Representing China at the 2018 World Lacrosse Championship in Netanya, Israel last month, Duncan’s Mathieu Jung found himself playing at the same level as some of his idols, players like Paul Rabil and Kyle Hartzell.
Although China — which finished 42nd of 46 teams — wasn’t in the same category as the top teams, like Canada, the U.S. and the Iroquois Nationals, it was still the same tournament.
“To see guys like that and realize you’re playing on the same stage is really cool,” Jung said. “It took me a while to soak it in.”
Jung, who was born and raised in Duncan and is eligible to play for China because his grandmother was born there, was a go-to guy and a leader for China, playing all 80 minutes of every game, and getting heavily involved in the scoring despite being a defender.
“It felt like I was playing offence with a long pole,” Jung said.
Staying on the field constantly was a challenge as the temperature soared into the high 30s, and tournament organizers implemented mandatory hydration breaks during games. It still wasn’t as humid, Jung noted, as it was in China, where the team gathered before the tournament to play exhibition games in Shanghai, Wuhan and Beijing.
China started the tournament in a pool with Ireland and Denmark, losing to both teams, 18-3 and 14-4, respectively, although Jung had four goals and five ground balls in the two games.
That put China into the lower bracket for the playoffs, where they had a pair of heartbreaking losses to Turkey (13-12) and Mexico (15-14). Jung had a goal and two assists against Turkey and two goals and three assists against Mexico, with a pair of ground balls in each game.
China’s fortunes improved significantly in the classification round as they defeated Colombia 14-6 and Croatia 15-10. Jung scored twice and had six ground balls against Colombia, then had two goals, one assist and four ground balls against Croatia.
That put China in the 41st-place game, which they lost 8-7 to Chinese Taipei. Chinese Taipei took a late lead, and although they had chances to score again, China couldn’t finish.
“It wasn’t our best performance, but we definitely shouldn’t have lost,” said Jung. “One placement didn’t make or break, but it would have been nice to finish with a win.”
Jung finished the tournament with 11 goals, six assists and 23 ground balls. His scoring totals were the highest among defenders at the tournament.
The 2022 World Lacrosse Championships will take place in Coquitlam, and Jung would like to play again, although China will have to improve its position in the world rankings as the field is expected to be limited to the top 30 teams.
“If I got the opportunity, I’d love to put on the red and yellow stripes again,” Jung said.
Since returning to Canada, Jung won a provincial box lacrosse championship with the junior B Tier 2 Cowichan Valley Thunder. He is returning to Lindenwood University in Missouri this fall for his third year of NCAA Div. II field lacrosse.