UnCensered: Fifteen Guys Who Made a Difference
by Joel Censer | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | Censer Archive
Stony Brook will need another strong performance from long stick midfielder Steve Waldeck to neutralize Virginia on the wings, writes Joel Censer.
© Kevin P. Tucker
For all the negative attention lacrosse has received over the past few weeks, last weekend was certainly an affirmation that our game is in good shape and growing. Every first-round playoff game was televised, and Hopkins versus Duke was carried by the ESPN. Moreover, except for the Hopkins-Duke tiff (and parts of Notre Dame-Princeton), I found myself thoroughly enjoying every game I watched.
I wasn’t alone either.
On Saturday night, I was out in Columbia Heights, the hipster epicenter of Washington D.C. You know, the place where jeans start getting a little tighter, the jukebox selections become a bit more ironic, and where if you’re selling a cup of joe , it better be made with some fair-trade organic coffee beans.
Despite what you might guess could be a potentially hostile crowd towards lacrosse, most every TV in the place was replaying the Cornell-Loyola game. And people were digging it. This is a good sign.
Here are the 15 guys who, in my opinion, stood out this past weekend.
15. Ryan Young - Maryland, Attack, Junior
The Terrapin jitterbug has always been more feeder than scorer. But against the Pride, Young was the catalyst during Maryland’s four-goal, fourth-quarter run that stretched the Terp lead from 7-6 to 11-6 with three minutes left to play (Maryland ended up winning 11-8). In that span, the junior attackman scored twice, and after getting hit high, goaded Hofstra’s pugnacious freshman faceoff man John Antoniades into a two minute unsportsmanlike (which led to Adam Sear’s man-up tally). I don’t know what Young (a Manhasset, N.Y., native) and Antoniades (Hauppauge, N.Y.) were jawing at each other, but I have a feeling that they weren’t making plans to meet up in Montauk this summer.
14. Ned Crotty - Duke, Attack, Senior
Maybe one shouldn’t give too much credit to the Duke table setter for scoring two goals and dishing out an obscene six assists while leading the Blue Devils to an 18-5 romp over the Blue Jays. This Hopkins team (unathletic defense, streaky faceoff guys, not much depth, lack of stick handlers in the middle of the field) is exactly the type of squad that the transition-heavy Blue Devils would feast on. Still, with senior Sam Payton dominating (14-of-19) at the faceoff X, Crotty and his patented bullet skip pass clearly made the most of ample opportunities.
13. Garrett Thul - Army, Attack, Freshman
It was boom-or-bust for the Black Knights’ freshman attacker in the Carrier Dome on Sunday night. A 6’4", 225-pound lefty from New Jersey, Thul matched up against Orange senior Matt Tierney (think a poor man’s John Glatzel) and mostly worked as the literal “big” during Army’s invert sets. And while Thul was infuriating at times (he had five turnovers), the plebe scored two huge goals in a game where the Black Knights needed to manufacture half-field goals against the Orange’s stingy D.
12. Ryan Flanagan - North Carolina, Defense, Junior
Look, Delaware should have beaten the Tar Heels. Usually a team doesn’t win 18 of 30 faceoffs, get 10 extra-man opportunities (and convert on six of them), have a pretty solid day from its keeper, and still lose. But the Blue Hens did, losing 14-13, and I mostly blame it on their inability to clear the ball (14-of-21). A lot of the credit has to go to Flanagan, the Heels’ behemoth All-American defender, who had bumped up to guard UDel sniper Martin Cahill and was tour-de-force (four ground balls, four caused turnovers) in the middle of the field.
11. Steve Waldeck - Stony Brook, LSM, Senior
I knew all about Stony Brook faceoff guy Adam Rand (12-of-19), but I had no idea how good Waldeck, who plays like a right-handed runaway train, is. Against Denver, the senior rope scored a goal, scooped up 11 ground balls, caused three turnovers, and completely outplayed the Pioneers' star LSM Dillion Roy during Stony Brook’s 9-7 win. The Seawolves are going to need a similar performance from Waldeck, Rand, and Tewaaraton candidate and wingman Kevin Crowley against Virginia on Sunday. If you want to give yourself any chance of beating the Cavaliers, you have to do a lot of things well (and I’m not convinced the Seawolves can consistently score half-field against the Wahoos), but winning possessions should be the Seawolves’ number one priority.
10. Mark Staines – North Carolina, LSM, Sophomore
Staines has been the third long pole (behind Milton Lyles and my high school bud Sean Jackson) all year for the Tar Heels. And I’m usually skeptical of a long stick faceoff man (unless his name is Jamie Hanford or Jake Deane). But Staines (one goal, 7-of-12 on faceoffs, five ground balls) proved his versatility Sunday, filling in for a struggling Michael Burns and going toe-to-toe with the Blue Hens’ nasty faceoff men Dan Cooney and Tommy Lee. Staines’ tasty fourth-quarter rip in transition also ended up being the game-winner.
