Coronado locals Joe Walsh and Ryan Richters represented teams Ireland and Latvia,
respectively, as goalies in the 2023 Men’s Lacrosse World Championship that kicked off in late June in San Diego.
The tournament included 30 nations from Hong Kong to Uganda that gathered at San Diego State University to take their shot at the title, with team USA defending its 2018 victory against Canada.
Walsh’s Ireland squad was seeded ninth after pool play but lost to Israel in the first round of the playoff bracket. The squad ultimately finished twelfth.
Ritchers’ Latvia team finished 19th after pool play but lost to France in the first round of the placement bracket and eventually played for 21st place.
Coronado, of course, is certainly no stranger to lacrosse.
With origins reaching back into the 1980s, Coronado High School has become a dynamic force in the sport.
Walsh played in Coronado entire life
Walsh, the son of a Sailor, has been playing for Coronado teams all his life.
The 22-year-old has deep family ties to Ireland with great-grandparents from Cork and Connemara: He even received his dual citizenship to help him connect more deeply to his roots.
However, Walsh cites his time in Coronado as being foundational to his lacrosse career.
Though he graduated from Coronado High school in 2019, he cites the coaching staff as a
continuing influence on the sport.
“Most of the coaches around here were former goalies and they know a great deal about playing the position,” he said, referring to current Varsity Coach Alex Cade as a particular help on his lacrosse journey.
Recently, Walsh has been joined on the field by a newcomer, 21-year-old Ryan Richters.
Coronado new home for Ritchers
Though Richters has only called Coronado home for the past seven months, he has been
playing with teams in the San Diego area for years.
Richters similarly has deep ties to both Latvia and athletics.
The small Baltic country of Latvia has become internationally famous for its volleyball, hockey, and basketball talent.
“On Memorial Day, the Latvian hockey team won the bronze medal game vs. USA… on
Tuesday the country took off work to celebrate,” said Richters, showing the deep athletic culture in Latvia.
Lacrosse is up and coming in Latvia with Richters saying that players will drive hours for a
chance to play at the nearest field.
Richters hails from an athletic Latvian dynasty himself, with his family escaping during World War II, and eventually playing at the highest level all across the country.
Going head to head
Walsh and Richters have been taking shots from professional lacrosse players at Coronado
Middle and High schools in anticipation of the international tournament, taking advantage of any field they can find on the island.
The two Coronado residents went head to head on June 24 in a nailbiter match that took Latvia and Ireland into double overtime.
Ryan and I were both making saves in overtime and keeping the game going.”-Joe Walsh on the double-overtime match between Latvia and Ireland.
“Usually in Lacrosse overtime games are one or two possessions,” Walsh said. “But, it was
possession after possession going back and forth. Ryan and I were both making saves in
overtime and keeping the game going.”
Team Ireland eventually pulled out on top in a 8-7 victory.
Walsh called it “one of the most exciting games I’ve ever been a part of.”
Though the competition on the field is stiff, it hasn’t stopped the competitors from making some lasting international friendships.
Richters, for example, said he has become acquainted with many of the players on teams
Uganda, Philippines, and South Korea; and though he says that his connections haven’t
affected his tenacity on the field, he is grateful for the friendships he has made.
The international experience isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, however.
Many players travel across the world to compete, and though energy is high for the visiting
nations, some struggle to find funding for what can be an expensive sport.
Richters stated that team Latvia is relying on help from American-Latvian organizations as well as public contributions in order to compete at the tournament.
Giving back in Coronado
However, for the two goalies it’s about giving back to the communities, the countries, and the sport that has given them so much.
“We’re all trying to represent Ireland the best we can and grow the game out there
and make it more popular,” Walsh said.
When he isn’t playing for the Emerald Isle or Colgate University, Walsh helps local players by coaching and giving lessons in Coronado.
He is confident that lacrosse will continue to grow on the West Coast, and he hopes that the
2023 World Lacrosse Men’s Championship will help make that dream a reality.