September 12, 2012

Freshman 15: College Rookies to Watch (Men)

by Matt Forman | | Twitter

Denver freshman Gordie Koerber should fit in well to the Pioneers Canadian-infused hybrid system.
© John Strohsacker/

U19 World Championships MVP Matt Kavanagh should provide a spark to Notre Dame's offense.
© Tero Wester

Penn State midfielder Sammy Davis totaled 20 goals, 10 assists and 27 ground balls as a senior at Governor's Academy (Mass.).
© John Strohsacker/

Long-stick midfielder Miles Thomas could help fill the shoes of Frank Tufano at Drexel.
© John Strohsacker/

Jake Froccaro shined at the Champion All-American Showcase and the Under Armour All-America games.
© Scott McCall

There are the best players, and there are those coming into the right situation at the right time. It's where talent meets circumstance. Here are 15 first-year men to watch when they take the field this fall.

Related: Lacrosse Magazine's 15 women to watch.

Gordie Koerber

Attack, Denver

He's got a Canadian name, a Canadian game and he's going to a school where Canadians have thrived — Denver.

Koerber was the most valuable player of the Under Armour All-America Classic with three goals, including the eventual game-winner. He is a crafty lefty who moves well off-ball and "plays Canadian," said South coach Ryan Boyle, the four-time All-American at Princeton and five-time MLL All-Star.

"Gordie catches everything. He's got great wrists," Boyle said. "He's a heady player. He knows how to get open. When he gets the ball, and he catches everything, then he finishes everything. I told him, 'Denver is a perfect fit for you. The style you play is going to blend in very nicely.'"

Koerber, who compiled 32 goals and seven assists as senior at Gilman (Md.) School, smiled when he said he has "no clue what the deal is, or what to expect" at Denver next year. But he added that offensive coordinator Matt Brown's Canadian-infused hybrid "system is pretty similar to the way I play, so I'm real excited to get out there."

Koerber's finishing ability could make him a logical candidate to slide into the role previously played by All-American Mark Matthews, Denver's all-time leading scorer who's now with Major League Lacrosse's Denver Outlaws. Koerber is similar in stature to the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Matthews. But as Koerber said, "Those are big shoes to fill."

Brad Lott

Faceoff, Michigan

Michigan coach John Paul knows a team has to be strong up the middle to compete at the highest level. With Lott, a Kentucky native, Paul has brought in arguably the best faceoff recruit in the country.

"Michigan has the potential to be really good, really quick," Louisville Trinity coach Pete Schroeder said. "It's exciting that Brad could play a big part in that."

Lott, who won 71 percent of faceoffs as a junior and 80 percent as a senior for Louisville Trinity, should contribute right away for the Wolverines. Faceoff man Brian Greiner graduated and Michigan won only 41.4 percent last year. He added 31 goals and 17 assists as a senior.

"Brad was extremely dominant," Schroeder said of Lott's high school career. "It was kind of like having a jump ball in basketball after a basket, with somebody 8-foot tall jumping. He just crushed it."

Lott started wrestling his sophomore year, which helped him get lower in his crouch and better anticipate the whistle. He refined his approach to be "pretty close to automatic," Schroeder said.

Lott will pave his own path, but a local standard has been set: Louisville St. Xavier, Trinity's crosstown rival, produced Denver faceoff buzzsaw Chase Carraro.

"Chase is extremely fast — lightning fast — and he has proven himself," Schroeder said. "Brad is not quite that quick, but he's pretty close technique wise. And he will work to get to that level."
Though Lott and Carraro did not duel in high school, they likely will as ECAC foes next spring. Talk about a Kentucky fried faceoff.

Matt Kavanagh

Attack, Notre Dame

Kavanagh should provide an immediate spark to Notre Dame's offense, which lacks a featured weapon. The Fighting Irish's top scorer, Sean Rogers, had 22 goals in 2012.

Kavanagh, an undersized but aggressive lefty who starred at Chaminade (N.Y.) High and took a post-graduate year at Hotchkiss School (Conn.), was most valuable player of the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Under-19 World Championships for the gold medal-winning U.S. team. He grew up playing hockey, which helped develop ability to work in tight quarters, and he plays a box-like style of lacrosse.

"I like to get the ball inside, and move the ball," Kavanagh said. "But I'm mostly a finisher."

Zach Powers

Defense, North Carolina

Coach Joe Breschi has stocked the shelves with talented recruits, especially offensive playmakers, but North Carolina needs help on the defensive end (9.88 goals per game). Powers could be the answer — so too could fellow incomer Evan Connell — as close defenseman Charlie McComas and long-stick midfielder Mark Staines graduate.

