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What a journey: From OBGC lacrosse to World Championships –

by Terri Hogan

Senior Staff Writer

Olney resident Matt Popeck, 19, continues to flourish on and off the field as a member of the Israeli Men’s National Lacrosse Team, preparing for the World Championships that will be played in Israel July 11-22 with 48 countries participating.

Israel is in a pool with Jamaica and Russia for opening round games. Israel’s first game will be against Jamaica on July 12.

“Israel placed seventh in the last World Championships four years ago,” Popeck said. “We have eight or nine players returning from that team and I think we’ve added a lot of talent. I feel pretty good about our chances. Of course, there are some incredible teams coming — these are the Worlds.”

Popeck reported that his team recently won a box lacrosse tournament in Prague, competing against 25 countries.

“That was huge and gave us a lot of confidence,” he said.

In addition to training for Worlds, Popeck co-directs the youth lacrosse program in the area of Netanya, running the business side along with scheduling and running clinics for elementary and middle school age children.
“I love working with the kids,” Popeck said. “They are so eager to try new things and have so much enthusiasm. It’s a lot of fun for me to see how excited they get when they do something well.”
He is also co-coaching the U19 lacrosse team, so he is coaching players his own age. He is responsible for setting the practice schedule, organizing and running the practices and coaching the games.

“I wasn’t worried about coaching players my own age because I had helped out at Sherwood my senior year when I was hurt and couldn’t play,” he said. “I think it took the players a little while to get used to having one of their two coaches be their age, but it has worked out really well.”
Popeck, whose lacrosse career began at Olney Boys and Girls Club, said being a month out of high school and halfway around the world took some getting used to, especially when he learned that his teammates were older than he is. Almost everyone had already graduated from college and some are in their late 20s.

“It was an adjustment for me,” he said. “But we’ve become a family and the age difference isn’t really an issue.”

Popeck said he has had to “learn a lot and grow up” due to the responsibilities he has been given.

“I’ve met people of many races and religions from all over the world and am living in an amazing, beautiful place,” he said. “I’m also much readier to go to college in the fall than I was a year ago. Sometimes I think it’s crazy that I’m in this position.”

Popeck will attend Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia this fall, where he will play Division I lacrosse on a scholarship.


To follow the World Lacrosse Championship, go to http://worldlacrosse2018.com/schedule/.

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