The U15 Haudenosaunee Nationals youth development team kept their title as champions, winning the 2023 Heritage Cup undefeated 5-0 at the May 26-29 tournament in Glassboro, New Jersey.
Kahnawa’kehró:non Darris Jones was on the roster, attending the tournament for the first time.
“It was really cool. It was just fun, making new friends, just talking to them,” said the 15-year-old midfielder, adding that he got to meet many new faces among the familiar ones on the team.
Over the course of the tournament, he saw the team’s confidence grow collectively as the players warmed up to one another.
The team’s head coach, Ron Cogan, was also pleased to see how quickly the team was able to come together and work as a unit, despite most of them meeting for the first time that Saturday morning.
“I think they did a great job, and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” said Cogan, who is a Haudenosaunee National alumni and who has coached the U15 team for the past two years at this tournament. The team won undefeated last year, too.
The highlight for Cogan was the second game of the tournament, when the team went into the second half down 4-2 against Ireland but made a comeback to secure the win, 7-5.
“It was a good team win, and our defence was great. Top to bottom, our goalie (Kai Massaro) was outstanding, our offense with the ball and net when we had to, and it was kind of a regrouping moment and you can see the team coming together,” he said. “After that point, the team started clicking and everything started to fall in place.”
Prior to that game, the U15 Haudenosaunee team won 13-6 against Team Puerto Rico. The following day, they won 13-1 against the US Virgin Islands, and 12-4 against Israel White. And on the final day, they emerged victorious, taking a 11-2 win against Israel Blue.
He attributed the team’s success to the all-around effort across the field, underlining Julian Watts’ performance – winning the majority of the faceoffs – and Massaro’s play, as well as contributions from Jones and fellow player Chase Cogan.
“Darris Jones played a great tournament. He played both ends of the floor on the field. He played great defense and scored a lot of big goals,” said Ron. “He did anything I asked him to do. He’s a great kid.”
Jones’ father, Al Jones, accompanied him to the tournament over the weekend. “It was nice to see how he took it all in. And he didn’t panic or feel any jitters,” he said of Darris. “He’s been playing at a high level actually for many years … so he’s been there, he can handle the pressure,” he said, adding that Darris won the world box lacrosse tournament two years in a row. “It was impressive for me also, watching him do his thing. It’s fun.”
As a lacrosse coach himself, Al sometimes had to refrain from jumping in to shout out a helpful tip here and there, which he explained can be especially tempting given that the view from the stands gives an upper hand. “It’s out of respect for the coaches, because the coaches have their own game plan,” he said.
One standout element of the tournament to Al was the cultural diversity. “It was great to see the different nations there,” he said.
Aside from winning the tournament, for Darris, the highlight of the tournament was the time spent off the field. “It was on the sidelines, it’s after the games when we were just talking to each other and getting to know each other,” he said.