TUKWILA, Wash. – For sports fans, Saturday’s Seatown Classic at the Starfire Sports Complex has it all.
A matchup between NCAA finalist Notre Dame and the United States Men’s National Team, the No. 2 team in the world at this summer’s world championships.
A local high school All-American turned Seattle Sports Star of the Year finalist who guided his college team to two NCAA finals then went on to score the game-winner for his team at this summer’s major league title game.
And a Seattle born, Portland, Ore. native that won the sport’s top collegiate award – the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.
It’s all wrapped up into the most star-studded, high profile lacrosse game ever played West of Rocky Mountains and in Washington state.
“This game will be exciting and memorable,” said Peter Baum, lacrosse’s 2012 Tewaaraton Trophy winner and former prep standout at Portland’s Lincoln High School who will take the field for the first time with the U.S. National Team on Saturday.
“This kind of thing taking place is exactly what’s needed in any area of the country,” said Baum who will make his Team USA debut on a squad that fell just short of a world title this summer, dropping the championship game to rival Canada, at the FIL World Championships in Denver.
“For me, it’s my home,” said Baum who will join a roster that includes players from all eight MLL professional teams including Seattle native Drew Snider and international lacrosse icon Paul Rabil.
“Kids having the opportunity to see athletes like this play lacrosse in their back yard is unbelievable.”
Heady stuff for a top player from the one area of the country that is just starting to come into its own in the eyes of the collegiate lacrosse world.
And as a junior at New York’s Colgate University, the bruising 6-1, 197-pound attackman didn’t disappoint those that recruited him.
That year Baum led the nation in goals (67) and points (97) while ushering the Raiders into their first NCAA tournament appearance and a host of post-season accolades including the Patriot League’s 2012 Offensive Player of the Year and a 3.56 GPA landing the Geography Major Academic All-American honors.
But it was long before earning college lacrosse’s top award and landing a professional Major League Lacrosse career, that the two-time Oregon prep All-American developed a thirst for success.
As a prep, his 180 career goals and 70 assists turned heads in then little watched Oregon as he guided Lincoln into back-to-back state championship game appearances as junior and senior.
“I was lucky enough to be a part of two state championship teams,” said Baum who helped the Cardinals down Oregon Episcopal School by a single goal in 2008 for the school’s first-ever state title, launching state crowns in four of the next five years for Lincoln.
“Our school had never one a championship,” Baum said. “For me, getting that first one in school history was pretty special. “It’s the one I’ll remember the most.”
Although the state championship loss handed to his team by the Aardvarks the following season was hard to swallow, true-to-form, the ever-positive and reflective Baum found a silver lining.
“The bus ride home from the game was tough. Just knowing that four years of great lacrosse was over and embarking on a new chapter was surreal,” he said. “It was a down moment but will always be remembered positively in retrospect.”
Snider, a wily 6-0, 175-pound two-time prep All-American from Seattle’s O’Dea High School who went on to guide Maryland to two NCAA Men’s Division I championship game appearances, knows the combined challenges of high level games helped land a coveted career with the MLL Denver Outlaws and a shot at representing his country.
“Playing in the NCAA championships in front of 60,000 fans in Baltimore teaches you to prepare for anything. The pressure helps,” said Snider who is often referred to as the Russell Wilson of lacrosse for the intangibles and momentum building moments that he brings to the game and his teams.
“Growing up I never thought I’d be playing at Maryland and from there to a professional team and from there to a chance with the U.S. National Team,” said Snider who played with the squad’s 30-man roster until it was pared down to 23 for last summer’s worlds.
For all of Snider’s success and accolades, a big game win has always eluded him. That is until this summer’s MLL championship.
“I’ve lost so many – ACC, NCAA and MLL championship games – to finally get one is a huge weight off of my shoulders, “ said the former Seattle Sports Star of the Year nominee who fired home the game winner with just 56 seconds to go propelling Denver to its first-ever MLL crown.
“I saw the play developing but didn’t know if I would get a shot off,” said Snider, who will travel back to Denver this Sunday to join the Outlaws for their championship ring ceremony during the NFL Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium.
