Practice pennies, neon green laces, new faces and the promise of a new season not far off -- all signs point to fall ball, college lacrosse's annual rite of initiation.
With 2010 in the books and 2011 in mind, LMO's "Fall Ball Blitz" series checks in with coaches and players around the country for the latest developments.
RECENT "FALL BALL
BLITZ" STORIES | ARCHIVE
Fantastic Four: Towson Freshmen Create Buzz
by Corey McLaughlin | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff
Towson midfielder Andrew Hodgson pulls away from a Lehigh defender during an Oct. 9 scrimmage in the Colleluori Classic. Hodgson headlines a deep freshman class for the Tigers.
© Kevin P. Tucker
Nick Galasso grabbed most of the national headlines as the top lacrosse recruit in the country during his high school career (and his name admittedly appears in this article first). But at West Islip on Long Island, close observers knew the unmistakable impact Galasso's classmate, Andrew Hodgson, had on the Lions' program, particularly on their back-to-back state championship teams in 2009 and 2010.
Hodgson, a midfielder and current Towson freshman, often played second fiddle to the North Carolina-bound Galasso, the attackman who finished high school as Long Island's all-time scoring leader. But at the end of their stellar run as Lions, when blue, gold and white hats were made up to celebrate their career and championships, the hats included emblems of Galasso's No. 5 and Hodgson's No. 11 -- and no one else's jersey number.
"He's tight with both hands, can stick the ball, he can play defense. He's good. He's very good," Towson coach Tony Seaman said of the dynamic, athletic Hodgson, who had 51 goals and 44 assists as a senior and won 55 percent of faceoffs. "I try to downplay that as much as I can, but I think he's every bit as good in the midfield as what Galasso does on attack, maybe even more as far as overall impact. We're thrilled with him."
Hodgson may have scored the most overlooked 95 points for a state title-winning team in the country last spring, but he is set up to make an impact his freshman season at Towson. Not only because of his talent, but also because a fluid midfield situation at Towson calls for it. The Tigers graduated Christian Pastirik, who played midfield and attack, and midfielder Will Harrington. They were the team's top two scorers last season.
"He's going to play," Seaman said of Hodgson after watching him up close during fall ball.
Hodgson's not the only freshman who will probably see time.
Tom DeNapoli, another versatile Long Island midfielder from Lynbrook, has proven himself worthy of playing time through fall ball.
"He is as good an athlete that's ever been here, all-around," Seaman said of DeNapoli, who starred at football (quarterback/running back), basketball and lacrosse at Lynbrook. "I'm still shocked that big-time football didn't go after him. Now that he's going to be a lacrosse player, everybody's probably going to say to me by the end of his sophomore year, 'Where did that kid come from?' In the weight room, running and sprints, everything he does he's No. 1 or No. 2. He's 6-1 and 190 pounds, tough and could easily be our starting defensive midfielder, but that's where we probably have the very most experience."
DeNapoli would have to debunk Peter Mezzanotte, a stalwart who enters his fourth season as Towson's starting defensive midfielder.
Midfielders Robby Zoppo (Calvert Hall, Md.) and Zach Brown (Governor's Academy, Mass.) have also risen to the top of a huge group of Towson freshmen -- 21 overall, true and redshirt. With Hodgson, DeNapoli, Zoppo and Brown leading the way, it's a solid first-year group.
"Those four kids have made the seniors and juniors more nervous than anybody else," Seaman said. "Our main interest this fall was to look at our sophomore juniors and seniors who are returning who've been on the cusp or borderline of playing and not playing. See if any of them made some gains over the summer and give us a reason to not put as much on emphasis on these four freshmen. But these four freshmen have proven themselves this fall. We really need to take an honest look at them, especially the Hodgson kid and DeNapoli. Those two kids are going to play."
All four are versatile, too, Seaman said.
"They can all play attack. DeNapoli played both, Hodgson could easily play attack. He could be anything I want him to be," he said. "Zoppo played attack for Calvert Hall as a senior, midfield as junior. And Brown is an attack-midfielder. That gives us some versatility. We'll probably run some more invert than we have in the past."
FALL BALL BLITZ
2010 Record: 7-8
2010 in Review: Towson reached the CAA championship game for the second straight year and lost for the second straight year, this time to Delaware, 12-9. The Tigers missed the NCAA tournament, and it was thought that Seaman's job was in jeopardy because of that, but in June he signed a new three-year contract through 2013.
Goodbye ... Chris Pastirik and Will Harrington. The team's top two scorers last season with 47 and 34 points, respectively, graduated and left some holes on offense. Senior attackman Tim Stratton (15 goals, 18 assists in 2010) will be asked to lead the unit. Junior midfielder Carl Iacona, who sat out fall ball with a knee injury but will likely be cleared to play in two weeks, should also see an increased offensive role.
Hello ... Besides the "four freshmen," Towson has two redshirt freshmen on defense who will try to work into a unit that includes returning starter Marc Ingerman, and juniors Kevin Lalley and Mike Landy. Ben Strauss (Lynbrook, N.Y.), played three games in 2010 before going down with a knee injury, but "proved he can play at this level," Seaman said. John Fennessy (Yorktown, N.Y.), a US Lacrosse high school All-American, also took a medical redshirt last season and could play a lot this year, Seaman said.
Offseason Developments: Seaman signed the contract through 2013 and former Johns Hopkins assistant coach Dave Allan joined the Towson staff. Allan's son, Mike, is the Tigers' offensive coordinator.
Big Question: "The big question is our midfield," Seaman said. With the graduation of Pastirik and Harrington, the talented freshmen midfielders may play large roles for the Tigers as they embark on a tough spring schedule. They have early-season games against Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Mount St. Mary's, Maryland and Navy. "It's nice to have some great freshman that you can talk about to everybody, but they're still freshmen and that's scary to me," Seaman said.
A question that may also arise at some point during the season is, "Who is Towson's starting goalie?" The Tigers appear to have two capable starters in senior Travis Love and redshirt sophomore Andrew Wascavage. Love was the starter last season, posting a 9.24 goals against average and 55.6-percent save percentage.
"Love is back and did a great job, and he's being pushed as hard as anybody can by Andrew Wascavage," Seaman said. "Right now, before the season starts, it's a wonderful situation to think that you have two Division I, potential All-American goalies. It's horrible during the season, with all kinds of controversy. They both played well this fall."
Fall Schedule: Towson held an alumni game Oct. 2 and scrimmaged Villanova and Lehigh Oct. 9 and 10 at the Colleluori Classic. The Tigers have now entered the individual workouts portion of their fall. Players go through hour-long workouts about twice per week, going through position-specific drills.