August 30, 2013

Versatile Athletes Vie for Team USA LSM Spots

By Corey McLaughlin | | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

Gallery: Team USA Tryout Invitees - LSMs

A hybrid spot that bridges stopping key opposing midfielders and running the transition game, Team USA has some of the best athletes in lacrosse to choose from for its Longstick Midfielders.

After the announcement of the Team USA Tryout Invitees (Analysis) earlier this month, took an in-depth look at each position and the players vying for spots on the 2014 edition of Team USA. We will be running updated versions of each leading into this weekend's tryout at Goucher college.

See Also: Attack | Defense | SSDM | Face-Off | LSM | Midfield | Goalies

It's cool to be a long-stick midfielder, and it's important too. From drawing the opposition's top offensive threats, to working the faceoff wing and sparking transition play, it's all on the LSM.

The eight players invited to Team USA tryouts at this position are versatile. They can do all of the above if a coach should ask, but they each bring their own unique flare and backstory into tryouts this weekend at Goucher College in Baltimore. Here's a look at the field:

Forever Linked

  • Jesse Bernhardt, Chesapeake Bayhawks (Maryland)
  • Scott Ratliff, Boston Cannons (Loyola)

Bernhardt and Ratliff. Ratliff and Bernhardt. They were at the head of the class of collegiate long-stick midfielders as juniors in 2012, when the Terps and Greyhounds ended up meeting in the national title game in Foxborough. They were again at the head of the class as seniors, and were high MLL draft picks. Current Bayhawks and former Maryland coach Dave Cottle didn't let Bernhardt out of his grasp and took him with the fourth overall pick. Boston took Ratliff ninth. So let's compare them once again: Bernhardt had 36 ground balls in 11 games as a rookie, and saw time at close defense; Ratliff had 37 ground balls, two goals and one assist in 10 games.

Transition Minded

  • Brian Farrell, Boston Cannons (Maryland)
  • Kyle Hartzell, Ohio Machine (Salisbury)
  • John LoCascio (Villanova)

Farrell pre-dated Bernhardt at Maryland and often keyed transition offense for the Terps. He's doing the same with the Boston Cannons... Hartzell, up until this summer, owned the record for fastest lacrosse shot with Paul Rabil at 111 miles per hour. Mike Sawyer set a new mark at 114 at this year's MLL All-Star Game skills competition... Of the 93 players in the tryout pool, John LoCascio is probably one of the more unknown nationally. But he shouldn't be. He was Big East Defensive Player of the Year as a junior, and has followed in the footsteps of long-stick sensation Brian Karalunas at Villanova. Don't label LoCascio as Karalunas 2.0, though. LoCascio is effective in different ways. He can create turnovers, but can be more of a transition threat. He'll be a senior this year at Villanova, his second year as team captain.

All-Around Threats

  • Matt Bocklet, Denver Outlaws (Johns Hopkins)
  • Brian Karalunas, New York Lizards (Villanova)
  • Dillon Roy, Denver Outlaws (Denver)

Bocklet wasn't an MLL All-Star this year, but should have been there. He finished fifth best in the league with 72 ground balls, only behind three faceoff guys and the Hamilton Nationals (and Canada's) great long-stick midfielder Brodie Merrill... During his senior season at Villanova, Karalunas was dubbed the "sasquatch of college lacrosse," by ESPN play-by-play announcer Eamon McAnaney as the best player you didn't know about. Karalunas was an amazing long-stick midfielder at Villanova and effective at that spot as a rookie with the Lizards, but has played close defense as of late in the pros... Denver Outlaws coach Jim Stagnitta has remarked that people aren't aware of just how good of a one-on-one defender Roy is. "[He] has become a real force in this league," Stagnitta said earlier this year.

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