For decades the U.S. has dominated international lacrosse, and Native Americans—the people who invented the sport—have struggled to keep up as a separate entity. The U.S. has money and some 150,000 players to draw from; only 86 players showed up at the Iroquois Nationals' U-19 tryouts in September.
This is an article from the July 30, 2012 issue
So imagine the shock when, on July 17, the Nationals beat Team USA for the first time in international field competition. In pool play at the U-19 world championships in Turku, Finland, the Iroquois (above, in white) erased a two-goal halftime deficit to edge the U.S. 15--13. "This opened the eyes of the rest of the world: We can play lacrosse," says Nationals coach Freeman Bucktooth.
Alas, the Iroquois fell 12--7 to Team USA in the semis two days later. (They thrashed England 18--1 to win bronze last Saturday.) But beating the mighty U.S., which had never lost to any team but Canada, was a milestone for the Nationals only two years after they missed the world championships in England over a passport dispute.
"I have four sons, and all of them had lacrosse sticks from their day of birth," says Bucktooth. "We are a small community, and the players have a sense of history. It's important that we carry the tradition on."