Mount St. Joseph midfielder Bryan Costabile and Boys' Latin goalie Jack Pezzulla were the only two high school players from Maryland recently named to the 2016 U.S. men's national Under-19 team. They will compete in the Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships July 7-16 in British Columbia.
For both players, it's the experience of a lifetime.
"I have honestly never felt a greater honor than to be able to represent my country and school at the 2016 world games in Canada," Pezzulla said. "That being said, I am ecstatic about the opportunities that are ahead for me and my brothers on Team USA.
Costabile expressed the same sentiment, saying, "It's such an honor to be representing the USA in the games, and being chosen for the team still feels surreal to me."
Both Costabile and Pezzulla were impressed with the caliber of players during the U19 tryouts. The speed and strength of the players was the major difference from the average club tryout.
"It was the single most difficult tryout that I have ever experienced," Costabile said. "Every player that tried out, starting with the 108 in the summer to the 30 this past fall, had such unbelievable talent. The speed of the game was much quicker than what I have been used to playing, and every individual trying out was the best player from their respective high school team. The level of talent pushed me to work hard the entire summer."
Pezzulla took advantage of getting a second chance at making the team. He didn't make the first cuts but was brought back due to player unavailability and earned a spot on the team.
"This initial adversity drove me to perform my best at the Blue and White game and continually throughout the rest of tryouts," Pezzulla said. "The speed of play is unlike anything I've ever seen. The ball moves so fast that it's almost too hard to keep track of. But even with this fast paced play, our defense still manages to get stops just as much as the offense scores goals. Looking at the whole team, I can't tell you one person who doesn't give their hardest 100 percent of the time when they are on the field."
Costabile said he understands that some of the college players have more experience. U19 head coach Nick Myers, who is also the head coach at Ohio State, has asked Costabile to focus more on defense, and the midfielder is ready to embrace that role.
"I'm willing to do whatever it takes to help the team bring home a gold medal," he said.
The experience with U19 team, however, is much bigger than lacrosse. It's an opportunity to engage with other athletes from around the country and also experience a different culture in Canada.
"I hope to not only grow as an athlete/lacrosse player but also as a man," Pezzulla said. "I've been told countless times by all sorts of different people that this experience is one that I will always remember. Not just because of the lacrosse, but because of the way the team bonds over our time together."
Costabile is confident the experience will also better prepare him for the college game. Costabile has committed to Notre Dame, while Pezzulla will play for North Carolina.
"I hope that, coming out of this, I will become an overall better lacrosse player," Costabile said. "I think that the speed of the world games will help me with the adjustment from high school to college. I am also looking forward to discovering how lacrosse is being viewed and promoted around the world by meeting and interacting with as many U19 participants as possible."