August 22, 2013

Lacrosse Magazine's Freshman 15s to Watch

by Corey McLaughlin | | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

Zach Miller is the total package, said Denver coach Bill Tierney.
© John Strohsacker/

A version of this article appears in the September 2013 issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

With college fall ball around the corner, Lacrosse Magazine looks once again at 30 rookies — 15 men and 15 women — who could factor immediately for Division I teams in need. These lists reflect the right blend of talent and circumstance.


Zach Miller | Denver

Denver coach Bill Tierney speaks about the expectations for Zach Miller in simple terms: "You can bet when the starting lineup is announced, Zach Miller will be in it."

Miller is that special, the total package, Tierney said. The left-handed swingman could play attack, midfield and take a few faceoffs in his freshman year.

Miller is the latest product of the pipeline of future Division I stars developed at Brodie Merrill's Hill Academy in Ontario, Canada. Merrill called Miller a complete player and a unique recruit. He played attack his freshman year, then was a two-way midfielder before returning to attack for his senior season. The Hill went 18-4 this season, with victories over power programs like Calvert Hall (Md.), Gonzaga (D.C.) and Landon (Md.).

"He was kind of something that we never had before," Merrill said, "an X attackman who could control the play and really attack defensemen. He would either score unassisted goals, or draw a lot of attention and pick you apart with his feeding ability."

Originally from Allegheny, N.Y., just outside Buffalo, Miller played for the 2012 Iroquois Nationals under-19 team. Credit Denver assistant Matt Brown for spotting and landing Miller.

Denver needs to replace the production of departed attackman Eric Law and midfielder Cam Flint, and could use help on faceoffs after stalwart Chase Carraro graduated.

Miller can help everywhere.

"He does everything," Tierney said. "He can face off, he can play midfield, he can feed, he can finish on the inside, he can play attack, he can play behind, he can shoot. This kid has it all."

Dan Nemirov | Cornell

Dan Nemirov went unrecruited, but a full starting season for national No. 1 Ward Melville (N.Y.) landed him a spot on Cornell's roster.
© Greg Wall

Dan Nemirov nearly fell through the cracks.

In an era of early recruiting, Nemirov did not receive any overtures, so he applied to Cornell on his own before his senior season at Ward Melville (N.Y.). He was the starting goalie for a team that finished No. 1 in the Nike/US Lacrosse National Top 25.

Only once did the Patriots allow an opponent to score in double figures. By then, Nemirov had already been accepted to Cornell. But the Big Red lacrosse program took bigger notice. Originally assured nothing more than a tryout, Nemirov said, his role in Ward Melville's New York Class A championship season secured him a spot on the team. He received all the team emails over the summer to prove it.

The righty will compete this fall for Cornell's starting goalie job with fellow freshman Christian Knight from Boys' Latin (Md.), sophomore Brennan Donville and junior William Joyce.

"I had so much bad luck with the recruiting process," Nemirov said. "I definitely peaked later, but I just got nothing at all. Even D-III was just turning me down all over the place. This season I had a good year and things worked out."

Nick Aponte | Penn State

Aponte was one of the early recruits of the Jeff Tambroni era at Penn State, and the Nittany Lions will be looking for midfield depth. Aponte comes from a great pedigree at West Islip (N.Y.), winning two state titles in 2010 and 2012.

Zach Currier | Princeton

Currier, Lacrosse Magazine's Midwest Player of the Year from Culver Military Academy (Ind.), will find the field somehow. The Canadian is a two-way midfield threat who had 68 goals, 41 assists, 113 ground balls and won 69 percent of faceoffs as a senior. He even played long-stick midfield.

Wilkins Dismuke | Johns Hopkins

Dismuke comes from a small Colorado high school, Rock Canyon, but his skill put him on the recruiting map. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound lefty attackman is a two-time Denver Post Player of the Year and Athlete of the Year. He posted 185 goals and 84 assists the last three seasons. Johns Hopkins said goodbye to a huge senior class.

Chris Keating | Yale

The New Hampshire native has tremendous stick skills for a long pole, tallying three goals and six assists for a Phillips Exeter (Mass.) team that went 14-5. He also played ice hockey and was a team captain. Yale needs to replace defensive mainstays Peter Johnson and Michael McCormack.

Stephen Kelly | North Carolina

North Carolina has no shortage of talent already, but any team has room for a do-it-all-midfielder. Kelly was the youngest player on the 2012 U.S. under-19 men's national team that won gold in Finland. The midfielder can play offense and defense. He had 24 goals, 21 assists and won 77 percent of faceoffs his senior year at Calvert Hall (Md.).

Matt Rambo | Maryland

Under Armour All-American Game MVP Matt Rambo will have ample opportunity for immediate playing time with several Maryland starters gone.
© John Strohsacker/

Maryland has five of six starting spots on offense to fill, and a talented incoming recruiting class, including Rambo, should figure in those plans. Rambo, who can play attack or midfield, was a scoring machine at La Salle (Pa.). He showed his talent once again at the Under Armour All-American game, setting an event-record with eight goals in an MVP effort.

