June 4, 2014

Potent Attack Leads Division I Men's All-Americans

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

In a non-Thompson year, Jordan Wolf probably would have won the Tewaaraton Award. But he's definitely an All-American. (Bill Danielewski)

With some time to reflect and consider the season as a whole, it's time to name some All-Americans, the old fashioned way: three attackman, three midfielders, three defensemen, a goalie and one each from the specialty positions: faceoff man, short-stick defensive midfielder and long-stick defensive midfielder.

A Lyle Thompson, Jr., Albany

What else can we say that hasn't been said at this point. Even Lyle's brother, Miles, before the Tewaaraton Award ceremony, said that the honor — which he ended up splitting with his brother — should go to Miles because "I feel it should go to the best player." Lyle was that this year, breaking the 22-year-old Division I single-season points record first and averaging a national-best 7.11 points per game with 77 assists, tying the D-I record in that category, and 51 goals. There isn't an accurate count on how many of them were of the trick shot variety.

A Miles Thompson, Sr., Albany

Way back in fall ball, Albany coach Scott Marr would tell anyone who would listen about the potential he thought Miles had for a great season. He was more dynamic than people realized, and only because injury shortened his season, did Miles' stats not register as astronomical as his younger brother's. Miles delivered in a full season, tying the Division I single-season record for goals of 82, held by Yale midfielder Jon Reese. Miles averaged 6.61 points per game, just behind his brother Lyle. Three days after sharing a Tewaaraton Award acceptance speech in Washington, D.C., Miles scored his first career Major League Lacrosse goal in the Rochester Rattlers' 18-11 win over the Florida Launch.

A Jordan Wolf, Sr., Duke

In a non-Thompson year, player of the year honors would go to Wolf, who went over 100 points for the year as the dominant attackman on the national championship team. You could sum up Wolf's skill set with his performance in the NCAA championship win over Notre Dame. He had two fourth-quarter goals and four assists overall. The first score coming on a trademark sprint dodge to beat a defender north of goal-line extended. "He re-dodged and put his foot in the ground and finished in front of the goal was a big one for us," Duke coach John Danowski said of the score that put Blue Devils up 9-6 and ended a four-goal Irish spurt. The last goal iced it, off a restart in the final minute with Wolf beating two defenders and winning a race to an empty net. And the four assists? He put it succinctly, "I just tried to not force anything and orchestrate a little bit more than usual."

M Connor Buczek, Jr., Cornell

Buczek was the midfield engine for the Big Red, and in a year where it seemed the Ivy League teams and players were beating up on each other every week, Buczek was named the league's player of the year and was a unanimous first-team All-Ivy for the second straight season. He had 17 assists to go with 30 goals. One of Duke's breakout midfielders, Deemer Class and Myles Jones, were also considered, but the overall strength of the Blue Devils' hurts their cases in this individual award hand-out.

M Mike Chanenchuk, Sr., Maryland

Chanenchuk was a leader this year for the Terps, both in setting the tone for a young Terps offense elsewhere and when it came to the game plan. He led Maryland with 36 goals, six more than second-place freshman attackman Matt Rambo, and Chanenchuk was also the primary facilitator, dishing 23 assists, one-fourth of the number Maryland had as a team and 15 more than the next best. He also had 29 ground balls.

M Tom Schreiber, Sr., Princeton

Schreiber averaged 3.92 points per game, the most of any full-time midfielder in the country. Princeton may have missed out on May Madness, and Schreiber may have ended his four-year career without an NCAA tourney win, but if he's not one of the best midfielders in the country, I don't know who is. He finished with 30 goals and 21 assists.

LSM John LoCascio, Sr., Villanova

A long pole playing man-up? LoCascio did it. And he played man-down, and the wings on faceoff and was a ball-hawk in the Brian Karalunas 2.0 mold this season and throughout his four years with the Wildcats. LoCascio ranked fifth nationally in caused turnovers per game (2.25) this year and averaged 4.81 ground balls per game, among the national leaders for non-faceoff guys. He finished with 77 ground balls, 36 caused turnovers and also had five goals and 13 assists for 18 points.

