Nov. 18, 2003
by Bo Rottenborn
It was a pretty routine summer for Patrick Walsh. Among the highlights were a lot of surfing off the coast of New York and relaxing at the beach with his friends, as well as some high-level lacrosse. Oh, and he also won a gold medal at the Under-19 Men’s Lacrosse World Championship.
Instead of playing club lacrosse as he normally does, the Irish sophomore donned the red, white and blue of the United States under-19 national team and was instrumental in helping Team USA continue its streak of dominance in the World Championship, held June 26-July 5 at Towson University in Towson, Md.
Throughout his six games with the national team, Walsh was an offensive force, netting 13 goals and dishing out eight assists, including at least one point in each tilt.
The outburst was not uncharacteristic of the play of the Wantagh, N.Y., native, who led Notre Dame in scoring last season, with 20 goals and 32 assists, while being selected the Great Western Lacrosse League Rookie of the Year. Walsh also was named honorable mention All-America, becoming the first-ever Irish player to do so in his freshman season.
The first step on the journey to gold came more than a year earlier, when Walsh, along with 150 of the nation’s best players, was invited to try out for the national team. After three days of scrimmaging, 22 players were selected to comprise the squad. Of the more than 30 attackmen invited to the tryouts, five made roster. Walsh was among that elite group.
“That was probably the hardest part of the whole experience,” says Walsh.
“It was difficult because you were playing with different guys each session with everyone trying to make the team. You wanted to try to showcase yourself without being selfish. It was a tough balance.”
When the team was assembled again in June ’03, Walsh and the others got the sense that what they were undertaking was different than anything they’d previously done.
“When we arrived at the championship site and went to the dorms to check in, everyone around us just sort of stopped and looked at us,” says Walsh.
“It was very apparent that everyone was going after us because we were the team to beat. That’s when it hit me: representing this country is a serious deal. A loss was just not going to be acceptable.”
When the action finally got underway at the World Championships, the favorites did not disappoint. Team USA breezed to four victories in round-robin play, defeating Australia (16-6), Canada (14-10), Iroquois (14-6) and England (22-3) to advance to the semifinal round.
Following round-robin play, another win against Team England (21-6 this time) sent the Americans into the title game – a rematch with rival Canada. This time Team USA came out quickly, taking a 5-0 lead in the first 10 minutes en route to a 19-10 triumph.
“In the championship, being one game away from the gold made it that much more intense,” says Walsh of the second game against the Canadians.
“I think we were disappointed with the way we played the first time against Canada. We didn’t play poorly, but we didn’t want the final to be as close as the first game was. We really wanted to separate ourselves. I think we proved that when we went ahead early. It was probably the best lacrosse we played the whole time.”
In the final two games, Walsh benefited from a shift in coaching strategy that saw the players performing the best at the time playing more minutes, as opposed to the set rotation used in the early games. He was on the field for nearly all of the final two matchups, and he responded. After a two-goal, two-assist performance in the semifinals, he delivered four goals and three assists in the championship game.
Playing for his country and winning the world championship was something Walsh relished.
“The atmosphere was different because you were playing with some of the best players in the world,” says Walsh.
“Plus, you were representing your country, which was something totally different than anything else I have ever experienced. Walking into opening ceremonies with the flag and listening to the national anthem just made it that much more special. It is more than just a game when you are representing your country.”
The experience was one that instead of quenching a thirst to stretch himself against the top players in the world, actually made Walsh hungrier.
“I have a real sense of accomplishment,” says Walsh.
“But it also made me hungry to do it again. I’d like to try out for the open national team. The whole experience made me push my goals higher. It gave me a little more confidence in myself, but it made me aware that there is more to achieve out there.”