Scots field unique duo in net

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:11 AM ET

The Scottish lacrosse team has a unique way of keeping the ball out of its net at the world lacrosse championships in London this week.

Newcomer Matt Russell is a fresh-faced 23-year-old from Madison, Conn., who just finished his university career at Navy, leading the Midshipmen into the NCAA tournament in his third year as a starter. A while back, there was worry in the Scottish camp that Russell, whose father was born in Scotland, wouldn't be eligible to play at this worlds because of his looming long-term duty to serve the United States.

"I just graduated. You get 30 days before you start your five-year commitment with Navy -- it's called a basket leave -- and I worked it out and saved up my days so I could have the time off to play here at the worlds," Russell said. "It wasn't a problem. I'm ready to go."

Had Russell hit a snag, the bulk of the Scottish goaltending duties would have fallen to 67-year-old mainstay John Marr, who is nearly three times as old as Russell but staying ready and focused for his turn to guard the goal posts.

"I think we got all the goaltending (with Russell) sorted out about three weeks ago," Marr said. "In lacrosse, anything can happen so you have to stay in the game. There can be an injury, a penalty so you never know when you'll get in."

Plenty of teams have good goaltending stories here this week -- Canadian goalie Kyle Miller, a cancer survivor, works for fellow Orangeville native and national team ball-stopper Chris Sanderson's lacrosse company while the United States boasts the best tandem in the world with Chris Garrity and Trevor Tierney.

But no one has a 44-year generation gap between their two goalie options, a situation that adds a lot of colour to the Scottish contingent. In their tournament opener against Italy, Scotland rallied from a seven-goal deficit and went to double-overtime with Russell making 26 saves.

"John's great and it looks like we have a good team so it's going to be a lot of fun," Russell said.

Marr couldn't believe the humidity on Friday as he put on ancient padding underneath a thick blue sweatsuit in a back room while getting ready for his team's opener at North London Athletic Fields. A veteran of the world championships since 1982, he has shown no signs of considering retirement from the game.

"I'm just going to keep trying out until they cut me," Marr said with a grin. "I've learned a lot in the over 40 years I've been playing the game. I don't think I have the patience for coaching. I yell at my defenders."

Marr last played in Canada three years ago during the inaugural box lacrosse worlds but he favours his familiar field game.

"I tried box and it's a good game but for a goalie, there's so much heavy equipment I find it hard to move around," he said. "You do have more responsibility in field (starting the offensive rush and moving the ball up field) but the most important thing is always to stop the ball."

Some feel you have to be on the crazy side to play goal in field lacrosse with little protective gear and a heavy ball travelling toward you at high speeds. There's also the threat of being run over by an attacking forward -- but Marr hardened at that thought.

"They (the forwards) have to watch out, too," he said.

Originally a cricket player into his 20s, Marr was introduced to the game by some friends and loved it instantly.

"I came to the game late -- most start by the time they're 12-years-old," Marr said. "I always saw myself as a goalie, that's where I would be best able to help the team."


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