazon.com, and at the river’s end bookstore in Oswego, the SUNY Oswego College Store in the Marano Campus Center, The Sports Outfit on West Genesee Street in Fairmount, and Geared 2 Sports in Cortland.  … and piles to go before I sleep – The Book of Wit is his memoir describing his 33 year career teaching HS English and coaching at Hannibal Central School. It is available on Amazon.com and at the river's end bookstore. His third book, The Best of RTD – A Lacrosse Coach’s Handbook, has just been released at Amazon.com. It contains more than 55 weekly Road Trip Dad blogs spanning 2012-2020, featuring Xs and Os, highs and lows, and even some Dos and Don'ts, and plenty of advice for coaches of all levels.