March 25, 2014

Tuesdays with Corey: Mid-Season Awards, All-Americans

by Corey McLaughlin | | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

Albany has played only six games, but Lyle Thompson is on pace to break the single-season NCAA Division I men's points mark. He leads the nation with 7.33 points per game. (Greg Wall)

Since the Division I men's lacrosse season officially started Feb. 1 and Selection Sunday is May 4, it's a perfect time for a mid-season look at the national scene. Technically, this exercise is even a week late. But considering only two games were played way back on Super Bowl weekend and the Ivy League didn't even start practice until the same weekend, this week is also slightly more appropriate.

So here it goes: picks for year-end awards, if the season ended today.

Tewaaraton Award

Lyle Thompson, Albany, Jr. A
Lacrosse Magazine's Preseason Player of the Year has not disappointed after a near-miss of the NCAA Division I single-season points record of 113 as a sophomore. He's averaging 7.33 points per game, with 44 through six games on 15 goals and 29 assists. If the pace holds for the rest of Albany's eight regular-season games and, theoretically, two America East tournament games, Thompson would have 117 points — before the NCAA tournament.

Also considered: Miles Thompson, Albany, Sr. A; Jordan Wolf, Duke, Sr. A; Kieran McArdle, St. John's, Sr. A; Tom Schreiber, Princeton, Sr. A; Joe Fletcher, Loyola Sr. D

Turnbull Award (Most Outstanding Attackman)

Lyle Thompson, Albany, Jr.
The great thing about Lyle Thompson is he's having great success this year mainly as a distributor. He has more confidence than ever in his brother, Miles, to carry the ball and dodge, and has fed him, cousin Ty and Albany's spread of midfielders to the tune of two assists for every goal he's had this year. Lyle and Miles are 1-2 nationally in points per game with Miles at 6.17.

Also considered: Jordan Wolf, Duke, Sr.; Kieran McArdle, St. John's, Sr.; Matt Kavanagh, Notre Dame, So.; Mark Cockerton, Virginia, Sr.; Justin Ward, Loyola, Sr.; Wells Stanwick, Johns Hopkins, Jr.; Matt Donovan, Cornell, Jr.; Shane Sturgis, Penn State, Sr.

MacLaughlin Award (Most Outstanding Midfielder)

Tom Schreiber, Princeton, Sr.
In a year where elite midfield production is generally down, Schreiber still is kicking it old school, midfielder style. The 2013 Tewaaraton Award finalist and first overall pick in January's Major League Lacrosse collegiate draft by the Ohio Machine has 18 goals and 15 assists to lead Princeton with 33 points. That's two more points than Maryland midfielder Mike Chanenchuk, coincidentally formerly of Princeton, who, finally healthy, has taken his game to another level this season.

Also considered: Mike Chanenchuk, Maryland, Sr.; Connor Buczek, Cornell, Jr.; Jeremy Noble, Denver, Sr.; Erik Adamson, Denver, Jr.; Ryan Tucker, Virginia, Jr.; Chad Tutton, North Carolina, Jr.

Schmeisser Award (Most Outstanding Defenseman)

Joe Fletcher, Loyola, Sr.
Fletch, the only collegian in the running for the final 23-man Team USA roster for July's FIL World Championship, is showing his wares to a wider audience, as Loyola has been near the top of the national rankings for the last month. His self-described trademark? Ground balls. He's got 37 of those this year and 13 caused turnovers. He won't dazzle you with flash. New York Lizards coach Joe Spallina, who tabbed Fletcher with the third overall pick in the MLL collegiate draft, compared him to MLL veteran and two-time league defensive player of the year Lee Zink.

Also considered: Stephen O'Hara, Notre Dame, Sr.; Goran Murray, Maryland, Jr.; Mike Ehrhardt, Maryland, Sr. (LSM); Scott McWilliams, Virginia, Sr.; Ty Souders, Lehigh, Sr.; John LoCascio, Villanova, Sr. (LSM)

Kelly Award (Most Outstanding Goalie)

Gunnar Waldt, Bryant, So.
Chesapeake Bayhawks coach Dave Cottle has mentioned on Twitter that it's time to come up with a goalie rating system, something that can accurately rate and quantify the finer points of goaltending that impact a game: for example, making an outlet pass that leads to a fast break and fourth-quarter saves. It's a good idea. But for now, we'll rely on save percentage of starting goalies on teams ranked in or around the top 20. The redshirt sophomore Waldt, all 5-foot-10 and 235 pounds of him, has stopped 63.1 percent of shots on cage and played all but one minute for Bryant, which is 6-2 and the presumptive NEC favorite. He made 14 or more saves in wins over Albany, Drexel, Hartford and Bucknell and reached double figures in Bryant's two losses, by one goal to Yale and three goals to Colgate.

