Unbeatable at home: Hong Kong’s men and women lacrosse teams dominate at international Open
The men overcome Thailand 12:8 in the final while the women cruise to a 15:3 victory over Shanghai
Dominant Hong Kong once again showed they cannot be beaten on home turf after the men’s and women’s teams won their respective titles at the fifth Hong Kong Lacrosse Open championship at King’s Park on Tuesday evening.
This is Hong Kong’s second consecutive clean sweep at the Open. The men’s team left it late against Thailand, with the visitors setting up a tight finale in the third quarter before a Hong Kong scored four unanswered goals to win 12:8.
The women’s team brushed aside a physical Team Shanghai 15:3 to capture the championship.
The end-to-end final was perfect for men’s head coach Scott Browning, who now turns his attention to team selections for the World Lacrosse Championship in Israel this July.
“[Thailand] found ways to expose us that we don’t see a lot here but we managed to pull away in the end,” he said. “It’s so neat to see so many people contributing in different ways. We’ll take a little bit of time to finalise our decisions in the next week then it’s full steam ahead to Israel.
“I’m not going to name any names,” said Browning, who fielded some players from the try-outs in the lead-up to the tournament. “There are a lot of young players so we have to reflect on what the best team is for Hong Kong against the 46 other countries in the world champs.”
The game’s MVP Stephen O’Brien, who scored five in the final, hopes his performance was enough to secure a place in the final squad.
“That’s the kind of way we want to finish games going forward,” said the 30-year-old New Yorker. “We knew it would go down to the wire so It was really good execution on our part.”
O’Brien transferred to Hong Kong with Morgan Stanley three years ago and brought a wealth of experience having played at college level in the US.
“Coming from the States, it would be a dream come true to play in the world games,” he said. “I never thought it’d be via Hong Kong but it’s been an incredible experience and the team has really grown a lot since I’ve been a part of it. We have pretty high expectations going into the tournament.”
Women’s head coach Travis Taylor applauded his team’s ability to dig deep in the King’s Park heat.
“Shanghai came to play and it was a good battle, but our athleticism came through in the second half and we were able to keep running them all the way,” said Taylor. “The game has changed and has a lot more contact so it’s a good experience for our girls to compete against a much bigger team – we got stuck in in all of the physical traits of the game.”
Taylor – who called up a lot of younger players for the Open in early preparations for the 2021 World Cup – singled out MVP and hat-trick hero Hui Ka-hei to spearhead Hong Kong’s campaign.
“Ka-hei simply a cut above most players in the region,” said Taylor. “She is the one player that as coaches we have trouble challenging – it’s hard to get her enough competition.
“Every single game, she gets face-barred and taken out by the other team. She was closely marked throughout [the game] but still got a few goals. That’s the kind of leader that is hard to see not making every team for as long as she probably wants to.”
A primary school English teacher, 28-year-old Hui is excited to be in the middle of a Hong Kong women’s lacrosse revolution. This championship win is just the beginning of their journey, she said.
“We aim to win more at the Berlin Cup later this year,” she said. “The most difficult part is that a lot of us are studying or working and have to train and gym after work. We just help each other through it.
“This year we’ve got more youngsters and despite being busy with other teams they still somehow make us look old. They just need to remember that effort won’t betray you.”
The second clean sweep in as many years is even more proof that Hong Kong lacrosse will soon be a force to be reckoned with on the world stage.
“It really validates the work of the Hong Kong Lacrosse Association,” said Browning. “Both our men’s and women’s programmes, to see us both repeat what we did last year is a fantastic achievement.”