February 27, 2014

Handicapping the Early Men's Tewaaraton Award Race

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

Duke senior Jordan Wolf is the primary threat on one of the top attack groups in the country. (Peyton Williams)

The Tewaaraton Foundation on Thursday night at a special ceremony in New York announced the 50 men's and 50 women's players named to the season-starting Tewaaraton Award watch lists. From these lists, additions will be made March 20 and April 10 and 25 men's and women's nominees will be named April 24. Five finalists will be announced May 8 and be invited to the Tewaaraton ceremony May 29 in Washington, D.C.

Here's an early look at how the men's race stands as the season really begins to heat up with March just two days away, a continuation of our way early look at Tewaaraton candidates from our fall 30-in-30 series.

Related: Sean Burns Handicaps the Women's Race

Leaders in the clubhouse

1. Lyle Thompson, Albany, Jr. A
Thompson began the season as Lacrosse Magazine's NCAA Division I preseason player of the year after finishing last season with 113 points, one shy of the D-I single-season record. He was the first ever Native American finalist for the Native American-inspired award. Although Albany has dropped its first two games of the season, the defeats have come by a combined two goals. Thompson has been mainly a distributor thus far, with two goals and 10 assists. He's averaging six points per game, which if kept at that pace would give him 96 points by the end of the America East tournament. Of course, the Danes have already played two of their tougher opponents of the season in Syracuse and Drexel, so it's not out of the question that the points per game average rises a bit.

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 Princeton should contend for the Ivy League title and the development of players around Schreiber, like fellow Tewaaraton watch list member, junior attackman Mike MacDonald's should benefit everyone. Princeton's played just one game, beating Hofstra 12-10.

3. Jordan Wolf, Duke, Sr. A
He is perhaps overlooked because of the gargantuan point totals put up by Thompson, Cornell's Rob Pannell and St. John's attackman Kieran McArdle a year ago, but Wolf is one of the premier attackman in the game for the defending national champion. Duke just went undefeated in February for the first time since 2008, and Wolf has 10 goals and nine assists through four games for a 4.75 points per game average. Wolf has familiarity with attack running mates Josh Dionne and sophomore Case Matheis so expect the trend to continue.

4. Kieran McArdle, St. John's, Sr. A
McArdle finished second in the nation in points per game last season with 6.54, only behind Thompson's 6.65 average. He's a feeder and scorer, with 36 goals and 49 assists last year. Through two games this year, St. John's has beaten Holy Cross by two and lost to Yale by four. If McArdle wants to move up the Tewaaraton Award race chain, the Red Storm will have to get some better results, but McArdle has not disappointed thus far, with five goals and seven assists for six points per game average. The do-it-all type had five against Yale, and now has 196 for his career, four shy of becoming just the second player in St. John's history to reach the 200-point mark. Mike Bolger is the program's all-time leader in points with 219.

5. Wesley Berg, Denver, Jr. A
The big-time Canada goal scorer has 11 through four games and Denver is 3-1 with the lone loss coming to top-ranked Duke. Berg is clearly a Tewaaraton Award-caliber player but really is part of new-look Pioneers attack unit of Hartford-transfer Jack Bobzien and fabulous freshman Zach Miller. Each are capable of starring on a particular day — Miller had four goals against Duke to go with Berg's three while Bobzien had a team-high five points last time out against Canisius. So, point being Berg's case may only be hurt because of Denver's strength as a team, which I think the Pioneers will take.

Easily within striking distance

6. Joey Sankey, North Carolina, Jr. A
Sankey has been the Tar Heels' leader on offense so far, with Jimmy Bitter working his way back from injury in the preseason, but he's now back starting, too. Look for the duo to dazzle in front of national audiences with ACC league play upcoming starting this weekend when the third-ranked Tar Heels play Notre Dame. Sankey has nine goals and six assists in wins over Furman, Manhattan and Dartmouth.

Virginia attackman Mark Cockerton has picked up right where he left off in 2013. The Canadian already has 18 goals through five games after finishing with 49 goals a season ago.

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. Cockerton has picked up where he's left off with 18 goals and six assists through five games, including seven goals the other night against Mount St. Mary's. Virginia won its first three games, against Loyola, Richmond and Drexel by a goal apiece and is now 5-0 heading into ACC play starting Saturday night against Syracuse. The attack line of Cockerton, James Pannell and Owen Van Arsdale is capable of being among the best in the nation this season.

8. Matt Kavanagh, Notre Dame, So. A
Kavanagh is listed a sophomore, but is really more of a junior in age having spent a post-graduate year at the Hotchkiss School (Conn.) after high school at Chaminade (N.Y.). He possesses unique playmaking ability, a gritty toughness that rubs off on teammates, and the ability to swing momentum in his team's favor, like in the near NCAA tournament upset against Detroit last year. It's been said he could be the best offensive player ever at Notre Dame when it's all said and done.

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 has 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. Kaut played a big role in Penn State's 8-7 win at Notre Dame last Saturday. He finished with 13 saves with several key stops late in regulation.

10. Niko Amato, Maryland, Sr. G
There's been plenty of attention on Maryland faceoff man Charlie Raffa (here included) and the talented baby Terp freshmen on offense, but don't overlook Maryland's defense. Amato backbones an experienced group that also includes first-round MLL draft pick Michael Ehrhardt and three-year starter Goran Murray. Amato is the reigning ACC defensive player of the week for an 11-save effort in Maryland's 16-8 win over Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.

Also keep an eye on...

Right on the bubble of the top 10:

11. Wells Stanwick, Johns Hopkins, Jr. A
12. Joe Fletcher, Loyola, Sr. D
13. Justin Ward, Loyola, Sr. A
14. Brendan Fowler, Duke, Sr. FO
15. Jesse King, Ohio State, Jr. M
16. Randy Staats, Syracuse, Jr. A/M
17. John LoCascio, Villanova, Sr. LSM
18. Jeremy Noble, Denver, Sr. M
19. Miles Thompson, Albany, Sr. A
20. Alex Love, Hobart, Sr. A

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