Blogs and Commentary

June 20, 2009

National Senior Showcase: Bloggin' from Bryant

by Paul Ohanian | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Lacrosse Magazine Online's Paul Ohanian blogs from the 2009 US Lacrosse National Senior Showcase, presented by Warrior, in Smithfield, R.I., an all-star event featuring the nation's top high school seniors from the North, South, East and West regions.

NSS Profiles:
* Austin Wright, Worthington Kilbourne (Ohio), North All-Star
* Mike McCormack, West Islip (N.Y.), East All-Star
* Chase Carraro, St. Xavier (Ky.), West All-Star

Dishing Out the NSS Hardware With Some Words of Wisdom

posted Saturday, June 20 at 9:09 p.m.

The NSS Awards banquet just concluded a short time ago, with about 300 players, coaches, parents and friends gathered in a ballroom at the Westin Hotel.

Keynote speakers Jack Reid (UMass/Boston Cannons/U.S. Men's Training Team) and Mike Pressler (Bryant University/U.S. Team Head Coach) provided some advice to the players as they prepare to embark on their collegiate careers, and the four team coaches announced their individual award winners.

Reid encouraged the players to begin preparing mentally for college lacrosse. Preparation, he said, breeds confidence.

"Do what you do well, and do it fast and hard," he said. "Prepare for each situation."

Pressler reminded the players that they will have just one chance to make a good first impression in college.

"Be ready to go on day one," he said. "Jobs are won or lost in Fall Ball."

He also told the high school seniors the same thing he told the 84 players trying out for the U.S. Team two weeks earlier.

"It's cool to care," Pressler said. "It's cool to care about your teammates, your coaches, your parents, your university, and your nation."

Each team then presented two awards: an MVP Award and a Sportsmanship Award. The winners were:

West Team
MVP: (M) Chase Carraro (St. Xavier HS/Louisville, KY/Univ of Denver)
Sportmanship: (A) Andreas Haglund (Chaparral HS/Scottsdale, AZ/Arizona State Univ.)

South Team
MVP: (D) Roger Ferguson (St. Albans HS/Washington, D.C./Brown Univ.)
Sportsmanship: (M) Russell East (Heritage HS/Leesburg, VA/VMI)

North Team
MVP: (M) David Lawson (Middlesex School/Westford, MA/Duke Univ.)
Sportsmanship: (M) Joe Johnson (Gould Academy/Boston, MA/Western New England College)

East Team
MVP: (A) Joe Marasco (Somers HS/Yorktown Heights, NY/Syracuse Univ.)
Sportsmanship: (G) Michael Bonitatibus (Yorktown HS/Yorktown, NY/Loyola College)

East Defeats North 17-9 to Win NSS Championship

posted Saturday, June 20 at 4:45 p.m.

Game statistics and box score

A balanced scoring attack that featured 13 different goal scorers and a cohesive defense that frustrated the North team's offensive flow led to a 17-9 victory for the East squad in Saturday's NSS Championship Game.

The East rebounded from a three goal first quarter deficit by outscoring the North 13-1 during the second and third quarters. Four players scored twice apiece to lead the East, while nine others added single tallies. Eleven of the team's 17 goals were assisted.

"I thought we were very unselfish," said East co-coach Joe Ancona. "Sometimes that's difficult to do. I think the players had fun watching their other teammates contribute."

Tyler Distefano (Jackson Memorial HS/Jackson, NJ/undecided college) open the second quarter scoring for the East at 8:54 on an assist from Nick O'Reilly (South Side HS/Rockville Centre, NY/UVA). O'Reilly then added his own unassisted goal less than a minute later, and when Joe Marasco scored at 6:53, the game was tied.

"We started getting a lot of breaks and finding the open guys," Marasco said. "We were either finishing or we had back-up, so we kept possession. Then we'd get another shot and score."

The eight-goal second quarter explosion ended when Brandon Groux scored on Mic DeBellis' assist with 12 seconds left in the quarter. The East claimed a 10-6 hafltime lead.

The third quarter featured more of the same, with Will Manny scoring back-to-back markers to open the quarter, both assisted by O'Reilly.

At the defensive end, the East held the North scoreless for a stretch of 22:36, extending from late in the second quarter to nearly midway through the fourth quarter. During that stretch, the East scored nine straight goals to turn an 8-6 lead into a 17-6 advantage.

"I'm going to give our goalies (Michael Bonitatibus and Travis Sandin) a lot of credit on that," said Ancona. "I heard them talking and constantly reminding the defense what the situation was. And they responded. The coaching was easy. It was just a matter of getting out of their way."

