Keene State's Tress to play on Israel National Lacrosse team
KEENE, N.H. 6/18/12 – Keene State College’s Alex Tress has had little down time since completing his junior season as a member of the Owl men’s lacrosse team. The defenseman from Simsbury, Conn., has been busy sharpening his stick skills and brushing up on his Hebrew.
Tress left on Saturday to join Israel’s national lacrosse team in its international debut next week at the European lacrosse championships in Amsterdam. “It’s a big honor. I really didn’t expect it,” said Tress.
The team will play a series of friendlies before beginning group play with a game against Slovakia on June 21. The Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) recognized Israel as an associate member in April 2011, allowing the team to compete in championship play and all FIL-sanctioned events.
The team is comprised of both Israeli and American-born players. The 40 player roster will be trimmed down to 23 for play in the European Championship. There must be 19 Israeli citizens on the team. Many of them got their experience playing on college teams throughout the United State.
Tress, who was born in the Soviet Union (now Kyrgyzstan) and lived a couple of years in Israel before moving to Toronto and later to Simsbury, contacted Israel lacrosse director Scott Neiss about joining the team. “Alex reached out to us last October to inquire about helping at our youth clinics and potentially playing for one of our club teams in Israel,” said Neiss. “We were very excited an active NCAA player was interested in getting involved in our program. When we learned Alex was an Israeli citizen, and as a result was eligible to play for our national team in championship play, we were even more excited about him.”
“Scott has done a lot to build up lacrosse in Israel and I decided to go over,” said Tress. “I heard that it’s pretty competitive, so I hope I can make an impact.”
Tress will be joining a growing Israel lacrosse program. “We are a new program, but we have an excellent coaching staff, and a significant amount of experienced players,” said Neiss. “England, who is ranked fifth in the world, is widely expected to win the European Championship. Based on our training camp and our exhibition schedule to date, we're optimistic that we will be competitive and make our country proud in our first ever international championship tournament.”
A hockey player growing up, Tress caught the lacrosse bug in high school, playing four years at Simsbury High. “I really liked the stick work and the strategy of the game,” said Tress. “It’s fast and fun.”
Tress joined a net full of Simsbury players who migrated north and helped Keene State capture Little East Conference championships and NCAA tournament berths two out of the past three years. Although the Owls suffered a pair of tough losses to eventual LEC champ Eastern Conn., they were able to knock off a Conn. College team (15-13) whose coaching staff includes former Simsbury High coach Dan Corcoran. “It was weird hearing his voice on the other sideline,” Tress said.
Tress will be hearing a different language when he takes the field for the Israeli team next week. “I’m not really comfortable with Hebrew, but there’s a strict team policy to speak Hebrew on the field, so I’m trying to learn all the Hebrew terms,” he said.
There are also some subtle changes in the rules regarding equipment and face-offs, compared to the American game.
According to Neiss, the sport has grown exponentially in Israel since the launch of our program two years ago. “We currently have two men's teams and one women's team, and we expect to launch a men's league next year,” he said. “Lacrosse was also recently approved for addition into the 2013 Maccabiah Games which is a huge boost to our efforts. We have launched an aggressive schedule of youth clinics, and have put lacrosse sticks into the hands of over 1,000 Israeli children. It is our vision to make lacrosse the national sport of Israel within 20 years.”
“I can’t wait to go,” said Tress, a reserve defenseman for the Owls. “I’m sure it will be a great experience that I can share with my teammates when I get back.”
Tress, a two-time LEC All-Academic biology major, will be busy when he returns. He plans on playing on a summer league in Connecticut and doing a research internship at Yale-New Haven Medical Center.