August 9, 2010

Lake Placid lacrosse tourney draws thousands, world class talent

Contributing Writer

LAKE PLACID — The 21st Annual Summit Lacrosse Classic wrapped up Sunday, capping a week-long tournament that drew thousands of players and spectators to the Tri-Lakes region, including some of the world's most recognized lacrosse stars.

What started in 1990 with just seven teams competing over the course of a weekend has grown into more than 140 teams playing Monday through Sunday in an annual festival of the sport.

"We have individual players from all over the country," said George Leveille, the director of the tournament. "This year we had a team from St. Louis, Missouri."

The event brought about 3,000 players and an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 visitors in total to the Olympic region, said Leveille, whose sons Kevin and Mike now play professional lacrosse after staring at the NCAA Division I level for the University of Massachusetts and Syracuse University, respectively.

"They were just little kids running around here when we started this," he said.

The Men's Grand Masters Division 1 final Sunday afternoon pitted The Burnt Orange, a team of former and current Syracuse University players, most of them now in their thirties, against another group of veterans in The Rusty Red, a team with Cornell roots, but now boasting additional All-Americans and standouts from Princeton, Towson, and Johns Hopkins.

"The Grand Masters (Division 1) championship game probably had 25 guys who won more than one national championship in college," Leveille said.

The Burnt Orange featured brothers Casey and Ryan Powell, who hail from Carthage, a few miles from Watertown, New York. Both brothers won NCAA Championships at Syracuse and continue to play professionally.

Casey Powell was named the National Lacrosse League's Most Valuable Player in 2010. Ryan Powell has twice been named the Most Valuable Player of the Major Lacrosse League and, alongside Mike Leveille, led the United States team that captured the gold last month at the FIL World Lacrosse Championships in Manchester, England.

Known for their sophisticated stick skills and athleticism, the brothers combined for three goals and three assists on the day, and dazzled spectators with behind-the-back and between-the-legs shots as they looked to help avenge the Burnt Orange's 12-10 loss last year to The Rusty Red.

But it was not to be for the Northern New York natives.

With the score tied at 13-13, the game went into overtime. It ended just over three minutes in when Lindsay Dixon, a former Towson midfielder, took a pass while cutting through the Burnt Orange defense and buried an overhand shot for his sixth goal of the day, sending fans into a frenzy and giving The Rusty Red its second-straight tournament victory.

In what has become a popular summertime rivalry in the world of lacrosse, both teams had been preparing for rematch since last year's showdown and fans dressed to support their teams packed the sidelines Sunday afternoon to watch another contested affair.

"This game took place on this field, but it could have been held in a stadium," Leveille said to the teams after the contest, commenting on both the talent displayed and the enthusiasm of what appeared to be one of the biggest crowds to watch a game at the tournament.

New for this year, 34 scholastic teams were added in three divisions, including an under-18 girls division. And though Lake Placid is located in the only section of the NYSPHSAA that does not compete in the state lacrosse championships, Leveille did point out a connection between the region and the sport.

"In 1963, the collegiate North-South Senior Game was played (in Lake Placid) in 1963," he said. "It was played at the Olympic stadium in front of the high school, which is now a speed skating oval. I've been here doing this for 21 years, and that is the first I had heard of it."

Leveille said he learned the fact over the weekend when he was given a vintage framed poster of the event by former and long-time Syracuse coach Roy Simmons Jr., who led Syracuse to six national titles and for whom a birthday party was held Friday night in Lake Placid.

Leveille expressed his appreciation for the support of the community in hosting the event.

"I just want to compliment the town for producing these fields. Roughly 350 games were played here this week, which is a lot of work on the fields, and you can see they've held up."