Sandin finished with nine saves and Bonitatibus was credited with four.

"Everybody played together really well," said Bonitatibus. "We were all communicating at all times."

O'Reilly, Marasco, Groux and Manny each finished with two goals for the East, with O'Reilly also adding a game-high thre assists.

Austin Wright and David Lawson paced the North team with three goals each in the game.

An awards banquet that begins at 6:30 p.m. for all the players and coaches will conclude the weekend's formal activities. Each team will present an MVP award and a Sportsmanship Award.

East is in Control

posted Saturday, June 20 at 4:12 p.m.

It's been all East squad since the start of the second quarter. We're now midway into the fourth quarter, with the East leading 17-8. They have dominated at both ends of the field after a slow opening quarter.

Most impressively, they've spread the wealth on offense, with nobody scoring more than twice during the spurt. And the defense has been just as impresive, holding the North scoreless for a stretch of over 22 minutes at one point.

We're in the final minutes. We'll post the final score shortly.

East Explosion

posted Saturday, June 20 at 3:37 p.m.

The East squad turned a 5-2 first quarter deficit into a 10-6 halftime lead by scoring eight times in the quarter - including six straight at one point - to seize control.

The eight goals were scored by seven different players, including one by long pole Brennan Bicknese (Delbarton School/Ridgewood, NJ/Georgetown Univ) with 1:48 remaining in the quarter. Brandon Groux (Salesianum HS/Newark, DE/Salisbury Univ.) assisted on that goal and added two markers of his own in the quarter.

Lawson, Wright Help North to a Quick Start

posted Saturday, June 20 at 3:23 p.m.

Two goals apiece by David Lawson and Austin Wright have helped the North to a 5-2 lead after one quarter in the championship game. Lawson, who tallied five goals in this morning's semifinal game, picked up right where he left off with an unassisted goal to open the scoring just 40 seconds intp the game.

Wright tallied his second to close to first quarter scoring with 17 seconds left on a nifty over the head shot while falling away from the cage.

South Defeats West 16-14 in Third-Place Game

posted Saturday, June 20 at 2:51 p.m.

Game statistics and box score

A five-goal run in the third quarter provided the South squad with enough of a cushion to hold off a fourth quarter charge from the West and emerge as the winner of the third-place game.

Tucker Hull led all scorers with five goals for the South team, including three during the key run in the third quarter. Ronjohn Dadd (Urbana HS/Ijamsville, MD/Bucknell Univ) scored twice in the fourth quarter to help seal the win for the South.

"This was a fun tournament and very competitive," said Dadd. "BY the second half of the second game, we really got to know each other and how everybody plays. There were a lot of amazing players here."

Andreas Haglund scored twice in the final quarter and assisted on a third goal as the West tried to rally late.

The championship game between the North and East teams is set to beginin a few minutes.

The South Rises

posted Saturday, June 20 at 2:14 p.m.

The West team scored the first and last goal of the third quarter, but the South squad scored five straight in between those markers to assume a 12-9 lead after three quarters. Tucker Hull tallied three of the South's goals, but in two of those cases, simply had easy dunks from the doorstep off nice feeds from Griffin Lamie (Lassiter HS/Marietta, GA/UMass) and Michael Fields (Wilde Lake HS/Columbia, MD/Detroit Mercy).

West, South Tied 7-7 at Halftime

posted Saturday, June 20 at 1:51 p.m.

As the score indicates, it's been an evenly played first half. Unofficially, both teams had 27 shots.

John Haus and Tucker Hull paced the South team with two goals each.

Nick Troll, Chase Carraro and Kevin Dwyer scored twice apiece for the West.

Playing For a Scholarship?

posted Saturday, June 20 at 1:27 p.m. EST

There's several players, mostly on the West squad, that are still undecided in their college choices. Interestingly, Mike Pressler, who moonlights as the head coach at Bryant University when he's not leading the U.S. Men's Team, is in attendance watching the games (and will be the featured speaker at Saturday evening's awards banquet).

He noted that more than observing East Team midfielder Ben Sternberg (North Kingston HS/Nor th Kingston, RI), who is headed to Bryant in the fall, he's interested in watching some of the kids that are uncommitted.

Among those, Kevin Dwyer (Grosse Ile HS/Grosse Ile , MI) had an early goal for the West as the teams battled to a 4-4 tie after one quarter. It's been an entertaining first quarter, with both teams going up and down the field. Despite the eight goals, both goalies - Alexander Gradecki of the West and Dan Curran of the South - actually played pretty well, with several nices saves at each end.

