t the last World Lacrosse Games, four years ago in Manchester, England, the Canadian team surprised everyone by coming back from a 28-4 loss to the United States to defeat the Americans in the final, 17-16, in overtime.
At this year's games, which began tonight at Homewood Field on the Johns Hopkins campus, Australian Coach Alec Inglis is hoping to produce the same kind of shock.
Although the Canadian team, on the basis of its victory at the last World Games and the U.S. team, because of its perennial strength, are considered the early favorites in the week-long round-robin tournament, the extremely physical Australian team could run roughshod over them.
Australia began the quest for its first world title tonight with a 25-5 rout of England. The Australians, behind four goals each by Peter Cann and Graene Fox, expanded on a 6-4 second quarter lead by outscoring the Britons, 19-1, the rest of the way.
In the second game tonight, the United States overcame an early 3-1 deficit to defeat defending champion Canada, 23-12. The U.S. team, which got four goals from John Driscoll and three more from Brendan Schneck, scored five straight goals in the third period in turning a 9-8 lead into a comfortable 16-10 cushion.
The tournament continues Sunday with Canada meeting England at 6 p.m. and the United States facing Austria in the second game. The final is scheduled for Friday at 8:30.
Despite their convincing victory tonight, the Australians have had a hard time earning respect. In fact, when the tournament programs were delivered earlier this week, they included pictures of the Austrian flag, rather than the Australian flag. The programs were sent back to the printers and corrected before tonight's game.
"Have we been overlooked? I hope so," said Inglis. "Australian lacrosse has come a long way in the last four years."
The United States won the first two world titles, in 1967 when Mount Washington Club took the crown in Canada, and in 1974 when a U.S. all-star team won in Australia.
This year's U.S. contingent won five of its six exhibitions before the tournament.