Jordan Evans | Syracuse

Syracuse returns eight of its top 10 scorers from last and brings in a few transfers, but if any freshman can crack the Orange lineup, it's Evans. Lacrosse Magazine's National Player of the Year will wear the famed No. 22 for Syracuse after JoJo Marasco's graduation. Evans, who can play midfield and attack, finished his Jamesville-Dewitt (N.Y.) high school career with 396 points on 205 goals and 191 assists. As a senior, he led central New York in assists (99), assists per game (4.5), points per game (8.2) and points (180).

Colin Heacock | Maryland

Heacock, another part of Maryland's heralded freshman class, as a senior at Boys' Latin (Md.) won the C. Markland Kelly award, given to the best high school player in the state of Maryland. In his three years as varsity starter, Heacock totaled 156 points and was part of a team that got progressively better and went 44-16 in his career. Boys' Latin was No. 1 in the Nike/US Lacrosse National Top 25 for much of the 2013 season.

Ryan Lukacovic | Virginia

Lukacovic, from Long Island private school power Chaminade, is a right-handed attackman who could have role as a freshman. He tallied 36 goals, 33 assists and had 20 ground balls for a Flyers team that went 14-2 this season.

Devin McNamara | Villanova

McNamara led Loyola-Blakefield (Md.) on a Cinderella run through the tough MIAA A playoffs, where it finished on a three-game win streak and toppled previously undefeated Boys' Latin to win the nation's toughest conference. McNamara was a C. Markland Kelly Award finalist, tallying 43 goals and 49 assists as a senior attackman.

Tim Rotanz | Maryland

Rotanz became the fourth player in Long Island boys' lacrosse history to reach 400 career points. That bodes well for the Terps, who have plenty of starting spots to fill on offense. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound attackman has a good chance at filling one.

Tim Stackpole | Army

Stackpole can fill long-stick midfield or defensive needs immediately for the Knights. He comes from Army Prep after a high school career at St. Anthony's (N.Y.). Stackpole once recorded a 99 mile per hour shot at the Warrior 40 fastest shot all-star competition in 2011.

Robbie Zonino | Michigan

Zonino was an important recruiting pickup for Michigan as it got off the ground as a varsity program in fall of 2011. The goalie from Conestoga (Pa.) is squarely in the running for a starting job for a Wolverines team that allowed 11.79 goals per game last season.

Notre Dame coach Christine Halfpenny is thrilled to get freshman Cortney Fortunato on campus in South Bend.
© John Strohsacker/


Cortney Fortunato | Notre Dame

The Cortney Fortunato era at Notre Dame may have begun right where she wants it to end — in the national championship game.

In May at Villanova Stadium, Fortunato spent time watching the Division I title tilt between North Carolina and Maryland in the stands with current Notre Dame players and former U.S. under-19 women's national team compatriots Barb Sullivan and Allie Murray, among others.

The players talked strategy, and Fortunato chimed in with her thoughts about how she would fit in. Irish coach Christine Halfpenny, sitting behind them, couldn't have been happier.

"It was so cool to hear that happening because already that relationship has been formed with a trust and that bond," Halfpenny said.

Watch out, lacrosse world. Fortunato was the youngest and best player on the gold medal-winning 2011 U.S. U19 team and she was the only high school player invited to U.S. senior team tryouts.

She played varsity lacrosse at Northport (N.Y.) High on Long Island since eighth grade, developing from a slightly built unknown to a player who faced double faceguards regularly.

"The poise she's going to bring to our offense is remarkable," Halfpenny said. "She knows how to navigate so many different situations because at this point, she's played in all of them. She has been the star that nobody knew about what she was younger. Now she draws not just a face guard, but a double face guard and a triple team. She draws eight players on her in the midfield, but she knows how to manage that and find the open player."

Notre Dame, now in the ACC, suits Fortunato's talents perfectly. The Irish have developed a motion offense over the last two years that features multiple threats who can dodge and feed, Halfpenny said.

"That's a natural fit for the way Cortney plays," she said, "She is going to kick start more creativity this fall. We're going to be in for a treat."

Halfpenny was thrilled watching Fortunato win MVP honors at the Under Armour All-American Game this summer.

"It was tangible, in seeing her play at that level surrounded by unbelievable players, you see what she's really capable of," Halfpenny said. "That's what I feel she's stepping into here at Notre Dame."

"I just want to get there and help out as much as I can," Fortunato said. "The goal every year for every team is to win the national championship, but I just want to get there and make that happen as much as possible."

Kelsey Murray | Stanford

Illinois standout Kelsey Murray is taking her talents to Stanford.
© Scott McCall

Kelsey Murray falls into the ahead-of-the-curve category. Going from a decorated high school career in Illinois to a promising college career on the West Coast at Stanford qualifies as much.

