October 16, 2011

Play for Parkinson's Recap and Analysis

by Joel Censer | LaxMagazine.com | Related: PFP Women's Recap

Could Princeton midfielder Tom Schreiber be in for a Josh Sims-like improvement from freshman to sophomore year? It looked like it Saturday.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Another year, another Play for Parkinson's and ProjectSpark Foundation success. Some of the best college men's lacrosse teams descended on Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va., for a good cause and some good ole' fashioned fall ball throwdowns.

The ProjectSpark Foundation was founded in 2009 by former Princeton and Team USA defenseman Christian Cook and his sister, Lauren, when their mother, Diane, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in August 2008. Proceeds from the Play for Parkinson's go toward the foundation, which funds new research and projects dedicated to a cure and treatments for the disease.

"My family and I started to ask ourselves, what can we do? What do I know and how can we make a difference? Initially, we thought about having a fall ball lacrosse tournament. So we put together the tournament and said, well, we don't want to just write check to another foundation. We want to have more control over the funds, to really look at some high-risk, but high-reward opportunities," Cook said Saturday. "And also, we wanted a medium by which to raise money over time. The lacrosse community is extremely generous."

Here are some observations from Saturday's games.


Fall Ball Priorities: Find a goalie to replace Adam Ghitelman. Avoid championship hangover. Establish roles. (For all the talent on the offensive end, there remains only one ball.)

Verdict: The Wahoos looked very good, waxing Army (unofficial score was 22-3), and were up a few goals on Princeton before the starters on both teams were pulled. Goalkeepers Rob Fortunato (a senior right-hander) and Austin Geisler (redshirt freshman southpaw) both looked solid. Starsia was pleased, but remarked that the biggest challenge may be replacing Ghitleman's work outside the pipes.

"We're stopping the ball very well throughout the fall. But where people are going to appreciate Adam Ghitleman is in the clearing game," Starsia said. "We almost always got six or eight more possessions because of Adam's play on loose balls."

On offense, the Wahoos continued the same type of grinding, attack-oriented offense that they rode to last year's championship. Of course, it started with Tewaaraton Award winner Steele Stanwick, who was more than happy to play quarterback at "X." There were also a healthy dose of those now-patented two-man games from behind, and the Cavs continued to use four attackmen on the field. (Matt White and lefty Canuck Mark Cockerton got plenty of run each as the third midfielder.)

"We kind of have picked up on last year," said attackman Chris Bocklet. "We have a lot of attackmen now playing middie, a lot of guys return, so we're used to dodging from behind and playing the two-two-two."

As for any championship hangover, Starsia seems happy with the effort and attitude of the group.

"Very pleased with the attitude overall throughout the fall. We got a long way to go and a lot of lacrosse to be played, but I've got a good group," he said.

News and Notes: Matt Lovejoy, who according to Starsia was cleared to play Friday, didn't suit up (precautionary). Freshman phenom Greg Danseglio from St. Anthony's (N.Y.) started... Harry Prevas, a slick-sticked junior who has been a fourth defenseman most of his career, looked great with a few knocked down passes and great work on the clear... The Cavs played strictly man-to-man, but Starsia laughed at the idea of bringing back last year's zone. "We played a little zone about two weeks ago. That was the plan, to introduce it this fall and fool around with it a couple days. We looked very comfortable in it, very quickly..." Nick O'Reilly, who found his scoring stroke in last year's playoffs, has established himself as the third attackman. Owen Van Arsdale (who redshirted last year and is assistant coach Marc Van Arsdale's son) looks like the fourth attackman and potential off-handed complement down low. "In the fall he's worked really hard and he's playing really well. He's earned that spot," Bocklet said of O'Reilly... The Cavaliers reminded the crowd that they don't stockpile all these athletes for their offseason intramural basketball team either. Rob Emery, Chris LaPierre and Colin Briggs took a couple of short-stick-only faceoffs... If Steele Stanwick's hand is hurting, it's probably not from some errant Chad Wiedmaier check. Last year's Tewaaraton winner signed autographs for what seemed like an endless stream of young fans.



Fall Ball Priorities: Figure out who is going to take faceoffs. Continue to find offensive playmakers/goal scorers. Establish a quarterback/roles on attack.

Verdict: Princeton looked pretty strong, particularly on the defensive end (surprise, surprise). The Tigers hung even with Georgetown and fell by a couple goals to Virginia.

Bobby Lucas took the majority of the draws and played well (could work on his stick a bit). Freshman Justin Murphy (a Landon product) is a low-to-ground, crouch-and-clamp pitbull who could be an option there. Jeff Froccaro, who doubles as one of the Tigers' best offensive middies, took a couple faceoffs coast-to-coast. Veteran draw guy Peter Smyth didn't play.

On offense, Schreiber looked like he has made a Josh Sims-styled leap from last year's impressive freshman campaign (considering he led the team in scoring last season that should be scary for Princeton's Ivy League counterparts). As aggressive as Schreiber was dodging against a pole (particularly when he had his legs the first game), and as impressive as his vision was, the sophomore thought his play left a lot to be desired. "Little disappointed in myself, could've done a little better," he said. "We're doing awesome in practice. I wish we had a bit of better showing today. I think we'll surprise teams in the spring".

