Team Jesse Lacrosse Plays In Honor of Sergeant First Class Ben Wise
The Team Jesse Foundation sent a lacrosse team to Miami to participate in the 2012 Lacrosse Wear Bump & Grind Lacrosse Tournament. Over the course of an exciting weekend of solid lacrosse action, Team Jesse played with a heavy heart and an unwavering mission to support the families of the fallen.
Led by Team Jesse Foundation President and Co-Founder, Kevin Mincio, the squad came together to celebrate a successful first year in existence as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization helping families of the fallen, to share the news about a documentary film about The Ride that will be released in early 2012 and to honor a fallen soldier named SFC Ben Wise.
As the team rallied together on Friday afternoon to prepare for their first game against the Broward County All-Stars, Sergeant First Class Ben Wise was being laid to rest in Virginia Beach, VA. SFC Benjamin Wise, 34, of Little Rock, Arkansas, was on his fourth deployment overseas when he was injured on January 9, 2012 during an insurgent attack on his unit in Konduz Province, Afghanistan. He died on January 15, 2012 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany and was laid to rest January 27, 2012. SFC Wise was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart and Meritorious Service Medal. He is survived by his wife, Traci, his sons Luke and Ryan, and his daughter Kailen.
SFC Wise served with Mincio in the Army as an infantryman assigned to the 5-20th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State. Mincio, SFC Wise and the late SSG Jesse Williams, who is the inspiration for the creation of The Team Jesse Foundation, were deployed to Iraq together as members of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
As Team Jesse took the field, SFC Wise's death was a vivid reminder of the ongoing sacrifices of our American troops and their families as they fight for our freedoms and values every day.
Knowing of Ben's sacrifice, and that of Jesse Williams' too, the team took the field with fire, passion, intensity and extra motivation that carried them to the finals. With a roster comprised of several Team Jesse originals dating back to its lacrosse creation in 2007, the squad of "veteran" players had their work cut out for them. Mike Corry, Adam Hughes, Team Jesse Co-Founder Matt Corry, Sean Monahan, Mincio, Thierry Francois, Kevin Owens and TJ Leadership Team member Matt Sauri all brought the collective age of the team well into the mid to upper 30s.
With the help of returning TJ vets like Chris Deist, Marc Digiovanni, Ian Cadieu, Sean McTernan, Anthony Kelly, Josh Rachman and Jeremy Waks, the team was able to bring the average age down to the low to mid 30s. When Brett Queener, Chris Manley and Joe Cahill were added to the roster, they brought the age down a bit more, but ultimately Eric Farber, John Harrington, Ken Gaziano and Tom Dunn made it possible to allow Team Jesse to qualify as a Masters team in most tournaments.
The old timers of Team Jesse had an exciting run to the championship. On Friday afternoon, they beat the Broward County All Stars 13-2. Kevin Owens and Anthony Kelly handled the faceoff duties and gave a clear edge to TJ on the draws. The Corry Brothers paced the squad with about 3 or 4 goals and a handful of assists between them, but it was clearly a team effort. Rachman, Cadieu, Harrington, Deist, Graziano and Monahan kept the opponents at bay and Mincio and Queener kept the ball out the net. Tom Dunn was all over the midfield and Marc Digiovanni (Digger) and Joe Cahill added firepower from up top, while the attack of Waks, Francois, Sauri, Farber, McTernan and Mikey C kept the poise on offense.
Saturday morning saw a closer game for Team Jesse, with a hard fought 7-6 overtime win vs. a tough Head Strong/Lacrosse Wear. Featuring Bo Lamon and Ryan Burton from Lacrosse Wear, who are the exclusive uniform suppliers for Team Jesse, Head Strong pushed TJ To The Limit! In a back and forth game, it was a hard charging Mike Corry who took the ball to the cage to seal the win for TJ. Mid game heroics at the faceoffs by Kevin Owens (KO) and Anthony Kelly (A-Train) helped gain the extra possessions needed, while Brett Queener came up with some exciting saves and created some transition opportunities for the squad. Another solid display by the defense and keepers, holding a strong team to 6 goals, helped Team Jesse gain the momentum they needed heading into game three of the tournament.
Between games on Saturday, Team Jesse rookie Brett Queener gathered the squad together for a team building exercise that was a special moment for the players. Each man was asked to talk about why they were playing for TJ and what it meant to them. The candor of the players and the emotion of the moment propelled TJ into the afternoon. Special thanks to Brett for his effort.
Facing a Wave Dog team that looked young and fast, Team Jesse controlled the faceoffs handily. In a game that featured brief runs by both teams, it was the 2 point shooting of Anthony Kelly and two acrobatic goals by Eric Farber that made the difference. Francois and Owens and Hughes and Cahill also contributed. Perhaps others too, but who can remember? The 11-7 win propelled Team Jesse into the number 2 seed, with 3 wins and a 16 goal differential entering the playoffs on Sunday.
Saturday night featured a team dinner and some fun in South Beach for the squad. Amnesia hosted a packed tournament party and Jeremy Waks showed TJ some great hospitality. It was also nice that Keith Richards was even in town to cheer TJ on.
Sunday morning would bring another tough battle for Team Jesse. This time vs. Team Buddha, the number 3 seed, who made it to the semi finals with 4 wins. Buddha had a similar road to Team Jesse into the semis with one big win and three close games. In the end, Team Jesse prevailed 8-7 in Double overtime.
As last year’s Bump & Grind Champions, the Brine Kings were the clear favorite to repeat and their road to the finals showed it. Putting up nearly 40 points and sporting a 26 goals differential, the Kings were the odds on favorite. With Tim Booth and Nate Watkins on their roster, Team Jesse's 2007 squad was well represented on the Kings. Throw in Justin Smith who has plays for Matt Suari’s Wimmer Solutions Elite Squad, and 3 of the Kings were members of the TJ family.
Unfortunately for Team Jesse, the Kings were too tough. Faced with a quick 5 or 6 goal deficit, Mincio called a time out to regroup. Making sure to remind the team that they were representing SFC Ben Wise and the families of the fallen, he made sure everyone played with a warrior spirit and with pride and determination through the final whistle. TJ was able to score a few goals down the stretch but ultimately lost 10-3. With heads held high and with pride in their effort, Team Jesse truly played To The Limit!
Congratulations to the Brine Kings on a great game and a second consecutive Bump & Grind Championship.
By placing second in the 2012 Bump & Grind Tournament, representing SFC Ben Wise with honor and integrity, acknowledging and celebrating an initial first year of success with The Ride and a pending documentary film to be released in the spring and making sure to share the story of their mission to provide education and support to families of the fallen, Team Jesse truly over-achieved in the trip to Miami.
Thanks to all those who have asked about Team Jesse, inquired about donating to their cause or playing with their team. Special thanks to those that have offered to sponsor their efforts in the future. Without the lacrosse community, Team Jesse would not be where it is today.