By Chris Goldberg
TopLaxRecruits.com, Posted 10/5/15
As a 17-year-old long stick defender from Kentucky who had never played box lacrosse, Stevan Kriss admitted that competing as a starting defenseman with a short stick in the recent World Indoor Lacrosse Championships at Syracuse, N.Y. was an eye-opening experience.
The Lexington Catholic senior was one of three high school players that competed in the WILC, held Sept. 18-27 and hosted by the Onondaga Nation. Kriss finished among the leaders with 71 groundballs in seven games for Serbia, which finished 12th out of 13 teams but at one point won three straight games before an injury to its best player ended the streak.
Kriss, an All-American and Furman commit who played for a team that reached the Kentucky Division 2 semifinals, was eligible to play for Serbia because his grandparents were born in the former Yugoslavia (present-day Serbia).
Kriss had never played box lacrosse, but his coach at Lexington Catholic, Matt Campbell, is Canadian and also an assistant coach for Serbia. Campbell sent the Serbian head coach a highlight reel and promised to coach Kriss in preparation of the tournament.
The results were staggering for Kriss, who quickly adjusted to using a short stick and the demands of box lacrosse.
“For two months leading up to the tournament I trained with the shorty and practiced the box game,” said Kriss. “The biggest things are the difference in space and physicality. With a long pole I can stand six feet away from and guard my guy. With the shorty, you have to be right up on them; and every single guy can still catch it and finish even if you are on their back.
“Then there is the physical aspect. You can cross check and hit them off ball. The pick-and-roll game is so big and every pick is a moving pick. It’s just a lot tighter game.”
Kriss said playing with and against NLL players and native American players that grew up with the box games was a major challenge.
“It was a wake-up call,” he said. “These are grown men I was playing against. Coach Campbell warned me to use tape on my wrists and I didn’t use it. I made some checks in the first game against Israel and came back with a sore wrist. I didn’t realize how big and strong these players were.
“That was an adjustment. Then I got crushed on the boards a couple times. In high school there is a lot of open space but after I got crushed along the boards the first time I learned to go to a different spot so I would not get hit. You have to be shifty and quick.”
Kriss said his team fared well even though it finished 12th. An injury to Ilija Gajic in a loss to Australia hurt, but overall he was happy with Serbia’s performance.
“We ended up finishing 12th; it was kind of sad because we were on a three-game win streak and playing well when he (Gajic) got hurt,” he said. “He was our captain and he broke his wrist. We had three professional players on our team and playing alongside them was really amazing as well.”
Kriss collected 16 goals, 6 assists, 126 ground balls, and 95 caused turnovers for Lexington Catholic High School last year. He is the first Division I commit from Lexington Catholic. He believes this experience will help him immensely in preparation for his senior year. He also said his younger brother, Spencer, a sophomore who practiced with Team Serbia but was too young to officially compete, benefited from the box exposure.
“We had Fall ball practice early (Saturday) morning and my brother and I picked up shorties and we could see so much difference,” Kriss said. “Guys were asking how we were catching with defenders all over us. In field lacrosse you have so much space; it’s so easy for us to play field now that we have had this box lacrosse experience.
“Guys can’t push you in field. It’s a lot easier of a game for us now. Hopefully, with this infusion of box lacrosse we’ll be better players in field.”