Although the World Lacrosse Championships took place in Manchester, England, this year, the tournament still had its typical North American flavor, as the United States reclaimed the title from 2006 winners Canada in the title game. Between them, the two teams accounted for 10 of the 11 players on the all-tournament squad, and two of those players used to suit up for the Blue and Gray – Canadian defenseman Brodie Merrill (MSB ’05), who was named top defenseman at the tournament, and American defenseman Kyle Sweeney (MSB ’03).
errill and Sweeney played together on the Hilltop for two years under current Head Coach Dave Urick, who recently took some time to reflect on his former players and the impact they’ve had on his program even after graduation.
“The interesting thing [to me] is how they’ve been able to maintain that high level of play for quite some time,” he said. “To have two very noticeable guys . doesn’t hurt [the program], that’s for sure.”
As much credit as Urick gives to his players, though, both Merrill and Sweeney give their former coach all the credit for their success.
“I wouldn’t have anything that I have right now if it weren’t for [Coach Urick],” Sweeney said. “I literally owe everything I’ve done [to him].”
“I think both Kyle and I are products of the system at Georgetown – we were very fortunate to play under Coach [Dave] Urick and Coach Rienzo and Coach Scotty Urick,” Merrill said. “[They are] a major reason why we could develop the way we did.”
errill, who has been named the top defenseman in Major League Lacrosse for the past five years running and is described by Urick as “one of the best defensemen that have ever played the game,” is quick to credit Sweeney, who hosted him on his recruiting visit and helped him in the early stages of his collegiate career.
“I was really lucky to have Kyle. He was the perfect guy to learn under,” Merrill said. “He was the best player in the country at that time, and I was pretty lucky to step into a situation where I could learn under a guy like that who not only was a great player but a great person and a great leader.”
For his part, Sweeney knew right away that Urick had found a special talent when he saw Merrill take the field for the first time.
“I just knew [Merrill] was going to be an incredible player,” Sweeney reflected. “We had two awesome years playing together. We definitely terrorized some teams.”
Since their days on the Hilltop, though, life has been moderately easier for opposing attacks as the two have not found themselves in the same uniform since, except for the occasional all-star game.
“It’s been pretty neat, especially in the championship [games], to line up next to him on the wing,” Merrill said. “It makes it a little extra special when you’re in those types of situations competing against each other – it’s been a lot of fun.”
“Brodie and I have crossed paths plenty of times,” Sweeney said. “We give each other a little poke and we’re always laughing. It’s never ever been angry.”
Now the two former teammates have something else in common – the American win over Canada gave Sweeney a gold medal to go with the silver he earned in 2006, and gave Merrill a silver to match his 2006 gold.
“It was a pretty big breakthrough for Canadian lacrosse and a special moment in my career,” Merrill said of the 2006 world championship that he and his teammates won on home turf in Ontario. “I feel [very] fortunate to be able to represent my country. [In 2010] I felt we had a great tournament and lost to a very good U.S. team.”
“With all due respect to every other team I’ve ever been a part of, there’s absolutely nothing better than [putting] on the red, white and blue,” Sweeney said. “It’s an indescribable feeling, an indescribable honor. I was proud for everyone I represented, but most importantly Georgetown and my high school.”
Thanks to Urick’s leadership and Merrill and Sweeney blazing successful paths on the national and professional levels and on the international stage, current and future Hoyas have the blueprint and guidance to continue the lacrosse program’s proud tradition.