No professional contract, no problem.
One month to the day he won the Tewaaraton Award, Brennan O'Neill got his first taste of international glory Saturday after winning the World Lacrosse Championships with Team USA in San Diego. He scored half — five — of Team USA's goals in the championship game against Canada, which the Americans won 10-7. The crazy part? O'Neill was the only college player on the roster, and he still won tournament MVP and led his team in points.
This is made all the more impressive when you look at the names on the team sheet, which was loaded with PLL all-stars, including all-time USA points leader Rob Pannell, reigning PLL MVP Trevor Baptiste and midfield maestro Tom Schreiber. The team was certainly not lacking talent from Durham, either, with O'Neill, PLL Defensive Player of the Year JT Giles-Harris and reigning PLL champion Michael Sowers all under the stewardship of head coach John Danowski.
But O'Neill was the headliner. The soon-to-be college senior put the Americans on the board first with a nifty shot from distance, exploding beyond his defender to whip it left-handed into the top right corner. Schreiber and Sowers added goals of their own, but O'Neill completed his hat trick within minutes of the second-half restart to give the Americans a much-needed cushion amid a Canadian comeback.
With the Blue Devils, O'Neill's calling card has been his ability to outmuscle defenders and find pockets of space to rip shots past unsuspecting goalies, no matter how many long poles he has blocking his way. He was forced to shift his tactics a bit in San Diego with Danowski playing him in midfield due to the abundance of attacking talent. For O'Neill, this means that tricky dodges and quick bursts of speed to the crease were substituted for extended runs from the halfway line and more frequent shots from distance, providing a necessary counter to the more close-contact play of Pannell and Sowers.
After dropping the NCAA tournament final to Notre Dame in May, O'Neill returns to Duke as arguably the world's form player right now as the Blue Devils begin their quest for a fourth national title and their first since 2014. Across the tournament, O'Neill finished with the joint-most points for the USA with 20, including 15 goals and five assists. He was rewarded with the tournament MVP and best midfielder awards.
“I feel good,” O’Neill said to World Lacrosse. “There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing right now than winning the gold medal with my boys. There’s no words to describe it and I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else. It was a great experience and a great team.”
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Andrew Long is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.