Turn the Music Down

posted Saturday, June 20 at 12:47 p.m. EST

The action has moved to Bryant University's Bulldog Stadium for this afternoon's games after having the morning semis played on adjoining fields beyond the stadium. The South and the West are on the field warming up, with music now being blasted (can players truly get a good warm-up these days absent music?) from the stadium loudspeakers. The p layers on the field seem to be enjoying the selections, but the parents and friends in the grandstand sitting just below the speakers don't seem to be as happy.

Some of us have moved into the press box for this afternoon's games, and as long as our Internet connection holds up, we'll try to provide more in-game updates through the afternoon.

As for the weather, it's still cooperating. Getting cloudier, but any moisture is supposed to hold off until later in the day. Thanks for asking.

Think I'll pop next door and see if the DJ will take requests. Wonder if they've got any George Strait tunes loaded in the system?

North, East Advance With Semifinal Wins

posted Saturday, June 20 at 11:28 a.m. EST

Afternoon pairings have now been established following the completion of this morning's semifinal round games. The North defeated the West 19-10, and the East beat the South 13-9. Following a break for lunch, the South plays the West in the third-place game at 1 p.m., followed by the North against the East in the 3:15 championship match. More semifinal game details:

North 19, West 10 
David Lawson (Middlesex School/Westford, MA/Duke University) scored led all scorers with five goals and Brian Estes (Pinkerton Academy/Derry, NH/Endicott College) added four to lead the North squad. The North led just 3-2 after one quarter, but outscored the West 6-1 in the second quarter to seize control. Lawson scored three times in the second quarter, including twice on left-handed sweeps punctuated with lasers in the upper corners that had players on both teams turning to each other and saying 'wow."

"He's real good," said an impressed Estes following the game. ""It's awesome to be out here playing with these guys."

Mitch Hawk (Timberline HS/Boise, ID/undecided college) and Andreas Haglund (Chaparral HS/Scottsdale, AZ/Arizona State Univ) led the West with two goals apiece. Spurred by a halftime pep-talk by coach Scott Howe (picture lacrosse's version of Bobby Bowden), the West tried to rally early in the third quarter and tallied an extra-man goal to pull to within five. But the North never backed off, building its lead to 15-8 after three quarters and cruising into the championship game.

East 13, South 9
This game wasn't quite as close as the score might indicate as the East jumped to a 7-0 lead after one quarter and led throughout. The East dominated first quarter shots and possessions while capitalizing on all their chances.

Will Manny (St. Anthony's HS/Farmingdale, NY) - one of four UMass recruits playing at the NSS - led a balanced offense with three goals and an assist. James Garry (Rye Country Day/Mamaroneck, NY/Dartmouth), Joe Marasco (Somers HS/Yorktown Heights, NY/Syracuse) and Erich Pfeffer (Glastonbury HS/Glastonbury, CT/Middlebury College) each added two goals. Goalies Michael Bonitatibus (Yorktown HS/Yorltown, NY/Loyola College) and Travis Sandin (Colts Neck HS/Freehold,NJ/Norwich Univ) combined for eight saves for the North.

"Five of our first seven goals were assisted, which is a little unusual when players don't know each other real well," explained Manny. "But we were actually all looking for each other."

John Haus (Chapel Hill HS/Chapel Hill, NC/Univ of Maryland) led the South team with two goals, while Sam Jones (Severna Park HS/Severna Park, MD/Navy) and Benjamin Love (Winters Mill HS/Westminster, MD/Air Force Academy) added one goal and one assist each.

Chamber of Commerce Morning

posted Saturday, June 20 at 8:15 a.m. EST

As anybody following the U.S. Golf Open on Long Island knows, the weather forecast for the Northeast has not been promising for this weekend. Yesterday's NSS practices were squeezed in on a modified schedule between showers and parting skies.

But Saturday morning looks promising.

Blue skies and comfortable temperatures greet players and parents arriving at Bryant University this morning. Those that have monitored The Weather Channel through the night report that there appears to be a window of clear weather in advance of the next wave of rain, headed eastward and expected to arrive later this afternoon. Both 9 a.m. games are expected to start on time.

The match-ups in today's semifinals: South vs. East, North vs. West.

Semifinal losers will meet in the third-place game at 1 p.m. Semifinal winners play in the championship game at 3:15 p.m.

And dare we say it, some folks are even pulling out the sun block as they settle into their seats with coffee in hand. Are they the ones in danger of jinxing the no-hitter, or am I?