Tucker Shanley (who plays with enough whip to make Andrew Brancaccio blush) is an intriguing option at the midfield. A big, athletic kid who shuffled around on the first and second lines. If Shanley can cut down on his turnovers and hit the net more, he will be a legitimate prime-time threat. (Don't be surprised to see teams double- or triple-pole the Tigers come spring.) It should be noted the Fairfield Prep product rose to the occasion against the Cavs, blistering a couple outside bombs past the Wahoo netminders. Princeton's drop-off from that first midfield is noticeable.

Mainstays Chris and Jack McBride have graduated and/or transferred, so the Tiger attack is different. Hunter DeButts is a hyper-athletic dodger. Senior Alex Capretta, who is more of the catch-and-shoot variety, played with some veteran presence. Sophomore Will Himler is probably the most balanced of the group.

News and Notes: I like Chad Wiedmaier's game. The All-American shut-down close defender is vanilla, but as Stanwick attested after their matchup, as tough as they come. Still, the senior could probably cut back on the penalties (three in the first half against Georgetown)... Senior goalie Tyler Fiorito looked like, well, Tyler Fiorito. The odds-on favorite for Goalie of the Year, the senior repeatedly made the Georgetown and Virginia offenses earn their goals. "Defense was solid. Fioritio once again was awesome," Schreiber said... "Pairs" -- the hybrid box offense the Tigers use -- has changed its name to "Oceans" (unfortunately already making this article outdated). Schreiber said his and the team's comfort level with the constant picks and screens has continued to improve. "It's coming together a lot better than last year," he said... Big, lumbering attackman Forest Sonnenfeldt (6'6", 250 pounds) had a boot on and did not play.


Matt Kerwick has taken over as the defensive coordinator in Georgetown and brought more discipline to the Hoyas' defense.

Fall Ball Priorities: Play with more urgency. Establish a legitimate scoring threat out of the midfield. Have its attack continue to mesh. Bring back Georgetown defense of old. (I grew up on Brodie Merrill, Kyle Sweeney, Reyn Garnett, Andrew Braziel and Jerry Lambe; so I'm nothing if not nostalgic.)

Verdict: The Hoyas -- who went about even with Princeton's starters and gave Hopkins' a tough, and at times, chippy game -- look like they are playing hard. There's talent at attack. Junior Jason McFadden is a smart, quarterbacking type. Zac Guy is uber-explosive, but can force things at times. "He doesn't lack for imagination," head coach Dave Urick said of the junior. Of course, there's Travis Comeau, a 5'5" 150-pound Canadian sparkplug who can fill it up. The group seems key for Georgetown, which has moved away from big midfielders lumbering down the alley to a more transition-friendly, probing offensive strategy. "A lot more fast-paced, a lot of cutting... playing more transition," Comeau said.

At the midfield, Brian Casey is a converted attackman and a good decision-maker, but not someone who is really going to stretch the defense. Dan McKinney needs some confidence. The athletic junior generally doesn't have any problem getting to the cage, but still can't seem to find the net.

This defense, per usual on the Hilltop, looks talented and seems to be playing a bit more disciplined under new assistant coach Matt Kerwick. The headliner is junior Chris Nourse. A hyper-athletic, hyper-aggressive Hotchkiss (Conn.) product, Nourse even pulled off a rusty gate against some helpless Princeton attackman. "Chris Nourse is obviously a special player," Urick said. "But after that, we got a lot of guys playing about the same level, and it's a good level."

News and Notes: Jitterbug lefty midfielder Zack Angel (recovering from sports hernia surgery) is out for the fall. Same goes for exciting d-middie Gerry Reilly and starting defenseman Bobby Boyle... Personally, I've always been interested in Francis McDonough. Coming out of Garden City (N.Y.), the midfielder seemed like a bonafide big-time midfielder in the mold of Scott Kocis. But McDonough's work at Georgetown has trended towards the defensive end. Against Princeton, however, the senior looked like an end-to-end threat who is as comfortable dodging as he is playing defense...  Guy, who is from upstate New York, spent part of his summer with linemate and good friend Comeau playing box in Canada. According to Comeau, Guy's one-on-one split-dodging prowess was new for Canucks accustomed to two-man games and pick plays... Kerwick, the former Hobart and Jackonsville head coach, has taken over the defense, and it seems like he's provided some new blood to the program. "Everyone's on the same page, which is easy to say every year. But I feel like this year we got a new coach, and everyone's got a new attitude that we can do something here," Comeau said... C.T. Fisher looks like the starter in cage.


Fall Ball Priorities: Keep young talent meshing/improving. Find a replacement for Kyle Wharton's catch-and-shoot routine. Replace faceoff man Matt Dolente's handiwork.

