It’s not a competition year for Team USA, but for coach John Danowski and his staff, preparations are already being made for next year. Sunday, Danowski got a glimpse of 29 of the top men's players in action at the Team USAs Spring Premiere on the campus of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

For the second straight year at Spring Premiere, the opponent was a highly-regarded college program — this time coach Kevin Corrigan and his Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Unlike last year’s Spring Premiere, where Team USA cruised to a 22-6 win over Denver, the Irish gave the hosts a game.

Team USA, though, used a trio of hat tricks from Rob Pannell (New York Lizards), Matt Danowski (Chesapeake Bayhawks) and Ryan Brown (Charlotte Hounds) to get past Notre Dame by a score of 16-11. In John Danowski’s third event as coach of Team USA, his team showcased its talent in front of 1,867 fans at IMG Academy. 

But with almost a 18 months before the 2018 FIL World Championships, John Danowski said he’s just happy to have another chance to evaluate his players.

“The reality is that we haven’t played lacrosse since July,” John Danowski said. “We’re just looking for chemistry and who plays with who and who will take to coaching. There’s a lot that we’re learning about our guys now that we have another experience with them.”

Here are five takeaways from Team USA’s win over Notre Dame.

Pannell and Danowski Work Together

It didn’t take long for fans to realize that Pannell and Danowski, two veterans of the game, to established some solid ground on the Team USA attack. Pannell scored two quick first quarter goals — both from acrobatic shots — and Danowski did the same in the second quarter. 

John Danowski was quick to note that he saw potential in a unit that included a Pannell-Danowski combo.

“We’re looking for team players,” he said. "Matt Danowski and Rob Pannell are developing a little bit of chemistry. … They had really good spacing, they share the ball. They are both dangerous individuals dodgers. They can find the open man.”

In just their third time playing together for Team USA, Pannell and Danowski combined for six goals and an assist on eight shots. They got to Notre Dame’s defense early, and if they can gel together, it will be a tough duo to stop come 2018.

“Matt’s an unbelievable player and he’s been successful at every level he’s played at,” Pannell said. “I remember watching him in high school, when I was in eighth grade, Farmingdale and Smithtown. … The more we play together, having an event like this, we’re only going to get better.”

First-Timer Brown Shows Off His Shot

We know Ryan Brown from his days at Johns Hopkins, rifling shots past goalkeepers with ease throughout his careers — he also scored 23 goals for the Charlotte Hounds this season.

But once the roster was announced Dec. 5, lacrosse fans were left to wonder what Brown could do in a Team USA uniform. We found out Sunday, when he scored three goals and added an assist.

“He’s a terrific finisher,” John Danowski said. “When the ball is in his stick, he does a great job of getting in to the back of the goal. He got one off the ride. He scored a couple of goals off different situations. That’s what you want from an attackman like him.”

Brown was one of a handful of players to make their debuts at Spring Premiere, including Denver’s Trevor Baptiste, Dominique Alexander (Ohio Machine), Josh Hawkins (Boston Cannons), Matt Kavanagh (Denver Outlaws), Mike Ehhardt (Charlotte Hounds) and Jack Kelly (Denver Outlaws).

Everybody Gets Some Playing Time

With 2017 not being a competition year for Team USA, John Danowski made an effort to give quality minutes to as many players as possible. He ran with six attackmen, five offensive middies, four short-stick middies, three long poles and three goalies.

All of this helped John Danowski and his staff get more looks at players that could potentially make the cut once next year rolls around. To be able to shuffle in a roster of 29 players (Paul Rabil traveled but did not play due to injury) takes effort, but John Danowski was proud of the way his team performed given those circumstances.

“Everybody that was out there made a play,” John Danowski said.

For Matt Danowski, he was happy to see players not used to each other working together to generate offense and stifle Notre Dame’s attack.

“It’s always a new group of guys when you play together, so you don’t quite know what you're going to get,” Matt Danowski said. “… Overall, it was a team game offensively, we scrapped for ground balls and we played a team game defensively. Win, loss, whatever; we achieved that.”

Not Always Pretty, But Offense was Efficient

It’s hard to call a 16-goal performance anything but superb, but turnovers and penalties did hamper Team USA at times in the win. In total, the hosts tallied 18 turnovers and five penalties (three for slashing, one for pushing and one for cross-check).

Matt Danowski said Notre Dame’s togetherness on defense helped to generate a few more errors from a Team USA attack just learning to play with one another.

“It was good. It wasn’t great,” Matt Danowski said. “Notre Dame did a really good job of staying organized. We played a little sloppy on offense. … All this stuff we can work out with more time together.”

Still, putting up 16 goals against an Irish defense that ranked sixth in scoring last season is impressive. And doing it without the MLL’s second leading scoring last year, Paul Rabil, makes the total even better for this staff.

Eyes of 2018, but Still Time

The loss to Canada in the championship game of the 2014 FIL World Championships is still on the minds of many Team USA players. And although a chance at revenge in 2018 seems far off, the idea of revenge is something that will linger every time Team USA meets until then.

“You’re always thinking about [playing for Team USA],” Pannell said. “It’s the highest level that you can play at. We go back to our normal lives and know that we’ll meet together in the summer. For me, someone who was on the 2014 team, I’m always thinking about it because we didn’t win. I want to be part of a gold medal team.”

John Danowski brought the team together in the locker room and thanked each one for making the trip to Florida. He can’t make any guarantees in terms of roster spots, but that time will come. 

Until then, it’s back to preseason for many Team USA players and coaches, who coach collegiately. John Danowski said he’ll be in his office tomorrow morning, ready to prepare for another season with Duke.

“I’m going to get on a flight at 8 and get back to Durham and be in the office at 9 a.m.,” he said. “That’s the good and the bad of this. I’ve loved all three opportunities to work with these guys. A system is set up so we’re not allowed to pick a team, so it is difficult to move forward. We’ve given a lot of guys a chance. We’ve seen over 70 guys now.”