NEW MILFORD — The Eclipse Lacrosse U13 team that recently competed at the World Series in Denver is made up of athletes from across Fairfield County, most along the coast, where the sport is king.
But two of the group take the one-hour trip from Litchfield County to test their skills with the best talent from around the region.
New Milford’s Ryan Roberts and Jack Balzi have the best chaperon possible, as Ryan’s dad, Chris, has been on the coaching staff since third grade. Ryan and Jack will be rising eighth-graders at Schaghticoke Middle School after competing in the biggest tournament of their lives.
Twenty-four teams — mostly from the United States and Canada — competed in the U13 World Series of Youth Lacrosse. Eclipse finished in the top 10 and will conclude its season next weekend in a local competition.
The diversity of 10 towns come together to form one of the top teams in the region.
“We all just came together over the years because we’ve been together so much for the whole summer,” Balzi said. “In the hotels were all together hanging out.”
Chris Roberts has coached at the Canterbury School since 1998 and is a former standout at Princeton University. He’s also on the board of New Milford Youth Lacrosse, where Roberts and Balzi have also played together.
Ryan is a defender for the group while Balzi is a defensive midfielder.
“(Balzi) has been great, he can transition to offense,” Chris said. “He’s good on ground balls; he’s tough, physical kid. Ryan is a smart player: He’s not the guy who’s running all over the field, he’s trying to lead and be a communicator. They’re both great kids, they work hard in school and get it done on and off the field, which is the best part.”
Ryan sees it as a net positive to have his dad on the bench guiding his young career.
“It’s definitely different because when you have someone else coaching you, you can’t really be talking outside of practice or tournaments,” Ryan said. “But when he’s watching right from the bench, he sees what happens and he can tell you when you’re laying on the couch watching a movie.”
The bonds created by the tournament will likely last through their formative years. At the banquet following the event, Eclipse players socialized with other teams and exchanged team pins.
“It was fun being out there,” Balzi said. “You got to meet other kids from other teams you wouldn’t talk to if it weren’t for the tournament.”