Verdict: Almost more than any other team, Hopkins seemed to substitute liberally, play mixed lineups and give different guys (including a whole host of freshmen) extended playing time. The Blue Jays beat Georgetown and were edged by Penn State. Canadian sophomore Brandon Benn (rocking the box pads, no less), seems to have the edge to start alongside Chris Boland and countryman Zach Palmer on attack. A hybrid player, Benn may not stretch defenses the same way Wharton did, but he gives the Blue Jays another natural goal scorer.

In general, the area of most concern for Hopkins is on faceoffs. Not only do they have to replace Dolente (67 percent), but starting LSM/Harvard transfer Ben Smith used up his eligibility as well. Luckily, last year's freshman sensation, defensive middie Phil Castronova, returns. Against the Hoyas, the left-handed Benson Erwin clone wreaked havoc on the wing, on the defensive end and in transition.

News and Notes: Junior midfielders John Ranagan and John Greeley did not play. Ditto for defenseman Chris Lightner. Senior Gavin Crisafulli looked good in a replacement role on close defense... Steele Stanwick came back to the field to see his brother Wells, a freshman attackman at Hopkins, practice his own feeding routine from behind the goal... Senior midfielder Marshall Burkhardt has played everywhere since arriving at Homewood. This season, the Ohio native looks like he settled in as a short-stick defensive midfielder... This is probably the most athletic Hopkins defense in the last 15 years (or at least since 2003, when the Blue Jays trotted out Erwin, Tom Garvey, Greg Peyser and Corey Harned). Jack Reilly is an absolute monster. Tucker Durkin is very big, very athletic and very smart. Head coach Dave Pietramala went over on the field with Durkin exactly what the Georgetown offense was trying to do.


Fall Ball Priorities: Continue to make progress in year two of coach Jeff Tambroni's culture change in Happy Valley. Need to have senior attackman Matt Mackrides continue to evolve as the quarterback of the Nittany Lion offense. Find defensive personnel to provide support in front of All-American sophomore goalkeeper Austin Kaut.

Verdict: Penn State played about even with Army and Hopkins. Mackrides is the clear maestro of the Penn State offense. Against Army, he controlled the tempo and had some nice looks (although he could dodge a bit more).

Tambroni seemed happy with the senior's continued improvement leading the offense.

"At this time last year, it was still a transition for him: the new coaching staff, the new offense. I think he's done a great job of controlling our offense, leading our offense. I thought he did a nice job today in the time he was out there," Tambroni said of Mackrides. "We have a lot more leadership on the offensive end than we do on the defensive end, based on some injuries and some personnell."

Regarding the defense, Tambroni thought the Nittany Lions' play against Army left much to be desired.

"A little disappointed by the way we competed and played defensively," he said. "But we got a lot of new faces out there trying to get used to some things. We started two freshmen back there."

As for the West Genesee (N.Y.)-styled culture Tambroni is known for implementing, he said it's "night and day" from last year. "There's a clear-cut vision."

Against Army, the Nittany Lions didn't compete on ground balls like Tambroni would have liked -- his Cornell teams were always particulary rugged off the ground -- especially against a team that plays as fast as Army does.

"Every drill that we ran every practice that we had this fall, it started off with a ground ball drill, so I was a little disappointed," he said.

News and Notes: Junior faceoff man Danny Henneghan was a dominant force against the Black Knights... Lefty sophomore attackman Gavin Ahearn missed some shots he probably should have had, but seems to have a real nose for the goal.


Fall Ball Priorities: Get freshman midfielders up to speed. Figure out way to replace Jeremy Boltus' quarterbacking abilities on attack. Find a goalie to replace Tom Palesky.

Verdict: Army played tough against Penn State, but got crushed by defending national champion Virginia. Two freshmen midfielders (John Glesener and Nathan Miller) played with mainstay Devin Lynch on the first midfield. Glesener has received rave reviews so far, and justified the hype, scoring a couple goals off alley dodges against Penn State. Senior goalie Zach Palmieri and junior Evan Danahy looked solid (but neither are Palesky).

As for replacing Boltus, junior Conor Hayes is a quarterback-like attackman who started some last year. He seems healthy and most comfortable working behind the cage. There's also Garret Thul (42g, 3a). A bruising 6'4" behemoth, Thul was a matchup nightmare for the Nittany Lions. The hard-charging right-hander might be the most dangerous attackman in the country if he'd take the blinders off every now and then. Texan James MacGibbon, an opportunistic, cagey, off-ball guy, looks most likely to get the nod right now as the third attackman.

News and Notes: Army had its usual rock-solid defense. Against Penn State, senior Larry LoRusso gave Mackrides all he could handle in their one-on-one battle and even scored a goal when Penn State overextended on a ride. Tim Henderson is about as a good a long-stick midfielder as you'll find in Division I: a rangy guy with a great stick who lives for unsettled opportunities... Probably not too smart to look too much into Army's game or push the panic button after the second half against the 'Hoos. The Black Knights had just played Penn State, are relying on a host of freshmen, and head coach Joe Alberici hasn't made any fall cuts yet.

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