But her goals are familiar.

"I loved that the athletics were so important there. It's definitely a big part of the culture," Murray said. "You walk around and there are these banners that say 'Home of Champions' everywhere. It's not something that's necessarily on the side. It's something that's really important to them, and I like that aspect."

Murray scored 72 goals in her senior season at New Trier (Ill.), where she already owned the school's single-season and career scoring records as a junior. She was Lacrosse Magazine's Midwest Player of the Year in 2012 and a US Lacrosse All-American this year.

Stanford returns all but two players from the team that won the MPSF title and a first-round NCAA tournament game, but Murray will compete for time with a group of 10 incoming freshmen.

"I'm going to go and work and play where they tell me to play," she said.

Caroline Fitzgerald | Florida

Fitzgerald is the first of three Mount Sinai (N.Y.) players heading to Florida over the next three years. The gritty midfielder, Newsday's Suffolk County Player of the Year, will help the Gators replace an inaugural recruiting class that left in the form of 12 seniors at the end of last season. Fitzgerald had 35 goals, 10 assists and 75 ground balls for Mount Sinai, which went 20-0 to win the state Class C title.

Steph Lazo | Penn State

The speedy Maryland product had 43 goals, 11 assists and 37 ground balls for St. Mary's (Md.) as a senior. "Steph is one of the fastest players in her class and her abilities will make an impact quickly on Penn State lacrosse," Penn State coach Missy Doherty said.

Michaela Michael | USC

Coach Lindsay Munday is quickly building the USC program. The Trojans already made the MSPF tournament as a first-year program. Michael, from Menlo Park (Calif.), about five hours north of USC, is one of several recruits from new hotbeds, including Annie Ruland of Milton (Ga.).

Taylor Poplawski | Syracuse

Poplawski is a speedy and aggressive midfielder who will fit in well with Gary Gait's high-flying Orange. She tallied 31 goals, 22 assists and 38 ground balls her senior season at Christian Brothers Academy (N.Y.), a 10-minute drive from the Carrier Dome.

Carly Reed | North Carolina

Carly Reed, Lacrosse Magazine's National Player of the Year, will join the defending national champs this fall.
© John Strohsacker/

The defending champs welcome Reed and her 475 career goals at St. Stephen's & St. Agnes (Va.) to Chapel Hill. Lacrosse Magazine's National Player of the Year had an astounding 131 goals and 33 assists her senior season to help the Virginia private school its fourth straight state independent league title.

Besser Dyson | Virginia

Dyson was the ying to Reed's yang at St. Stephen's & St. Agnes, and moved to an attack spot behind the net as a senior. She recorded 141 assists and 47 goals. She's already proven to be versatile.

Caroline Federico | Johns Hopkins

Federico, an Under Armour All-American, will have a chance to battle for a starting spot with junior KC Emerson, who started played in six games in relief last year and started seven as a freshman. They'll both have strong tutelage in the form of Team USA goalie Megan Huether as an assistant.

Sydney Holman | North Carolina

Holman is a North Carolina native, of East Chapel Hill, and became the state's all-time girls' lacrosse leading scorer (128 goals) as a senior and won a state title. Holman, Reed and blue-chip recruit Maggie Bill from St. Anthony's (N.Y.) will help the defending champs re-stock.

Olivia Hompe | Princeton

Hompe is a well-rounded athlete, leaving New Canaan (Conn.) as the school's all-time leading scorer in girls lacrosse (268 goals, 108 assists to go with 164 draw controls, 131 caused turnovers and 167 ground balls) and hockey. In hockey, she is also the second all-time leading scorer in the United States, but chose to play lacrosse and an Ivy League education at Princeton. The Tigers went 10-7 last season.

Erin Jeffery | Hofstra

Second-year Hofstra coach Shannon Smith will welcome the Carondelet (Calif.) attacker to Long Island. Jeffery tallied 75 goals, 50 assists and 22 ground balls as a senior. Hofstra already started an upward trajectory under Smith in Year One and this US Lacrosse All-American Showcase participant and Under Armour All-American will help continue it.

Aislinn Probst | Navy

The Arnold, Md., native was the 2013 Annapolis Capital Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year and a two-time US Lacrosse All-American. Navy will reshape its offense after Jasmine DePompeo's departure and Probst will be part of the new picture.

Zoe Stukenberg | Maryland

The Terps don't necessarily have a need on draw controls with Taylor Cummings stepping up as a freshman just last year, but it will be hard to keep Stukenberg off the field. She tallied 75 goals, 47 assists and 30 ground balls at Marriotts Ridge (Md.) as a senior. At the Under Armour All-American game, she notched five draw controls.

Kelsey Youmell | Syracuse

Syracuse will need to play defense without the Block twins. Youmell can help them do it. An offensive threat for Jordan Elbridge (N.Y.) — 59 goals, 13 assists and 19 ground balls — Youmell started on defense in the Under Armour All-American game.

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