October 10, 2010

Princeton Steals Show at Play for Parkinson's Fall Lacrosse Tournament

by Joel Censer | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | Censer Archive

Princeton goalie Tyler Fiorito looked in midseason form, spearheading the Tigers' seamless transition game Saturday in the Play for Parkinson's fall lacrosse tournament.

© Greg Wall

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The first-annual Play for Parkinson's fall lacrosse tournament transpired Saturday at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va. The tournament, established by former Princeton and Team USA defender Christian Cook, whose own mother was diagnosed with early-stage Parkinson's two years ago, directly benefits the Project Spark Foundation, a group working to help find a cure for the debilitating disease.

Besides helping raise money and awareness for a good cause, the tournament also provided lacrosse enthusiasts with an early glimpse of how the 2011 college men's lacrosse season may play out.

That doesn't mean it's any kind of exact litmus test. It's still "fall ball," a time when scores aren't kept and coaches mix up lineups, divvy playing time out more equally, and have far different aims than in the spring.

For preseason darling Virginia, skirmishes against Army and Princeton showed a squad with tremendous athleticism whose own play was often marred by sloppiness.

The Wahoo miscues where most evident in the clearing game, not surprising considering UVA graduated back-line stalwarts Ken Clausen and Ryan Nizolek. The Virginia defense now relies on senior Matt Lovejoy, sophomore Harry Prevas and freshman Scott McWilliams, whose end-to-end athleticism, number 27 and long mane invite the inevitable Clausen comparisons.

"We didn't pick the ball up in every instance, threw the ball away on some clears," said head coach Dom Starsia. "Actually when you're inexperienced on defense, it often manifests mostly clearly in the clearing game which is a more instinctive kind of thing."

But despite a few unforced errors and transition goals, the Cavaliers looked solid in settled defense (although sometimes confused by Princeton's pick and screen games) and were able to generate offense -- but not always finish -- against two of the country's stingier defenses.

They also have something no other team really has: a pu-pu platter of explosive midfielders (the Bratton twins, John Haldy, Colin Briggs and Chris LaPierre) who consistently draw slides. And the rich only get richer. Rob Emery, a freshman midfielder from St. Ignatius in San Francisco, is a rangy kid who is very quickly learning the pace of the college game.

As for the Virginia attack, juniors Steele Stanwick and Chris Bocklet were solid, consistently scoring in transition and in settled offense. Connor English, an aggressive lefty dodger, looked comfortable as the third. (Here's a hint, though: if he puts the stick in his right hand, he's probably going to spin back to his left.)

Army looked ready to build upon last year's season, which included a surprise upset of Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Black Knights stayed even with Virginia's starters for a half, playing great defense despite missing the services of stud defenseman Bill Henderson, who is recovering from wrist surgery. Senior goalie Tom Palesky picked up the slack, making a number of acrobatic stops in cage.

Offensively, the Cadets were keyed by Jeremy Boltus and Garret Thul, who when he takes off his blinders is one of the most threatening attackers in Division I.

Georgetown will certainly be different this season. Having graduated a talented senior class, the Hoyas are now relying on a host of promising youths. But after struggling to consistently score against Army and Princeton, it seems talented sophomore attackers Travis Comeau, Davey Emala and Zach Guy and midfielders like sophomores Dan McKinney, Brian Casey and junior Zack Angel are still figuring out their roles.

"Everyone didn't gel. We're still trying to work out how to play as a team, but we have the rest of fall to do that," said Angel, a jitterbug southpaw who may be the Hoyas' best midfielder. "In the past, we were more used to the big guns, Kocis and Bronco shooting set shots. But this year it's more re-dodges, more east-west, north-to-south, than a set play for a big shooter."

Princeton stole the show Saturday, outplaying both the Hoyas and the vaunted Wahoos. This, despite the fact that they were missing star attackman Jack McBride (concussion) and midfielder Mike Chanenchuk, who left after being hit early in the chest.

It didn't matter.

Using a complex offensive scheme, which can be best explained as a sort of a hybrid between field and box offense, the Tigers continually picked and screened their way to goals.

Defensively, star goalie Tyler Fiorito led a stingy defense that often keyed the Tigers' torrid transition game.

"We're athletic. We have one of the most athletic defenses, I think, in the country," Fiorito said. "We're able to push out and really put pressure on the offense. If we can, we're trying to push the tempo. We're no longer sitting back and taking our time."

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