October 28, 2013

30 in 30: Who are the Way Early Tewaaraton Candidates?

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

Blue Devils senior Jordan Wolf will lead a Duke attack line that brings back fellow starters Josh Dionne and Case Matheis.
© Kevin P. Tucker

By now — the final week of LaxMagazine.com’s “30 in 30” series — most teams have wrapped up fall practices and scrimmages. The hay, as they say, is in the barn. Coaches are breaking down tape and players are largely hitting the weight room to finish out the fall semester.

We focused on a couple of top-15 teams of intrigue the past five weeks for the Division I men’s segment of “30 in 30”: Duke, Syracuse, Maryland, Penn State and Notre Dame.

Now it’s time to focus more on the individuals, in a way too early, fall edition of Tewaaraton Watch. The season is still a little more than three months away, but a solid field is already set.

Leaders in the clubhouse

1. Lyle Thompson, Albany, Jr. A
Thompson finished last year with 113 points, one shy of the NCAA Division I single-season record. He was one of five Tewaaraton finalists, and the first ever Native American finalist for the Native American-inspired award. He returns on an Albany attack line with older brother, Miles, and cousin, Ty. The trio combined for 254 points last season, more than the total for 40 other Division I men’s teams. It’s unwise to predict a slow down as the Thompsons appeared to pick up right where they left off this fall. Plus, there will be a sense of urgency and desire to dive deeper into the NCAA tournament than Albany did last year with a first-round loss to Denver. This is the last season for the Thompsons to play together for the Great Danes.

2. Tom Schreiber, Princeton, Sr. M
Schreiber is the only other Tewaaraton Award finalist from 2013 returning for another collegiate season. The dynamic midfielder had 28 goals and 32 assists a season ago, but the Tigers didn’t make the NCAA tournament. This year they should contend for the Ivy League title, and more, with a solid offensive core around Schreiber and a defense that now has some continuity, although still looking for an answer in goal. It's fun to watch Schreiber’s uncanny feeding ability form the midfield, a byproduct of excellent field vision.

3. Jordan Wolf, Duke, Sr. A
He was perhaps overlooked a tad because of the gargantuan point totals put up by Thompson, Cornell’s Rob Pannell and St. John’s attackman Kieran McArdle (see below) a year ago, but Wolf is one of the premier attackman in the game for the defending national champion. He finished with 57 goals and 28 assists, leading the Blue Devils in both categories, and showed a complete game last championship weekend, pumping in eight goals and three assists in two games. His running buddies on attack, Josh Dionne and Case Matheis, both return. Wolf has regularly darted around and past All-American defensemen throughout his career.

4. Kieran McArdle, St. John’s, Sr. A
Had St. John’s made the NCAA tournament a season ago, McArdle very well could have been a Tewaaraton finalist. He finished second in the nation in points per game with 6.54, only behind Thompson’s 6.65 average. He’s a feeder and scorer, with 36 goals and 49 assists last year. McArdle’s sidekick, attackman Kevin Cernuto (32 goals, 16 assists in 2013), is also back for a senior season. The Red Storm may have an easier path to the NCAA tournament with Notre Dame and Syracuse out of the way in the Big East, having moved to the ACC, but still Denver looms large in its first year in the conference. If McArdle can grab more national attention, he’ll be in the Tewaaraton conversation come May.

5. Wesley Berg, Denver, Jr. A
In some ways, Wesley Berg has already arrived. He had 12 goals through the first two rounds of last year’s NCAA tournament to pull within range of the Division I tournament record of 17 set by Loyola’s Eric Lusby in 2012. But Berg was shut out in a 9-8 semifinal loss to Syracuse. That was only game the second game all year Berg didn’t finish with at least one point. He finished with 72 of those last season, including nine during a memorable eight-goal outburst in a 19-14 first-round tournament win over the Thompsons and Albany. Berg, a Canadian, will be the centerpiece of the Pioneers offense and Denver figures to be in the running for another deep NCAA run.

Easily within striking distance

6. Joey Sankey, North Carolina, Jr. A
North Carolina coach Joe Breschi said this fall that Sankey is developing as the Tar Heels’ leader on offense. Whoever leads that group — a la Marcus Holman in the past — will be at the forefront of the national consciousness, and rightfully so. Sankey is a jitterbug attackman.

7. Mark Cockerton, Virginia, Sr. A
Cockerton’s super-productive campaign a season ago — 49 goals and seven assists — was overshadowed by the fact that Virginia missed the NCAA tournament. Cockerton’s 3.50 goals per game barely trailed Cornell’s Steve Mock (3.53) for the nation’s best average. The Cavaliers have a load of talent all over the field and other Tewaaraton candidates from the team could emerge, but Cockerton is a good one to start with. 

