October 29, 2012

30 in 30: Who Are the Early Men's Tewaaraton Candidates?

by Matt Forman | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

With an extra year of eligibility, Rob Pannell will again be squarely in the race for the Tewaaraton Award in 2013.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

As fall ball comes to a close, our #30in30 extravaganza wraps up this week. We hope you've enjoyed it as much as we have.

Through five weeks and 25 stories, the series has focused almost exclusively on teams. Now let's turn the attention to individuals.

While we're still about three-and-a-half months away from the 2013 spring season starting, it's never too early to take a look at the Tewaaraton Tracker. Who's got an inside track for college lacrosse's preeminent individual award? We've got you covered.

Today the men are up. The women's Tewaaraton Tracker will debut on Wednesday.

Leaders in the Clubhouse

1. Rob Pannell, Cornell, Sr. A
No disrespect to reigning Tewaaraton Award winner Peter Baum, but The Red Mamba gets our vote for the No. 1 spot. The frontrunner for much of 2011 and the perceived favorite in 2012, Pannell was edged out by Steele Stanwick two years ago, then suffered a season-ending foot injury in the second game of last season that ended his chances. It's hard to imagine a world in which Pannell, one of the best attackmen of his generation, could see his college career end without a bronze Mohawk on his mantle. Pannell didn't play with Cornell this fall, but he has remained active and looks close to 100 percent healthy. He starred in Team USA's exhibition scrimmage at the Capital Lacrosse Invitational and played on Wimmer Solutions' stacked squad at the Hawaii Lacrosse InvitationalCornell looked strong this fall without Pannell (and Matt Donovan sat in Cornell's scrimmages for precautionary reasons). Imagine what the Big Red will look like with him in the fold? With 101 points, Pannell would graduate as the NCAA men's Division I all-time leading scorer.

2. Peter Baum, Colgate, Sr. A
Only Syracuse's Mikey Powell won the Tewaaraton twice, and no player has won it in back-to-back years. Doing so won't be easy — as 2011 winner Steele Stanwick might suggest, since exceeding individual expectations following a Tewaaraton campaign wasn't enough — but Baum, the Portland Trailblazer, could make history once again. Colgate coach Mike Murphy told LaxMagazine.com that Baum is "always getting better," and its not unreasonable to expect Baum to improve upon his 97-point season. Murphy said Baum has "very much got Michael Jordan in him ... But we need him to be in a Magic Johnson-kind of role," meaning he'll be asked to score but also distribute for the Raiders' up-tempo offense with no shortage of options, like Ryan Walsh and Brendon McCann. We'll go out on a limb and say it shouldn't affect his play, but Baum tweeted several times this fall about his displeasure with the new rules' removal of the U and V shooting strings.

3. Marcus Holman, North Carolina, Sr. A
The unquestioned leader of North Carolina's offense loaded with weapons, Holman has arguably the most helium of any Tewaaraton candidate. After Holman moved down to attack and was given the keys to the Tar Heels' offense midway through the 2012 season, and jitterbug freshmen Jimmy Bitter and Joey Sankey were inserted alongside him, Carolina took off. Holman quarterbacked a young unit last year — the Heels also started two sophomores and a freshman at midfield — that now will be experienced, so there's certainly room for more production than last year's 74 points. Holman, who was recently named Carolina's solo captain, looked like himself this fall, and coach Joe Breschi told LaxMagazine.com, "He doesn't look like an Adonis, but he plays like one. He is the most competitive kid I've ever coached."

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4. Mike Sawyer, Loyola, Sr. A
A returning Tewaaraton finalist
, Sawyer won't have his left-hand man and sidekick Eric Lusby in 2013, but he should still post loud numbers and still has a strong supporting cast, including Justin Ward. In fact, a case could be made that Sawyer would have won last year's Tewaaraton if Lusby didn't go wild in the postseason, or if Sawyer had carried Greyhounds with Lusby-like tournament totals. Boasting one of the nation's hardest shots, Sawyer makes opposing goalies squirm every time he lets it rip with his righty rocket. He took 161 shots last year, and he might even get more touches next season. As Loyola coach Charley Toomey told LaxMagazine.com, "We need Michael Sawyer to pick his game up. We need him to pick up some of the goals that we lost in the form of Eric Lusby."