Rivals to Teammates

posted Friday, June 19 at 10:25 p.m. EST

John Haus of Chapel Hill HS and Tucker Hull of Charlotte Providence HS squared off in the North Carolina state championship last month. They're now teammates 'having fun' on the South squad at the National Senior Showcase.

© John Strohsacker/

Last month, their teams squared off in the state championship game. 

This weekend, they're teammates on the South squad. All-Star games can make for strange bedfellows.

In 2007 and 2008, John Haus' Chapel Hill HS team won the North Carolina championship. This year, Tucker Hull made sure the script had a different ending. Hull scored seven goals and added four assists to lead his Charlotte Providence team to a 19-13 victory over Chapel Hill in the state final. Providence finished the season with a 21-1 record.

"We couldn't stop their offense," said Haus, who will play at Maryland next year. "It's definitely a relief to play with him and not against him."

For his part, Hull, bound for Navy, has already scripted another dramatic finish should a final shot be needed in one of Saturday's games.

"Hopefully, I'll be taking the dodge, draw the slide, and then Haus will crank it in," he said.

MetroLacrosse Express: Boston to Maine

Joseph Johnson grew up in Roxbury area of Boston. Lacrosse was not among the sports options for most kids in his neighborhood.

That's until MetroLacrosse entered the picture. The non-profit organization, which serves as a US Lacrosse BRIDGE affiliate program, hosted a clinic at Johnson's local community center. All of a sudden, he was hooked.

"Lacrosse was just different," explained Johnson, who will play on the NSS' North team. "The equipment looked cool."

After his initial introduction to the game at the age of eight, Johnson remained involved with MetroLacrosse. He continued playing and developing his game, and through Metro's Scholastic Placement Program, eventually found a home at Maine's Gould Academy playing for former MetroLacrosse coach Zach Lehman. Johnson played his junior and senior seasons in Maine, and will join Western New England College next season. 

Despite his newfound lacrosse success, Johnson has not forgotten his roots. As part of his senior project, he returned to Boston this past spring to complete an internship with MetroLacrosse.

"I did recruiting visits around the city," he said. "I always go back and help out if I can."

A Show of Hands Please

As noted below, much of the first day at the NSS is a process of getting familiar with each other. Players get to know their teammates, and coaches get a feel for the capabilities of the players they've been assigned.

Each of the four 24-man rosters are comprised of six attackmen, 10 midfielders, six defensemen and two goalies. As the South squad gathered for its first meeting, co-coach Joe Conner had a logical question.

"Raise your hand if you have face-off experience," he asked the players.

No hands. Twenty-four guys and two coaches all just starring blankly at each other.

Houston, we have a problem.

To Conner's credit, he asked an important follow-up question.

"Has anybody ever faced-off before?"

Three hands go up.

"OK, we just found our face-off men," he announced as the players laughed. Problem solved.

Are We Having Fun Yet?

posted Friday, June 19 at 4:55 p.m. EST

There's an unmistakable theme that quickly emerges as players, parents, and coaches gather for this weekend's National Senior Showcase All-Star Game, presented by Warrior, at Bryant University in Rhode Island.

From the initial coaches meeting, run by USL Men's Division Director Jody Martin, to the individual team meetings run by the two-man coaching staffs.

Fun, fun, fun.

Sounds more like a pep-talk for a 'Weekend at Bernie's' than a weekend featuring 96 of the top high school seniors from across the country trying to win lacrosse games.

Martin reminds each of the eight coaches that "it's our goal to make sure this is a fun experience" for the players.

Charlie Burch of USL's Men's Coaches Committee emphasizes to the coaches that the desire is to give each player on the 24-person roster equal playing time.

"They're all among the best in their areas and they can all play," he said. 

Following the initial meetings, players break off with their team coaches to acquaint themselves with each other. In some cases, even the coaches who will be leading the squads are meeting for the first time.

As the North squad gathers in a corner of the gym to pick-up their uniforms, players sit quietly in a group. North co-coach Mike Vorgang breaks the silence as the final players trickle in from gathering their gear. "Introduce yourself to somebody sitting next to you," he says.

The familiar questions begin. "Where you from?" "Where are you going to school next year?"

Vorgang and fellow North coach Shaun Stanton review a few basics with the players before getting ready to head outside for practice. There's not enough time for a lot of strategy talk and game plans. It's all about keeping it simple.

"We want to get you the ball in space," Stanton tells the offensive players. "Keep your head up the whole time."

And lest anyone forget, he adds, "We're going to have a lot of fun."

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