9. Anthony Ruiz - Delaware, Attack, Senior
The most puzzling moment of the weekend for me was watching how Delaware responded to UNC shutting off (see: bearhugging) star attackman Curtis Dickson. Why’d the Blue Hens let the Tewaaraton finalist and deadly dodger and finisher get shut off on the perimeter? Wouldn’t Delaware have been better served by letting the crafty Canuck set a few picks behind? Think about it: guys can’t switch or hedge on the pick if one of the defenders is shutting off. Regardless, it was nice to see Ruiz (four goals), a converted midfielder and senior who hadn’t played much this season and has battled injuries his entire career, be a catalyst on the attack.
8. Tom Palesky - Army, Goalie, Junior
The junior netminder from the Lone Star State (13 saves, 62 percent) did what good goalies do: save the ones you’re supposed to and save a few you’re not supposed to (including a couple huge ones when Army went to a zone late in the fourth quarter). Palesky led the Black Knights to their huge 9-8 double-OT upset win over the Orange.
7. Marcus Holman - North Carolina, Attack/Midfield,
With Billy Bitter looking like a mere mortal against the Blue Hens (not sure if he’s hurt or couldn’t stop-and-go on wet grass), a bunch of unheralded Tar Heels answered the bell. Second-line midfielders Matt Davie and Chris Layne each had two goals, but no one came up bigger than Holman, the ACC Freshman of the Year, who provided three goals off the bench. I’ve wondered what role the freshman attackman (he’s a Thomas Wood clone, without the dirty playoff ‘stache) would play for the Tar Heels, but he was huge working both from the midfield and as a reserve attackman on Sunday.
6. John Galloway - Syracuse, Goalie, Junior
I can’t really take any knocks at the junior keeper or any of the Orange superstars (Joel White, Cody Jameison or Jovan Miller) for the loss. I thought they all played pretty well. Syracuse’s fatal flaw, that it has trouble scoring in the half-field, was simply exposed by a red-hot Army team that was winning faceoffs and was hell-bent on not giving up transition. As for Galloway, I think he was the best goalie in the country all year. (Being able to change hands on the clear is absurd, by the way.) And he played like it (16 saves, 64 percent) in his first career playoff loss.
5. Scott Rodgers - Notre Dame, Goalie,
The Fighting Irish held Princeton scoreless for the first and last 20 minutes of the Irish’s 8-5 upset win. While Princeton lacrosseophile John McPhee wouldn’t be going too far out on a literary limb by calling Princeton’s half-field offense “anemic,” much of the credit for the Tigers’ offensive woes still has to go to Rodgers, who finished with 14 saves (74 percent). At 6'4" and 250 pounds, the senior southpaw keep takes up a lot of cage, and seems to be healing from a pulled hamstring suffered earlier in the year. He also looks like he might be a legal name change away (I’m thinking Magnus) from joining those ESPN strongman competitions.
4. Max Feely - Cornell, Defense, Junior
When a defender scores, it’s usually pretty cool. When a defender scores his first career goal in triple overtime in the national playoffs, well, that’s peeing-in-your-pants-call-me-Miles-Davis cool.
3. Tim Henderson and Brandon Butler - Army, Midfield,
Sophomore and Junior
Count me as one of the pundits who totally underestimated Army. The main reason I didn’t think the Black Knights had a chance? I really believed Jeremy Thompson would control faceoffs for the Orange. But he didn’t. The Black Knights went 12-for-19 on the day. Credit the Army wings -- transition d-middie Butler (another high school teammate of mine) and longstick middie Henderson (one assist). Both Butler and Henderson each picked up six ground balls and were able to match Syracuse’s Thompson, White and Kevin Drew’s athleticism in the middle of the field.
2. Bill Henderson - Army, Defense, Junior
In a game filled with superstars, I thought Henderson (Tim’s older brother) was arguably the best player on the field in the Black Knights’ upset win over the Orange. The imposing lefty/Eric Martin clone completely shutdown Syracuse attackman Chris Daniello, made some nice ground-ball and clearing plays, and drew a penalty that resulted in a Sean Sullivan man-up goal for the Black Knights.
1. David Earl - Notre Dame, Midfield, Senior
Playing against a quality Princeton defense, the senior midfielder carried the Irish, scoring five goals on six shots (including three of the team’s last four goals). The lefty operator capitalized both on opportunities in transition and in the half-field, but he’ll be a marked man next week. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Terps double- and triple-pole the talented Notre Dame midfield.
Censer's NCAA Division I Quarterfinal Predictions
Cornell over Army, 11-10 OT
Maryland over Notre Dame, 9-6
North Carolina over Duke, 15-14
Virginia over Stony Brook, 15-8