May 5, 2009

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Analysis: Tewaaraton Trophy Finalists

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Converted midfielder Ned Crotty has blossomed in his debut as an attackman. The Tewaaraton Trophy finalist leads the nation with 45 assists and commanded Duke to its third straight ACC title.

© Joe Rogate

Versatility connects the 10 college lacrosse players named finalists Tuesday for the Tewaaraton Trophy, awarded annually to the top male and female player in the nation.

On the men's side, Syracuse's Matt Abbott and Cornell's Max Seibald fit the classic, "two-way middie" mold applied to athletic midfielders who excel on both offense and defense, as well as on man-up and faceoff units. Duke's Ned Crotty, the ACC Player of the Year, made the seamless transition from midfield to attack. Bryant's Zack Greer and Virginia's Danny Glading added new dimensions to their games.

On the women's side, reigning Tewaaraton Trophy winner Hannah Nielsen flip-flopped feeding and finishing, continuing her dominance even without star teammate Hilary Bowen late in the season. There's also a defender in the mix, North Carolina's Amber Falcone, also a member of the 2009 U.S. World Cup team. You'd also be hard pressed to call Notre Dame's Jillian Byers, Duke's Carolyn Davis or Maryland's Caitlyn McFadden one-dimensional.

Here's a more in-depth look at the finalists' credentials, as well as a stab at the winners below.

THE FINALISTS

Matt Abbott

School: Syracuse
Year: Senior
Position: Midfield
Stats: 12g, 6a, 63 GBs
Skinny: There's nothing sexy about ground balls. Matt Abbott is everywhere. When he's not swarming in on faceoffs off the wing, he's chasing down a GB in the corner and legging it up the field. When opponents wither in the fourth quarter, Abbott's motor endures. ‘Cuse can go rec-ball style and plant the ball in his stick even on settled clears, following him like a freight train as he carries the ball end-to-end for possession. He's invaluable. That's why he's on this list.

Ned Crotty

School: Duke
Year: Senior
Position: Attack
Stats: 20g, 45a
Skinny: Ned Crotty moved to attack from midfield, where he played his first three seasons, in part to help compensate for the loss of superstars Matt Danowski and Zack Greer. He leads Division I in assists. He saved his best for the biggest with 16 points in Duke's two big wins over Virginia. His shiftiness was always evident when he dodged from the midfield, and give Blue Devils head coach John Danowski a nod for recognizing the value Crotty could bring to the depleted attack.

Danny Glading

School: Virginia
Year: Senior
Position: Attack
Stats: 24g, 27a
Skinny: Talk about balance. Danny Glading recently became just the sixth player in ACC history with at least 100 career goals and 100 career assists. He poses tremendous matchup problems for opponents - do you play him to feed, dodge or finish? He can do all three. Glading, LM's Division I Preseason Player of the Year, also helped take heat off of freshman Steele Stanwick, allowing the lefty space for those lethal time-and-room shots. The attention Glading commands also benefits midfielders dodging, when defensemen are slow to slide away from him.

Zack Greer

School: Bryant
Year: Grad Student
Position: Attack
Stats: 42g, 26a
Skinny: Zack Greer silenced many critics this year, especially those who doubted his ability to produce great numbers without former Duke sidekick Matt Danowski. He also shed that "Canadian finisher" label by developing stronger dodging and feeding skills, which kept opponents honest. His standing as a fifth-year grad student on a team transitioning from Division II to Division I -- and inability to play in the NCAA tournament -- could hinder his standing among the five men's finalists. Then again, does Zack Greer need a trophy to justify that he's a great player? Doubt it.

Max Seibald

School: Cornell
Year: Senior
Position: Midfield
Stats: 23g, 9a, 39 GBs, 19-of-38 faceoffs
Skinny: This is Max Seibald's second stint on the finalists' podium, having gotten this far as a sophomore in 2007. Remarkably consistent, he has registered at least one point in 47 straight games. He's also one of the most clutch players in the country, consistently delivering in waning minutes or overtime. Cornell head coach Jeff Tambroni tried to dial Seibald down a notch in the fall to keep him fresh for his final campaign, and Seibald has delivered - spearheading the Red's top midfield unit even when cohort John Glynn was hampered by injuries.


Jillian Byers

School: Notre Dame
Year: Senior
Position: Attack
Stats: 74g, 26a, 50 DCs
Skinny: Jillian Byers broke Notre Dame records for career goals, points and draw controls this year and was named the Big East Attack Player of the Year. She led the Irish to their first-ever Big East championship, avenging regular season losses to Syracuse and Georgetown along the way. Her 31 goals in Big East regular season play set a conference record. But Byers also makes a huge impact on draws - reeling in a team-leading 50 draw controls this season. Pretty strong formula: get possessions; finish them.

Carolyn Davis

School: Duke
Year: Senior
Position: Attack
Stats: 59g, 15a, 31 DCs
Skinny: Carolyn Davis made a big splash in 2008 as the focal point of Duke's offense in the absence of then-injured Caroline Cryer. With Cryer, a U.S. World Cup team member, healthy, Davis could have stepped back as a role player. Instead, she continued to surge. Her 193 career goals rank second all-time at Duke.

Amber Falcone

School: North Carolina
Year: Senior
Position: Defense
Stats: 47 GBs, 31 DCs, 29 CTs
Skinny: Amber Falcone, also a U.S. World Cup team member, is the nation's top defender. She can make some things happen on offense in transition every now and again, but her bread and butter is the lockdown. Falcone has a strong base for someone who's just 5-foot-4. Remarkably, she committed just 24 fouls in 17 games, showing discipline to go with aggressive footwork and timely checks.

Caitlyn McFadden

School: Maryland
Year: Junior
Position: Midfield
Stats: 48g, 29a, 36 DCs
Skinny: Caitlyn McFadden, yet another U.S. World Cup team member, strutted her stuff when it mattered most - rallying Maryland from an 8-4 deficit to a 12-11 win over Duke in the ACC championship game with four second-half goals. She creates timely opportunities on both ends of the field and has worked extremely well with freshman wunderkind Karri Ellen Johnson.

Hannah Nielsen

School: Northwestern
Year: Senior
Position: Attack
Stats: 55g, 67a, 54 DCs
Skinny: Northwestern has been without star attacker Hilary Bowen (torn ACL) since early April, and the Wildcats have not missed a beat, thanks to defending Tewaaraton Trophy winner Hannah Nielsen. The numbers are staggering. The Australian set the NCAA career assists record and piled on top of it. She now has 208 for her career. Nielsen is the odds-on favorite to keep the Tewaaraton in Evanston, where it has resided since 2006 thanks to Kristen Kjellman (2006, 2007) and Nielsen.


AND THE WINNER IS?

The Tewaaraton Trophy committee has shown a propensity for rewarding postseason play, like Syracuse's Mike Leveille for his NCAA tournament heroics in 2008. So this race is still running. Ned Crotty and Hannah Nielsen have to be considered the frontrunners, however. Awards committees love a good field general -- he or she whose commanding presence and poise stands out above the fray. Crotty gets an extra nod for adapting to a new position. Nielsen needs no extra nod.


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