Get your sticks ready: The World Lacrosse Championships are gearing up
It's the first time Israel has hosted the international tournament.
When Nikol Baglay first picked up a lacrosse stick as a middle schooler in Israel, she got a few strange looks in gym class. "What are you catching, Nikol?" her classmates asked her. "Butterflies?"
That was about six years ago, and Baglay, now 19, thinks the sport in her home country is finally getting the recognition it deserves – butterflies notwithstanding. With her help, Israel is getting ready to host the 2018 World Lacrosse Championships, starting Thursday. Teams from 46 countries – including Hong Kong, Australia, the Netherlands, the U.K., the U.S. and Canada – are converging on the coastal city of Netanya to compete for international excellence in the sport. That's about 2,000 athletes, not counting managers and other staff.
It's the first time Israel has hosted the event. In fact, Baglay said, it's the first time the event has ever been hosted in a country wherein English is not the native language.
And that's where Baglay comes in. As the teams shuffle in from around the world, it's her job to make sure they're acclimating well. She helps with translating, logistics, bus schedules and directions. And, of course, where to get the best falafel in town.
Next week, she'll even get to compete – though on a slightly friendlier plane. Since the World Cup of Lacrosse is relegated to male athletes, Baglay will be part of the many club teams that are also in town for the festival portion of the event. Several women's and youth teams will be playing matches, and Barglay has the unique honor of serving as both an athlete and a staff member for this illustrious event.
As with all major sporting events, this one is sure to attract the best talent lacrosse has to offer. For starters, there's Hong Kong standout Evan Mok-Lamme, who scored 35 goals with 17 assists as a student-athlete at Illinois Wesleyan University and was named First Team All-College Conference of Illinois; Australia team captain Nigel Morton, who scored seven goals in the 2014 championship alone; and hometown favorite Ori Bar David, an 18-year-old who's the first Israeli-born lacrosse athlete to come through the national program.
And that's not counting the humble upstarts from Jamaica, Luxembourg and Puerto Rico. Could they make enough noise to give defending champions Canada a worthy challenge?
Baglay said with a sport that's got this much potential for worldwide domination, it's all very possible.
"A lot of kids are really falling in love with the sport," she said. "People my age who started playing as kids are really seeing the sport turn into something great here. I'm really excited to see it all happen."
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