When the U.S. men’s indoor training team met this week for the first time since mid-October, things were bound to be different. Seven months had passed — seven months that many of the members of the training team spent honing their indoor craft.

Coach Regy Thorpe and his staff headed to Baltimore hoping to find a team much improved from 2018. If Wednesday’s Blue-White exhibition at Du Burns Arena is any indication, Thorpe’s squad is taking steps in the right direction.

Things are different, alright. But it seems it’s for the better.

“From where we were a couple years ago to where we are now, we’re really happy,” Thorpe said after the exhibition. “We’re chasing those top tiers teams, Canada and Iroquois, and other teams are getting better. We got more guys playing in the NLL, more guys playing [Major Series Lacrosse], more guys on practice squads. Just more guys playing box and that’s great to see.”

The Blue-White exhibition, which preceded a youth clinic, consisted of three scored quarters — and a final quarter with the score reset. Team White and a high-powered offense fueled a 12-6 victory through three quarters. Team Blue rebounded to win the final quarter, 2-1, behind goals from Gale Thorpe and Joe Resetarits.

Team White put up seven goals in the first quarter, showcasing one of the themes of the day: The U.S. youth rose to the occasion.

Leading the way for Team White was Matt Rambo, the former Maryland product turned Philadelphia Wings and Whipsnakes Lacrosse Club star. He scored three goals in the first quarter, including an acrobatic dive from behind the cage.

And this was Rambo’s first experience with the U.S. indoor training team. After not appearing in the fall’s training events, Rambo arrived in Baltimore with NLL experience. He had never played the indoor game before joining the Wings for the 2018-19 season, finishing fifth on the team with 26 goals and 30 assists,

He brought the same scoring ability to Du Burns Arena on Wednesday night.

“This is my first true year playing box,” he said. “I’m loving the game and it fits my game pretty well. I have awesome mentors that have helped me throughout my time with Philly. Being with the USA team now, making that final roster is my main goal. I had that little kid feeling just being out there with the boys.”

Less than a year ago, Rambo was timid about joining the indoor movement with the Wings.

“I was nervous that I was going to be so confused out there, but lacrosse is lacrosse and you just have to go out there and play your game and learn the little things,” he said. “I just had to watch a lot of film and study up on the game. You get over the fear by just playing and practicing.”

It helped Wednesday for Rambo to suit up alongside former Terps teammate Connor Kelly, who was in just his third event with the U.S. training team. Both wore the historic No. 1 at Maryland, playing integral roles in the 2017 national championship team.

The familiarity between the two offensive threats, who also play together with the PLL’s Whipsnakes, bred better results for Rambo. Kelly, too, returned to Team USA after his first season in the NLL with the San Diego Seals, where he scored 17 points in seven games this season.

“It’s awesome to be able to play with Rambo again,” Kelly said. “He’s an awesome talent and we have a lot of chemistry together. I know how he plays and we grew up playing together. You want to play with people you care about, and I’ve developed a relationship with all those [Maryland] guys, so it was fun to play with him.”

And although the NLL experience was certainly a benefit for players like Rambo, Kelly, Trevor Baptiste and others, Thorpe was quick to point out that they weren’t the only players who had improved through playing indoor lacrosse over the winter.

Cody Radziewicz, who tried out for the Philadelphia Wings but was cut just before the season, matched Rambo’s total with three goals in Team White’s victory. Dylan Molloy, returning to Baltimore to play his first U.S. indoor game since appearing at the same arena over LaxCon weekend in 2018, cashed in with a goal.

“It was great to see some guys that haven’t been [in the NLL] yet, but might be going in the draft this year. A couple guys that only got a couple games in the NLL, or made a practice squad, or maybe got cut,” Thorpe said. “Those guys stepped up and are really hungry. Those guys showed up and showed everyone else they were ready to compete.”

Joe Resetarits, returning to action after scoring 67 points in 17 games in the NLL this season, dropped three more to lead the Blue team’s effort.

Buchanan Back Home

Shortly after Kevin Buchanan had found the back of the net for his third goal for Team White, Brett Manney stood on the bench and started a chant.

“Calvert Hall! Calvert Hall!” he shouted.

“The pride of Cockeysville!” he continued.

Manney serenaded the two-time World Indoor Lacrosse Championship veteran with his high school and hometown — both just a short drive from Du Burns Arena. Buchanan knows a few things about the Baltimore area. It’s where he grew up and found his love for lacrosse.

Buchanan picked up the game in the Baltimore suburb and starred for the Cardinals in high school before heading to Ohio State. He now calls Massachusetts home, but he won’t forget where he came from.

“I haven’t lived in Baltimore for about 10 years now, but this is my home turf,” he said. “My parents came down to cheer me on, of course. It feels great. I love it. Breathing Baltimore air.”

The 33-year-old played like he was years younger on Wednesday, flying all over the field.

Buchanan dealt with a patella tendon injury for the better part of two years, but is healthy as he tries for a third trip to the WILC. He’s a key voice for the U.S. training team, and he showed Wednesday he can be equally as effective on the field.

“We straight up dominated the Blue squad,” he joked with Resetarits. “What squad were you on?”

“Oh, I was on the White squad,” Resetarits said, trying to avoid the smack talk.