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Q&A with Eli Lasda

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UAlbany Alum Eli Lasda Set to Play in the Lacrosse World Championships with Latvia!!!

At Ithaca High School, Eli Lasda earned All-America honors in lacrosse as a junior and senior, finishing his high school career with 103 goals, 78 assists and 360 ground balls, and being named MVP and Best Offensive Player as a senior.  Although known for his offensive play in High School, as a member of the UAlbany Men’s Lacrosse Team from 2014-2017 Lasda made his mark as a SSDM and two-way midfielder.  Notably, during his senior campaign with the Great Danes, Lasda scored 13 goals and handed out 7 assists, while picking up 35 ground balls and causing 12 turn overs.

While in Israel preparing to compete in the Lacrosse World Championships with Latvia, Eli took the time to answer some questions for Capital District Lax.

GG: Let’s start with an update on what you’ve been doing since graduating from UAlbany.

EL:  I’m currently studying at the University of Nottingham, aiming to get my Master’s in Public Policy. I play for our Uni’s Men’s Lacrosse team which finished 3rd in the BUCS league this past season. I also head down to London on weekends to play for the Hampstead Club. We unfortunately fell in the finals in double OT to Poynton, but regardless it’s been an incredible year for lacrosse and otherwise. I’ve had a bunch of great experiences and have made a lot of new friends. Actually a couple of my new teammates are here in Netanya representing a range of nations, from Luxembourg to Denmark, and of course a few of the English National players too.

GG: How and when did you become interested in participating in Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) events?

EL: Like most things in the lacrosse world, my interest in playing in FIL events stems from Richie Moran. He coached my dad, Brian Lasda, at Cornell back in the seventies before getting involved with team Ireland Lacrosse. Richie, knowing my dad was of Latvian descent, got us in touch with Paul Dzintars Kalnins who was getting lacrosse going in Latvia. Turns out Paul, who’s a Hobart grad, actually played against my dad in ’76, and he was extremely helpful in getting me and my brother Riley (who also played at Albany) over to Latvia in 2013 for a national team training camp. The obvious passion the local Latvians had for the game was incredible and it was amazing how quickly they welcomed us into their program.
I also fell in love with the country my grandmother was forced to flee during the second world war, and that my great-grandparents had fled just before the First. I was always vaguely proud of my Latvian heritage but actually going there got me in touch with my roots in an entirely new way. It really is a wonderful nation, with wonderful people, and a rich history. I’m grateful to be a part of it. The next year, both my brother and I successfully applied for our Latvian citizenship, kind of bringing our ancestor’s story full circle.

GG: What FIL events have you previously participated in, and what were those experiences like?

EL: After trying out in 2013 my brother and I played in the 2014 World games in Denver. That was an incredible introduction to international lacrosse, and watching teams march out to games under flags ranging from Uganda to China was pretty special. It’s amazing how far lacrosse has spread. Latvia finished 19th, somewhat disappointingly directly in the middle of the competition. In the 2016 European Championships in Budapest we had higher expectations and almost took down England in pool play, eventually losing by three. Even though we lost I think that game proved Latvia can compete with some of the best teams in the world, and that’s our mindset heading into these world games. Regardless, both tournaments have been wonderful opportunities to travel the world and share new experiences through lacrosse.

GG: What was the selection/tryout process for Latvia like for the 2018 World Championships?

EL: So when we agreed to be a part of Team Latvia, my brother and I committed to four years of playing, a team policy meant to build unity. As 2016 marked four years for us, both of us were guaranteed a spot for the 2018 games, so we were able to miss the tryouts that were held in Latvia last summer. Although I knew the result I remember the excitement of the final roster being released. It’s always an honor to get another chance to play for Latvia on the world stage.

GG: How have you been preparing for the World Championships?

EL: Thankfully I’ve been able to play lacrosse for most of the year while living in the UK, keeping me active and a stick in my hand. More recently we’ve had a team camp in Druva, Latvia before going to Germany for the Berlin Open where we picked up a gold medal. Both have been great ways to hammer out some of kinks in our play, and make sure we’re playing as a single unit.

GG: Tell us a little about the composition of the team.

EL: A lot of the guys have been doing this for years. A couple since the ’06 European games and many since the ’08 worlds. I myself have been playing for Latvia for five years now, so as a whole, our team is pretty experienced and comfortable around each other. That being said we have a couple newer faces in the mix this year that have quickly gelled with the rest of the team. We have a good amount of NCAA experience as well. My brother and I from Albany and Chris Zarins from Siena, while Detroit Mercy, Alfred, RIT, Goucher, and Belmont Abbey are all represented under the three stars on the Latvian jersey.

GG: In an event like the FIL World Championships, can you specifically prepare to play the teams in your group, or is the focus on having your own team as prepared as possible?

EL: The Worlds can be tricky as frequently rosters aren’t announced till late and it’s hard to gauge what kind of talent a team will be bringing to the tournament. We do our best to understand our opponent, but at the end of the day we’re going to play Latvia lacrosse. Latvia lacrosse is fast paced and hard hitting, and we’re not going to stray from that regardless of who we’re playing.

GG: UAlbany coaches and current and former players will be represented on several teams in the tournament. As a Great Dane alum, what does the participation of those coaches and players mean to you? Any plans for a UAlbany Lacrosse reunion in Netanya?

EL: It’s amazing pretty how many Great Danes are out here. I actually just found out yesterday that Kevin McNally is playing for Puerto Rico and we’re practically neighbors here. I can see his hotel from my balcony. No formal reunion is planned as of yet, but it’ll be great to see all the guys, and get a chance to congratulate Coach Marr on an incredible season. Even though we’re playing for different teams, obviously we all support each other. If all goes well, we may be matched up against Israel later in the tourney, and get to compete against Eric Cantor. He and my brother were roommates and Albany and both played LSM. It would be odd seeing them in opposing uniforms, but at the end of the day it’s all love, and we’ll still be Great Danes. Riley and I will still have a place to crash at Cantor’s for a few days after the games.

Latvia’s first scheduled games are:

Thursday (7/12), 4:30 a.m. ET Latvia vs. Mexico (ESPN+)

Saturday (7/14), 4:45 a.m. ET Latvia vs. Greece (ESPN+)

For complete schedule info, visit: FIL World Championships

For more info, follow Latvia Lacrosse on Instagram:

Gary Govel
Gary has been involved in lacrosse in the Capital District for over 35 years as a player, youth coach, program administrator, parent, and fan. Gary launched in November 2015 to report on lacrosse news and information of interest to the region, and to share his passion for the game. In addition to operating this site and associated social media, Gary is also a contributor to Inside Lacrosse.