July 9, 2011

Notice Me: The U19 Defenseman's Dilemma

by Brian Logue | LaxMagazine.com

CATONSVILLE, Md. - How are you supposed to stand out when part of your job is to not get noticed? That’s the dilemma for the 36 defensemen trying out for the 2012 U.S. men’s U19 lacrosse team this week at UMBC.

“I was kind of debating what I should do,” said John Kelly, a recent graduate of the Bullis School (Md.) headed to Johns Hopkins. “I consider myself more of a position player than a takeaway guy. It’s tough to stand out, but I think these guys know what they’re looking for and know what they’re doing. I figure if I play well, then they’ll see me.”

Tanner Ottenbreit, a longstick middie from Regis Jesuit in Colorado headed to Virginia, felt the same way.

“It’s a little tougher,” said Ottenbreit, who does have the added benefit of faceoff experience on his resume. “To get noticed you have to be a little more flashy, and if you want to be flashy you get beat more easily. You have to try to stick to your body defense.”

The level of players they’re playing against, makes it that much tougher.

“There’s no kids that don’t deserve to be here, everyone’s really good,” said Kelly. “You can’t underestimate anyone. Everyone’s going to give you their 100 percent and everyone’s really good. You have to be ready to play at all times.”

That’s part of the reason Kelly said he decided to play the style he’s more comfortable playing.

“I knew everyone was good, so I can’t go crazy and throw a lot of crazy checks and pressure the ball too hard because I’m going to end up getting beat,” said Kelly. “My take on it was, I’m going to play good position, try to talk a lot and show that I’m a good communicator and play within the system and be a good teammate.  I think that’s what they’re looking for, they’re trying to win this thing.”

While many of these players have played against each other over the years, the national scope of the tryouts, the high level of play, and the chance to represent your country makes it a unique event. There are players from 20 states competing in the tryout.

“It’s been awesome,” said Ottenbreit. “I’m playing against everyone that I’m going to be playing against in college, and we’ve got like 10 Virginia kids out here so I got to meet a couple more guys that will be coming up after me.”

One of the Virginia kids coming up after Ottenbreit is another Colorado product, midfielder Matt Florence. Florence is a rising senior at Kent Denver who has verbally committed to Virginia.  He’s one of several non-East Coast players who have stood out at the tryouts. Another has been attackman Connor Buczek from St. Xavier in Ohio. Buczek, headed to Cornell this fall, is coming off a high school season in which he scored 147 points (85g, 62a) while leading his school to the Ohio state quarterfinals.

The tryouts opened on Thursday afternoon, but Thursday’s night’s session was wiped out due to rain. The players had three sessions of tryouts on Friday, but after Saturday morning’s session, the selectors decided to give the players the afternoon off. They’ll have another session on Saturday evening before wrapping up the tryouts on Sunday morning.  It’s a lot of lacrosse crammed into a short amount of time, but the selection committee wants to give the players as much as time as possible to shine.

“It’s a marathon tryout, not a sprint,” said Ottenbreit. “You’ve got be able to play the whole weekend.”

The 23-member team that will compete in the 2012 Federation of International Lacrosse Men’s U19 World Championship in Finland will be named on Monday on www.laxmagazine.com and www.uslacrosse.org.

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