5. Will Manny, UMass, Sr. A
Also a finalist in last year's Tewaaraton race, Manny made UMass' third-ranked offense tick in 2012. Wingman Art Kell, who was on the receiving end of numerous Manny assists, has graduated, but Manny and the Minutemen shouldn't have problems scoring in the spring. Manny is the man in Amherst, but Kyle Smith and Colin Flemming will get in the action. A weak out-of-conference schedule last year hurt UMass' reputation in the rankings and likely dinged Manny's Tewaaraton candidacy, but coach Greg Cannella has scheduled non-conference contests against St. Johns, North Carolina, Harvard and Lehigh that will help. Willie the Kid is an undersized, crafty lefty quarterback, but he has gotten more aggressive with his dodges over the years.

Easily Within Striking Distance

Although non-offensive players have historically had a tough time cracking the Tewaaraton race, senior defenseman Tucker Durkin has as good a shot as any.
© Jim O'Connor

6. John Kemp, Notre Dame, Sr. G
Like clockwork, defensive coordinator Gerry Byrne's sharpened South Bend buzzsaw should rank among the nation's top-5 units once again, with Kemp as the cog between the pipes. Kemp was a Tewaaraton snub in 2012, when he ranked first nationally in goals against average (5.88) and save percentage (.642), and history suggests goalies have a tough road to capturing the trophy.

7. Jesse Bernhardt, Maryland, Sr. LSM
Frankly, any non-offensive players have had a hard time cracking the Tewaaraton committee's code, though Joel White (Syracuse, 2011 and 2010), Brodie Merrill (Georgetown, 2004 and 2005) and CJ Costabile (Duke, 2012) were finalists. Super-athletic long-stick midfielder Bernhardt is the best-known player for the Terrapins; he's strong between the stripes and a wizard with the wand.

8. Tucker Durkin, Johns Hopkins, Sr. D
On the other side of the defensive spectrum from Bernhardt is Durkin, whose will to prepare through watching game film and savvy 1-on-1 skills make him arguably the toughest cover guy in the country. If Johns Hopkins' senior class can avenge its recent string of quarterfinal losses, Durkin will be a big reason, drawing the opponent's top attackman game after game.

9. Chris LaPierre, Virginia, Sr. M
Recently named Virginia's solo captain
, "Shocker" LaPierre is a former high school football standout with athleticism rivaled by few. LaPierre predominantly has played defensive midfield, featuring arguably the nation's longest short-stick, but he has gotten burn on the offensive side this fall. The new rules changes should reward well-rounded, two-way middies.

10. Jeremy Noble, Denver, Jr. M
Without Mark Matthews and Alex Demopolous, the attack will go through Eric Law, but expect Denver's offense to be more midfield-oriented, starting with Noble, who's both a talented dodger and feeder. Noble missed the fall with a torn hamstring suffered over the summer, but he should return to full strength by spring and headline Denver's Canadian convoy.

Others Worth Watching

Tom Schreiber, Princeton, Jr. M
Dante Fantoni, Lehigh, Sr. A
Jordan Wolf, Duke, Jr. A
Nicky Galasso, Syracuse, Jr. A
Logan Schuss, Ohio State, Jr. A
Kieran McArdle, St. John's, Jr. A
Austin Kaut, Penn State, Jr. G
Garrett Thul, Army, Sr. A
Tucker Hull, Navy, Jr. A
Adrian Sorichetti, Hofstra, Sr. M

Who's your early Tewaaraton favorite for 2013? Did we miss any candidates? Leave a comment below, or tweet us @LacrosseMag, and use the hashtag #30in30.

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