Box Lacrosse National Championship in Lakeland this Weekend – Tampa Twisters to Represent Florida

This weekend Lakeland will be hosting the national championship for Box Lacrosse. For the first time a Florida team will compete as the Tampa Twisters and Orlando Rockets played a best of 7 series to determine the Florida bid and Tampa came out on top 4-1.

The event will be held at the RP Funding Center and the link to the championships is here:

IBLA NATIONALS | ibla (iblalacrosse.com)

FLN will be onsite for the event and we were also able to talk to Tampa Twisters GM/Coach/Player Jodo Donnian about the event and his team.

First, here’s some information from the IBLA website to give the readers background information about the organization and event:

The Interstate Box Lacrosse Association (IBLA) is the nation’s largest adult box lacrosse league. The IBLA was formed to ultimately unify the system of Regional Box Lacrosse Leagues (RBLL) around the country. Each RBLL is its own state-wide league for the senior level of lacrosse for ages 18+ players. All RBLL’s in each state use the same set of rules and follow similar regular season and playoff structures. These commonalities across all RBLL’s is what brought the unification of the IBLA. In addition, the winner of each RBLL region each season, is granted the prestigious spot to compete in the IBLA Nationals. They play against the winner of each region within the IBLA network across the country.

In 2019 the IBLA became official partners with the National Lacrosse League. IBLA players, coaches, and officials now are able to have an opportunity to make the jump to the NLL.

The original state that started it all was RBLL Colorado. After an extremely successful inaugural season in 2016, RBLL Colorado expanded to four teams for the 2017 season. After seeing the huge amount of success and publicity that the league was receiving, a number of states showed interest in becoming the next RBLL state. After doing a lot of state-wide lacrosse and facility research, RBLL Minnesota was formed as it was seen as the state with the best facilities and player interest. Soon after, the IBLA expanded to the East Coast with RBLL- New England and RBLL- New Jersey, starting play in 2018. RBLL- Ohio and RBLL-Missouri were added in the midwest as well.  In 2019, the IBLA added RBLL-Nebraska, and RBLL-California. During the offseason before the upcoming 2020 season, RBLL-Pennsylvania, RBLL-Michigan and RBLL-Empire North were added.

With seventeen regions in operation, the IBLA provides a national system and an organizing committee to host a national championship every year. Nationals rotates to different locations each year.

The 2019 IBLA National Championships were hosted in California. In 2020 it was held in Pittsburgh, hosted by RBLL- Pennsylvania. Also in 2020, the IBLA developed IBLA 3’s, a 3v3 half floor version of box lacrosse providing an exciting new version of the game, while growing the sport in new and existing regions. Starting in 2021, the IBLA has five new regions including RBLL-Louisiana, RBLL-Florida, RBLL-Texas, RBLL-Maryland, and RBLL-Empire South.

The Tampa Twisters have their own website and the link is here:

Home – Tampa Bay Twisters

GM Donnian talked to us about the evolution of the team/region as being a bit of a multi-year approach to expansion into Florida, with COVID clearly playing a role, but perseverance prevailed and the two franchises eventually were born. Tyler Oblong ran the Orlando franchise and we’ll catch up with him too.

The core of Tampa’s roster is tied into Donnian’s Saint Leo ties and the roster expanded from there. Home games were played at a city facility. This is still a bootstrap operation as players are not compensated yet, and he commended two sponsors in particular in The Patio, a sports bar in Tampa and Dark Door Spirits.

The roster also includes some familiar names in Ben French, the Vermont and Tampa alum via IMG, DJ Lubs, assistant coach for Florida Southern and Stephano Mastro, the Tampa Jesuit and Mount St. Mary’s grad. Followers of the Sunshine State Conference will find a number of familiar names.

Donnian’s plans for the future include expanding the adult box lacrosse community in the Tampa area and bringing the game to the youth of the area too. The state is definitely seeing an expansion of box lacrosse as another outlet for both recreational opportunities and skills training, as the box game certainly requires a focus on stickhandling, passing and off-ball movement given the smaller space to utilize an the lack of long sticks. The goal is smaller and the goalie pads are much larger, making shot accuracy far more important.

Tampa will be playing the Nebraska/Iowa representative at 5:00pm today and will finish pool play tomorrow with games at 11:15am and 5:15pm. The final brackets will be known by the end of Saturday and the championship bracket starts at 9:00am on Sunday. There is no live streaming for the event.