Also considered: Sam Somers, Army, Jr.; Austin Kaut, Penn State, Sr.; Jack Runkel, Loyola, Sr.; Gill Connors, Quinnipiac, Sr., Kieran Burke, North Carolina, So.; Matt Poillon, Lehigh, Jr.; Niko Amato, Maryland, Sr.

Rookie of the Year

Denver freshman Zach Miller leads the Pioneers in scoring with 23 goals and nine assists. (Andy Lewis)

Zach Miller, Denver, Fr. A
Denver coach Bill Tierney said of Miller this summer, "You can bet when the starting lineup is announced, Zach Miller will be in it." He has been, leading the Denver offense in scoring in his rookie year as the Pioneers figure out ways to use his versatile skill set. Miller, from Seneca Nation in New York, wears a braid similar to that of Lyle and Miles Thompson, and displays similar box-trained skills as them as well. It's a close race for rookie of the year between Miller and Maryland attackman Matt Rambo. Pick your preference. Miller has 23 goals and nine assists; Rambo has 17 goals and four assists. Miller is Denver's leading scorer; Rambo is Maryland's. Maryland had been top-ranked for much of the first half of the season, and has played three teams currently ranked in the top 10, while Denver has played two. Either way, the future is bright for both of them.

Also considered: Matt Rambo, Maryland, A; Christian Knight, Cornell, G; Nick Mariano, UMass, A

Breakout Player

Dan Lintner, Cornell, Sr. A
This category has a bunch of viable candidates, but Lintner was probably most off the national radar of any other finalist in this category, so has brought with him the most breakout potential. Lintner, an Ontario native and product of Brodie Merrill's Hill Academy program, was Cornell's fourth attackman last season. He's in the starting lineup this year and ranks fourth nationally in goals per game (3.63), behind, in order, Albany's Miles Thompson (4.33), Johns Hopkins' Ryan Brown (3.71) and Loyola's Nikko Pontrello (3.67), all of whom were at least known commodities of some sort a season ago. Lintner was MVP of last summer's Minto Cup with the Whitby Warriors in his last year of junior indoor ball. Now in his final NCAA season, he's become a pure goal scorer, notching three against Virginia, two against Yale, five against Colgate and four against Penn.

Also considered: James Pannell, Virginia, So. A; Ryan Brown, Johns Hopkins, So. A, Jack Bobzien, Denver, So. A; Nikko Pontrello, Jr. A; Blaze Riorden, Albany, So. G, Ben McIntosh, Drexel, Sr. M

Best Faceoff Specialist

Liam O'Connor, Notre Dame, Sr.
A special category for a special breed of player that can swing the momentum of any game. Duke's Brendan Fowler and Bryant's Kevin Massa were the kings of last season and still may end up being once again, but as of now Notre Dame's Liam O'Connor is winning 70.1 percent of faceoffs. That number is from a small sample size, only through five games, as Notre Dame has played fewer than most. Fowler has taken double the faceoffs — 220 to O'Connor's 107 — and the Duke senior is winning 63.2 percent. Similarly, Massa isn't far behind O'Connor with a 67.8 win percentage on 174 draws.Long story, short, best faceoff specialist of 2014 remains to be seen, but O'Connor did win 16 of 23 in a victory against North Carolina and two-man faceoff tandem Stephen and Frankie Kelly, filling in for an injured R.G. Keenan. O'Connor won 19 of 24 against Virginia, and although Penn State freshman Drake Kreinz got the better of him in an early-season win against the Irish, O'Connor was not the problem in Notre Dame's other loss of the season to Denver. O'Connor won 15 of 21 against the Pioneers. The O'Connor-Fowler matchup will be one to watch April 5 in South Bend. O'Connor went 50 percent against Fowler in last year's NCAA quarterfinal and 7-for-18 against him in their regular-season encounter.

Also considered: Brendan Fowler, Duke, Sr.; Kevin Massa, Bryant, Jr.; Charlie Raffa, Maryland, Jr., Joseph Nardella, Rutgers, Jr.