SSDM Pat Laconi, Sr., Loyola

After Loyola beat Lehigh for the Patriot League title, Mountain Hawks coach Kevin Cassese said short-stick defensive midfielder Pat Laconi would be an offensive midfielder on most teams, including Lehigh. (John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com)

It's hard to quantify the impact of Laconi on the Greyhounds this season, although maybe there's a buck to me made if a ratings system could be developed for short-stick defensive midfielders (We'll get on that). Laconi would be at or near the top of any list. From playing the wing on faceoffs, to defending to the tune of ninth-best nationally with two caused turnovers per game, to sprinting out in transition for a clear or to create offense, Laconi did it all. He was the first short-stick defensive midfielder taken in the MLL draft way back in January — with the ninth overall pick — and showed why.

After Loyola beat Lehigh for the Patriot League championship, Mountain Hawks coach Kevin Cassese said Laconi would be a starting offensive midfielder on most teams, including Cassese's own Lehigh bunch. Laconi scored 11 goals and had three assists to go with 31 ground balls and 34 caused turnovers, the latter number usually reserved for someone with a long pole. Even when Loyola was stuck in the mud against Albany in the NCAA tournament first-round Laconi managed to tie for the team lead with two goals. Don't want to talk about too many runners-up for first-team spots here, but Duke junior Will Haus was as close as they come to making it.

FO Charlie Raffa, Jr., Maryland

This nod was between Raffa and Bryant's Kevin Massa and the goes to Raffa based on head-to-head performance in the NCAA quarterfinals. Raffa won 14 of 20 against Massa in the matchup of the top two specialists in the nation. Raffa had battled injury throughout his career — shoulder, knee, leg — which became apparent to a national audience in the national semifinal, when he gave it all he had, limping all over the field, before finally succumbing to injury after the first faceoff the second half.

D Joe Fletcher, Sr., Loyola

Fletcher was an eraser at times, a ground ball machine at others and in general the fundamentally-sound center of a Greyhounds defense that allowed only 7.47 goals per game, fourth best nationally. Fletcher usually took away the opposition's top threat. And even matched up against a transcendent player like Lyle Thompson in the NCAA tournament first-round, Fletcher allowed three goals, two of which were of the are-you-kidding-me-variety. He had an amazing 80 ground balls this season with 31 caused turnovers. Fletcher, now playing with MLL's New York Lizards, will look to make Team USA as the lone collegian on the roster.

D Goran Murray, Jr., Maryland

Murray went toe-to-toe with the ACC's top offensive threats, with fellow Maryland defender Michael Ehrhardt moving from close to long-stick midfield this season. You didn't hear much of Murray's name this year, and that's a good thing for a defender. Maryland was third best nationally in goals allowed per game with 7.24 and Murray was a big reason why.

D Stephen O'Hara, Sr., Notre Dame

O'Hara put together a great season as next in a long line of talented and well-trained Notre Dame defenders. He had 32 ground balls and 21 caused turnovers and was a co-captain for the Irish en route to their national title game appearance. O'Hara started every game in his final three seasons.

G Gunnar Waldt, R-So., Bryant

Waldt made a name for himself in Bryant's NCAA tournament first-round upset of Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, but he was performing well all year long. Waldt finished fourth nationally with a 59.3 save percentage in 20 games, and trailed only Loyola's Jack Runkel in save percentage among goalies that played in the NCAA tournament. Waldt played the most minutes of any goalie in the country, and made 13 or more saves against Syracuse, Siena (in the NCAA tournament play-in game), Albany, Drexel and Yale. His high was 17 against the Dragons. He's a redshirt sophomore who returns with Massa to give the Bulldogs' arguably the strongest up-the-middle combination in the country.

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