Powers, whose twin brother Garrett will play football at Georgetown, compiled 64 ground balls and 47 takeaways for Upper Arlington (Ohio) High, which is a Columbus-to-ACC defensive breeding ground of sorts. It produced Virginia All-American defensemen Brett Hughes and Mark Koontz and Maryland All-American Max Schmidt.
"Zach has a good understanding of how the game is played," Upper Arlington coach Ted Wolford said. "He's got very good speed and he can throw every check and get the ball up and out."

Powers was Lacrosse Magazine's Midwest Region Player of the Year.

Sammy Davis

Midfield, Penn State

Davis had a highlight-reel goal in the Under Armour All-America game when he baited his defender, stutter-stepped and finished an aggressive dodge down the right alley by going top shelf. Explosive and energetic, Davis has supernatural stop-and-start ability. He totaled 20 goals, 10 assists and 27 ground balls as a senior at Governor's Academy (Mass.). He also played in the Champion All-American Showcase.

Top scorer Matt Mackrides graduated from a Penn State unit that struggled at times, and Davis immediately should see time on the offensive end. But the Nittany Lions also could take advantage of his speed and athleticism on defense.

Miles Thomas

Long-Stick Midfield, Drexel

Two years ago Thomas might have been known as the second-best long-stick midfielder at Conestoga (Pa.) High, but that characterization wasn't intended as criticism. He played behind All-American Brian Dailey (Duke), maybe the best long pole in the country.

But Thomas continued to make a name for himself with 66 ground balls and four assists his senior season. A rangy and athletic do-it-all player, Thomas could help fill the shoes of All-CAA long stick Frank Tufano.

Deemer Class

Midfield, Duke

Feed-first midfielder with good field vision and full-field athleticism. Had 22 goals, 31 assists and 37 ground balls as senior at Loyola Blakefield (Md.). Duke needs to replace Rob Rotanz and Justin Turri. John Danowski isn't afraid to play freshmen.

Nick Doktor

Attack, Penn

Quarterbacking attackman scored 43 goals and 26 assists for Irondequoit (N.Y.) High. Missed several weeks in spring with separated shoulder, but recovered in time for Under Armour All-America Classic. Penn lost three of its top five scorers, including John Conneely on attack.

Connor Frisina

Attack, Delaware

Versatile scorer played for talent-rich Conestoga (Pa.) High, registering 45 goals and 31 assists as a senior. Delaware had just three players with at least 15 goals. Two graduated — including top scorer Grant Kaleikau.

Bobby Duvnjak

Defense, Harvard

Physical, strong defenseman ranked among the nation's elite recruits out of Garden City (N.Y.). Picked up 85 ground balls. Close defenseman Paul Pate and long pole Dan DiMaria are gone. Could form dynamic duo with rising sophomore Stephen Jahelka.

Devin Dwyer

Attack, Harvard

Another Garden City product who sees field well and makes it look easy. Notched 39 goals, 75 assists for the nation's No. 1 high school team. Undersized but put on weight to become more dynamic. Could step into leading scorer Jeff Cohen's spot on attack.

Jake Froccaro

Faceoff/Midfield, Princeton

Should make instant impact at Princeton like big brother Jeff. Won 12 of 16 faceoffs in Under Armour game, but also can score. Totaled 62 goals, 16 assists, 170 ground balls as senior at Port Washington (N.Y.). Also played in Champion All-American Showcase. Tigers faceoff man Peter Smyth graduated.

Alex Joyce

Goalie, Georgetown

Landon (Md.) School product won't have to go far to make mark. Had 5.25 goals against average and .670 save percentage. Also a hockey player. Starter Matt Winter and backup CT Fisher left a void in the cage at Georgetown.

Dan Marino

Goalie, Virginia

Vocal leader allowed just 4.3 goals per game for Garden City. Will compete with sophomores Rhody Heller and Austin Geisler for the Cavaliers' starting job. Precedent: Fellow Long Islander Adam Ghitelman was a four-year starter at Virginia.

Ryan Palasek

Defense, Syracuse

Stout cover man caused most turnovers (167) in Rocky Point (N.Y.) High history. Orange has depth, so it might be tough to crack lineup alongside Brandon Mullins and Brian Megill. Palasek, a Champion All-American Showcase selection, is the brother of Syracuse's top scorer in 2012, Tommy Palasek.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of the article incorrectly stated Penn State's Jack Forster had graduated and would not play this season. He was granted an extra year of eligibilty.

This article appears in the September issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

comments powered by Disqus

More Headlines