First-Team All-Americans

A – Lyle Thompson, Albany, Jr.
A – Miles Thompson, Albany, Sr.
A – Jordan Wolf, Duke, Sr.
M – Tom Schreiber, Princeton, Sr.
M – Mike Chanenchuk, Maryland, Sr.
M – Connor Buczek, Cornell, Jr.
FO – Liam O'Connor, Notre Dame, Sr.
LSM – John LoCascio, Villanova, Sr.
D – Joe Fletcher, Loyola, Sr.
D – Stephen O'Hara, Notre Dame, Sr.
D – Goran Murray, Maryland, Jr.
G – Gunnar Waldt, Bryant, So.

Looking Ahead

No three stars this week, with the individual award nature of the items above, but still looking ahead to the week's top games:

1. No. 8 Virginia (7-2) at No. 5 Maryland (7-1), 3:30 p.m. Sunday
The top-ranked Terps are coming off their first loss of the season and will be hungry to down border rival Virginia. There will be matchups to watch galore with James Pannell and Mark Cockerton facing a Maryland defense that includes long-stick midfielder Mike Ehrhardt and close man Goran Murray. On the other end, the Terps' offense, buoyed by senior midfielder Mike Chanenchuk, will look to put rubber on Cavaliers freshman goalie Matt Barrett.

2. No. 4 North Carolina (7-2) at No. 10 Johns Hopkins (5-2), 2 p.m. Saturday
How much will we see of Tar Heels faceoff man R.G. Keenan? He went 0-for-6 in limited action last week since returning from injury. With Stephen Kelly sidelined by an undisclosed injury against Maryland, Brent Armstrong (6-for-16) helped pick up some of the slack against former U.S. under-19 team teammate Charlie Raffa, who finished 16-for-23 in a losing effort.

3. No. 7 Notre Dame (3-2) at No. 9 Syracuse (4-3), Noon Saturday
Hate to beat a dead horse, but Syracuse faces yet another tough faceoff matchup. Notre Dame's O'Connor has a 70.1 win percentage so far this season and the Irish already showed their blueprint for ACC success with wins over North Carolina and Virginia.

4. No. 13 Penn (3-3) at No. 11 Yale (4-2), 1 p.m. Saturday
Another conference tilt that will help figure out the Ivy League pecking order. Penn is searching for its first league win. The Quakers have lost to Princeton 15-12 and Cornell 17-9. Yale has lost to Cornell 11-9 and beaten Princeton 16-15 in a back-and-forth thriller on Saturday.

5. No. 19 Towson (7-2) at Hofstra (5-3), 7 p.m. Saturday
A good old fashioned CAA battle under the lights on Hempstead Turnpike. The winner will remain unbeaten in conference play and likely keep a spot in the top 20. The loser will be handed its first league loss. It's Towson's first big test since being blown out by Johns Hopkins and Loyola in February. They've won six straight since.

Honorable mention: Notre Dame at Ohio State, 4 p.m. Tuesday; Georgetown at Villanova, 7 p.m. Tuesday; Bryant at Providence, 7 p.m. Tuesday; Loyola at Colgate, Noon Saturday; Harvard at Duke, Noon Saturday; Denver at Georgetown, 1 p.m. Saturday; Villanova at Penn State, 2 p.m. Saturday

End Lines

Who is No. 1? The major national rankings say either 8-1 Loyola or 8-0 Cornell. We at LM have the Big Red first. It's a close argument, but it's really just an argument for argument's sake, which of course can be fun sometimes. From this view, it looks like each of current top 10 teams in the LM Top 20 have a legitimate shot at winning an NCAA title come Memorial Day weekend.

There likely will be more new No. 1-ranked teams as this season goes on. It's extremely hard to go undefeated, although Cornell has gotten through a tough part of its schedule with Virginia, Penn and Yale behind it. An April 8 tilt with Syracuse and regular-season finale with Princeton at the Battle of Bethpage on Long Island on April 26 present the tougest matchups. Then, of course, comes the Ivy League tournament.

Loyola has four straight Patriot League games upcoming and closes the regular season with Johns Hopkins before the newly-expanded six-team Patriot League tournament gets underway. The Greyhounds, too, appear to have the toughest portion of their schedule behind them, although they eked by Army and Georgetown with one-goal wins.

Meanwhile, the ACC merry go-round continues with all six teams consistently in the top 10 no matter the outcomes on a particular weekend. The order just changes, but Duke, North Carolina, Maryland, Notre Dame and Virginia have leg up on Syracuse, which is 0-3 in the ACC, at this point. If the Orange can somehow figure out a way to Band-Aid a gnarly faceoff situation and Johns Hopkins coninutes to come into its own in its final independent season, their chances for glory will increase.

Bring on the second half of the season.

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