“You always dream of that moment, but to have that opportunity and to cash in on it. Wow, I couldn’t believe it,” said a grinning Snider on the come-from-behind win. “It didn’t even feel like we were back in the game yet and then we were ahead. I just came off the field and put my head between my legs and didn’t watch the end of the game.”
On Saturday, Team USA’s opponent Notre Dame has become one of the most storied teams in recent Men’s Division I lacrosse history boasting 19 NCAA Tournament appearances since 1981 — nine straight including last year’s run to the national title game.
For Baum and Snider, playing the Fighting Irish is an honor and while the friendly environment of fall ball exists, they know they need be on when they hit the Starfire Sports Complex turf Saturday at 2 p.m.
“Kevin Corrigan is one of the best lacrosse coaches in the world. His Notre Dame teams are always well prepared,” said Snider, whose Team USA squad is 2-0 all-time in exhibitions against the Fighting Irish including a 12 – 7 win in 2010 and a 10 – 7 victory last year.
Concluding their 2014 campaign with a 12-6 record, the Fighting Irish didn’t disappoint. Notre Dame advanced to Championship Weekend for the third time in the last five seasons and for the fourth time overall in program history before falling to Duke, 11-9, in the national title game.
“The track record of Notre Dame speaks a lot about (Corrigan’s) coaching style and the culture that he has built in South Bend,” Snider said.
But it’s the family environment in the lacrosse community that has driven both Snider and Baum throughout their careers – on and off the field.
“The lacrosse community in Seattle is very tight and supportive. Everyone sticks up for each other and watches out for you,” said Snider who relied heavily on the skill and experience of local coaches and former players to frame his game.
“You make the bonds on the field, but they are just as strong off the field. It’s helped me learn the game, get into college, even get a job. It’s an extended family,” he said.
For Baum, a quick and talented athlete with plenty of competitive sports options while growing up in Portland, it was the friendships that kept his eye on the prize of learning the game and improving.
“You have close bonds with the players on your team and the other teams,” he said. “It was just me and my best friend, working out, working hard and getting better every day.”
Who to Watch:
Drew Snider (Team USA) 6-0, 175-pound midfielder from Seattle where he is head lacrosse coach at O’Dea High School… scored the winning goal for the Denver Outlaws in this summer’s Major League Lacrosse title game… helped Maryland to two NCAA title game appearances… lacrosse coach at Seattle’s O’Dea High School… two-time prep lacrosse All-American who attended O’Dea High School.
Peter Baum (Team USA) 6-1, 197-pound midfielder born in Seattle, prepped in Portland, Ore… Major League Lacrosse standout with the Ohio Machine… 2012 Tewaaraton Trophy winner (the first student-athlete from the NW west to win the award) at Colgate University… two-time prep All-American at Portland’s (Ore.) Lincoln High School… born in Seattle.
Paul Rabil (Team USA) 6-3, 220-pound midfielder… perhaps the world’s most recognizable name in lacrosse… plays professionally for the Major League Lacrosse Boston Cannons where he was a member of their 2011 MLL championship team… Tewaaraton Trophy finalist in 2008 at Johns Hopkins University where he earned first-team USILA All-American honors in each of his final three seasons with the Blue Jays… native of Gaithersburg, Md.
Sergio Perkovic (Notre Dame) 6-4, 220-pound midfielder… fourth in scoring for the Irish in 2014 with 28 goals and 5 assists for 33 points… as a freshman scored all five of his goals over the final 30 minutes of the NCAA national title game… All-America honors as a junior and senior at Michigan’s Brother Rice… won four Michigan state high school titles… Michigan player of the year as a junior and senior.
Matt Kavanagh (Notre Dame) 5-8, 170-pound attackman… led Notre Dame in scoring in 2014 with 42 goals and 33 assists for 75 points… As a rookie in 2013, led the Irish in goals (32) and assists (16)… the 32 goals were the most ever for a Notre Dame freshman… earned honorable mention All-America honors from the USILA, first team All-BIG EAST and appeared on the Tewaaraton Award watch list… native of Rockville Centre, NY (Chaminade/Hotchkiss)… as a prep, ranked top post-graduate recruit for the class of 2012 by Inside Lacrosse… won gold medal with Team USA at the 2012 FIL Under-19 World Championships in Turku, Finland… named tournament MVP and most outstanding attackman leading Team USA with 20 goals, 11 assists.