8. Matt Kavanagh, Notre Dame, So. A
The defense has been credited for most of the Fighting Irish’s success in recent years, but Notre Dame has a special offensive talent currently in Kavanagh, a crafty and tough-as-nails attackman. He, along with the Irish’s 10-man ride, brought Notre Dame back from the brink of NCAA tournament extinction in the first round against Detroit Mercy last season. Kavanagh had four goals in the 9-7 win, and a team-high 48 points for the season. He was first-team All-Big East.

9. Austin Kaut, Penn State, Sr. G
History suggests non-offensive players have a tough time in the Tewaaraton race, as this list generally reflects, but Kaut should have as good a case as any. He’s a returning first-team All-American for an NCAA tournament team and the nation’s second-best defense, statistically, last year. All starters and key components on that unit return.

10. Niko Amato, Maryland, Sr. G
Amato arrived in College Park a student of former Terps and Team USA great, Hall of Famer goalie Brian Dougherty, and Amato earned a starting role as a freshman. Hard to believe he’s now a senior. With Maryland potentially relying on many freshmen on offense, the Terps will look to their defense, back-boned by Amato, for strength early in the season. It’s not out of the question that Amato comes up with some huge performances in big ACC matchups and reminds observers that he’s the guy who played in two national championship games the first two years of his collegiate career.

Also keep an eye on… 

Right on the bubble of the top 10:

11. Justin Ward, Loyola, Sr. A
12. Wells Stanwick, Johns Hopkins, Jr. A
13. Brandon Mangan, Yale, Sr. A
14. Joe Fletcher, Loyola, Sr. D
15. Brendan Fowler, Duke, Sr. FO
16. Joe LoCascio, Villanova, Sr. LSM
17. Derek Maltz, Syracuse, Sr. A
18. Jesse King, Ohio State, Jr. M
19. Kevin Massa, Bryant, Jr. FO
20. Miles Thompson, Albany, Sr. A

Who's your early Tewaaraton favorite for 2014? Did we miss any candidates? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page and tweet us @LacrosseMag.

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

From a scheduled intrasquad indoor scrimmage in Denver later this week, to weekly pick-up box games starting on campus next week, to a visit from the coaching staff of the National Lacrosse League’s Minnesota Swarm, you could say the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are going clearly Canadian this fall.

While some prognosticators may be more interested in gauging how Notre Dame will fare in its first year in an even-stronger ACC conference -- with Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, Syracuse and Virginia -- it is more important for the Irish coaching staff to follow the on-field trends that can dictate wins and losses. And that, over the last decade or so in particular, has included the heavy influence of the indoor, or box, game on the field product in the United States.

While Canadians going back to Stan Cockerton, the Gaits and Tom Marechek, for example, have impacted NCAA lacrosse before, the influence of indoor-trained players is now shown in depth and numbers. As noted by Paul Tutka of the US Box Lacrosse Association in this insightful piece, since 2008 no fewer than 24 percent of the top 50 goal-scorers (single season) in NCAA Division I have been Canadians, a big jump from single-digit percentages in the 2000s. Last year, 60 percent of the nation’s top 15 scorers were Canadian or Iroquois.


Picks or screens have become hallmarks of college offenses, as they long have been in the tighter quarters of box games. This spring, in addition to the ACC slate, Notre Dame will play two teams in the non-conference -- Denver and Ohio State -- that count multiple Canadians among their top contributors.

“What things do we see that we’re going to have to defend, as far as trends in other teams that we’re playing?” Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said on the topic in an interview last week. “Increasingly, in the last couple years, you look at getting better in the two-man game, and understanding that it’s a lot different than it was eight years ago. [We want to] get a better appreciation for guys playing in space and guys playing in tight quarters as you see the influence of, call it box, call it Canadians, guys who bring a different skill set. We’re trying to incorporate that into our practices and preparation, both to become better at it ourselves and become better defending it.”

Notre Dame is in fall break this week, and the team will travel to Colorado on Thursday for a full slate of activities, among them an intrasquad indoor scrimmage and a traditional outdoor scrimmage with Air Force on Friday, which is on as scheduled despite the recent tragedy involving the family of Air Force coach Eric Seremet.

When the Irish return, their NCAA-allotted practice time will be finished, but members of the team will play weekly pick-up indoor games at the recreation center on campus. Box lacrosse is the latest addition to the team's annual O'Leary Cup competition that also features basketball, soccer and flag football in the November training period.

Earlier this fall, the Swarm staff visited South Bend, Ind., for a day. Swarm owner John Arlotta is a Notre Dame graduate and the Irish’s lacrosse complex is named Arlotta Stadium.

“A little indoor action won’t hurt,” said Notre Dame sophomore attackman Matt Kavanagh, who led the Irish with 48 points as a rookie last year and whose youth hockey background serves him well in box-styled offensive themes. “They put in a little circle offense and we’ve been doing that with two-man games and picks. I love it. The middle of the field is wide open. It’s pretty cool and opens up some space for our guys. I’m hoping that we use it this year as one of our sets.”

