April 1, 2013

Washburn: Army's Studs, Fowler's Importance, Tiny Attacks

by Evan Washburn | LaxMagazine.com

Sophomore John Glesener scored a career-high five goals on Easter Sunday, as Army controlled Colgate from start to finish.
© Greg Wall

For three weeks in March I was able to sit at home and watch games on television or on my computer. It was a great chance to see the game from an outside prospective and make observations accordingly.

But this past weekend kicked off the heart of my college lacrosse schedule. I was on the call for Harvard-Duke on Saturday night in Boston on NBC Sports and then Army-Colgate Sunday at noon from Hamilton on CBS Sports. It was a wild 20-hour stretch that not only tested my voice, but also my late-night driving skills.

Being back on the sideline and in the booth for these games reminded me how different your observations end up being, when you are dialed in to every play.

This is a product of the preparation required, which includes calls with coaches and players, tape study and practice visits.

Here are a few thoughts beyond the box score from the weekend.

Army has a pair of All-American's not named Garrett Thul

Army controlled Colgate from start to finish on Easter Sunday, winning 10-4. The Black Knights were led by dominant performances on both ends of the field. Sophomore attackman John Glesener had a career-high five goals, while senior defenseman Brendan Buckley held Peter Baum without a point for the first time in 54 games.

Glesener is a converted midfielder, still adjusting to his new position, but Sunday he looked very comfortable. He offers Army head coach Joe Alberici the type of complete player he hasn't had since Jeremy Boltus.

Being a former defenseman, I have always liked the way Buckley plays defense. His game is predicated off of footwork and calculated checks.

That being said, I didn't know he could play at Peter Baum's speed all over the field. In every one-on-one situation Buckley outplayed Baum.

Also worth noting: When a player of Baum's skill is held pointless it is a team effort. Sophomore goalie Sam Somers was huge in net with 13 saves.

Without Brendan Fowler, Duke leaves Harvard with a loss

With 7:38 left in the fourth quarter Harvard was up on Duke 10-8. The Crimson had totally grabbed momentum and for the first time all night it looked like they might actually get the upset win.

In the next two minutes, Duke scored three goals, took the lead for good and won 12-11.

None of that happens if junior Brendan Fowler is not dominant at the faceoff X. Fowler went 18-for-26 on the night and was at his best in the game's most crucial times.

Fowler is an interesting story.

He was not a highly regarded player coming out Chaminade (N.Y.) High on Long Island. Duke coach John Danowski jokingly referred to him as the "poster boy" in the current recruiting climate.

Fowler is used to proving himself. He is also a walk-on linebacker for the Duke football team.

Despite not having any hype coming in, Fowler has become one of the top faceoff men in the country and has changed the way Duke looks at that unit. Danowski said this week that in the past the faceoff game was something Duke looked at as a team stat. Factoring in wing play and strategy.

Now they have the luxury of a guy who they can throw out there and count on to win nearly 65 percent of his draws. I learned Saturday he enjoys the big moment.

Size doesn't matter

The saying bigger, stronger, faster does apply to college lacrosse. The prototypical player has changed over the years. A focus on weight lifting and the popularity of the game has brought in a new bread of athletes.

But this is still a sport that has room for the little man.

The Duke attack unit of Jordan Wolf, Josh Dionne and Case Matheis averages about 5-foot-8, 175 pounds. Watching them go to work attacking defensemen this season has been a pleasure.

They utilize their size and speed to their advantage against much bigger defenders. Taller players often can't get low enough to be effective and quickly find themselves out of position.

Sunday I got see Army's version of a tiny attack unit.

The Black Knights have a pair of freshman attackman, Connor Cook (5-foot-5) and Will Mazzone (5-foot-6), who while small in stature play with a fearless swagger. The two played key roles in the Black Knights' much needed win over Colgate Sunday.

The smaller the player, perhaps the bigger the heart and toughness.

My Top 20

Duke's attack unit of Jordan Wolf (above), Josh Dionne and Case Matheis averages about 5-foot-8, 175 pounds, proving size isn't the end-all be-all in lacrosse.
© Mark Abbott

For the last few weeks I have posted my top 10 votes that I submit each week for the national Division I men's media poll. Going forward I will give you my top 20 votes, because at times the biggest questions lie in spots 11 through 20.

I would love to hear your thoughts, on these rankings and whether you agree or disagree.

My ranking system includes three factors that I attempt to weigh equally.

- The eye test: How good does a team look when I break down the tape.

- Record: Simply put, wins and losses are very telling.

- Strength of schedule: Quality of opponents is something that holds a lot of weight in my book.

1. Maryland (7-1)
2. Cornell (9-1)
3. Denver (7-2)
4. North Carolina (7-3)
5. Loyola (8-2)
6. Princeton (6-2)
7. Syracuse (6-2)
8. Duke (8-4)
9. Penn St (7-3)
10. Notre Dame (6-2)
11. Bucknell (9-2)
12. Johns Hopkins (6-3)
13. St. John's (7-2)
14. Drexel (8-2)
15. Ohio St. (6-3)
16. Penn (5-3)
17. Lehigh (7-4)
18. Albany (6-3)
19. Hofstra (6-4)
20. Virginia (5-5)

Evan Washburn, the former Delaware defenseman and current CBS Sports Network and NBC Sports Network lacrosse commentator, provides a weekly column each Monday during the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse season. Follow Evan on Twitter @EvanWashburn.

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