Not only the offense is focusing on box tactics. For every offensive set, there’s a defense aiming to stop it. It figures that the unit coordinated by assistant coach Gerry Byrne -- which finished 10th last season in Division I in scoring defense, breaking a streak of top-five results in each of the previous six seasons -- is at the forefront of two-man proficiency.

 “Part of knowing the two-man game isn’t just knowing how to do it offensively,” Corrigan said. “But it’s going: What are the reads? What are the tells? How do you defend it? And it’s not the same everywhere. It’s not the same as X, as it is at goal-line extended, as it is tight on the wing, as it is in the high corners of the box. It’s not as simple as saying: here are the rules for defending this, or playing it. We’re trying to become proficient at that.”

Last year, Notre Dame had one Canadian on its roster. Just goes to show that, even without north-of-the border natives on the roster, their influence is real.

Kelly in line as next Irish goalie

Redshirt junior Conor Kelly, who was an Under Armour All-American his senior year of high school at Haverford (Pa.), is in line to replace departed All-American goalie John Kemp.

“[Conor] has done a great job,” Corrigan said. “He’s come in and played very, very well. He’s been in command of himself and the situation. And Shane Doss has come in as a freshman and really done a great job of battling and competing with him every day. I feel good about that spot.”

Kelly was an alternate for the U.S. under-19 men’s national team that won gold in the summer of 2012 in Finland. He played in an exhibition event with the team in Texas, but didn’t travel with the group overseas. http://www.laxmagazine.com/teamusa/u19men/2011-12/news/112011_kavanagh_defense_lead_us_u19_team_in_texas_win

“He’s going to be fine,” Kavanagh, MVP of that U.S. U19 team, said of Kelly. “He’s been working behind and learning from John the last couple years. He looks great in practice. I don’t think we’re going to miss a step there.”

Who’s back, who’s not

Kavanagh returns on attack with starter Conor Doyle, a junior who posted 30 points a season ago. The Irish will need to full the spot let by departed Mr. Clutch Sean Rogers. Junior and California-native Kyle Runyon, who played just one game for the Irish last season, has been getting first-line reps.

Jim Marlatt, the team’s most-productive midfielder by 16 points in 2013 (he had 32), is back for a senior year as is John Scioscia. Three of the next four highest-scoring middies graduated, but Notre Dame returns 10 midfielders from last year, and has been working with different combinations within the deep group this fall.

Senior defenseman Stephen O’Hara, who was elected one of two team captains (Marlatt is the other), will lead the back-end after the departures of Matt Miller and long-stick Tyler Andersen. Both faceoff men, Liam O’Connor (52 percent) and Nick Ossello (50 percent), are back.

Of newly-elected captains O’Hara and Marlatt, Corrigan said: “I’m excited that we have guys that the majority of our team felt very strongly about. The better news of the election of those captains is how many guys in our senior class got support from their teammates. We ask them to do more than vote. We ask them to explain their votes and justify them. It’s clear that a lot of our guys have a lot of respect for our senior class and across the board.”

About that ACC…

Corrigan on Notre Dame entering the ACC: “It means that you’re going to play five conference games against top-10 teams and then you’ve got the ACC tournament. Add to that Penn State, Ohio State and Denver, there’s just no breathing room on our schedule. I think our guys understand that, and they understand the urgency we need to prepare with and what we need to do every day. But there’s no trepidation on our part either. This is a schedule that anybody would love to play. We’re fortunate to be playing it.”

It’s not like the Irish will be in uncharted waters when it comes to strength of schedule. They played eight games in 2013 against teams ranked inside the top-10 at the time of the game, winning five of them. Notre Dame also played Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse last season, facing both the Blue Devils and Orange in the regular season and post-season. Duke eliminated the Irish from the NCAA tournament in a tight 12-11 quarterfinal, and Syracuse bested Notre Dame in the Big East tournament semifinal.

“It’s not like we’ve been playing in the minor leagues and now we’re going to the majors,” Corrigan said.

Steak and hot dogs, busy fall

Friday marked Notre Dame’s traditional streak and hot dog game. The Irish assistant coaches each draft a team of seniors and then those seniors draft the rest of their squads in the lead up to the game, which traditionally features creative goal celebrations. The scrimmage winners get steak at a dinner later in the day at Corrigan’s house. The losers get hot dogs. … Earlier this month, Notre Dame scrimmaged Michigan. … The team also traveled to Chicago on Oct. 12 for a Playing for Peace service project and clinics at inner-city schools. … During the first part of this week’s fall break, Corrigan will take the team's juniors to New York City for a professional networking trip. The group will meet with Notre Dame alumni and others who work at key companies in the city. … After scrimmaging Air Force on Friday, the Irish will stay in Colorado Springs and watch the Notre Dame-Air Force football game on Saturday.

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