March 11, 2013

Washburn: Pannell, Schreiber Lead Early Tewaaraton Race

by Evan Washburn | LaxMagazine.com

Despite a last-second loss to North Carolina on Saturday, Princeton has looked like a top five team. A big reason is Tom Schreiber, writes Evan Washburn.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

The Heisman Trophy of college lacrosse, the Tewaaraton Award, will not be handed out for a few months, but the groundwork for this year's top men's candidates is being laid out right now.

Much like its college football counterpart the Tewaaraton goes hand in hand with team success; putting up big numbers but losing games is not going to get it done.

Here is an early look at my top five players of the 2013 season.

1. Rob Pannell – Cornell Sr. Attack (15 goals, 19 assists)

Pannell has returned from a foot injury that kept him out much of last season, and looks like a man on a mission. The Big Red is 5-0 and my second-ranked team in the nation. Pannell has led the way to early season success with 34 points and is orchestrating a dynamic Cornell offense. There is no player in the country, not even the last year's Tewaaraton winner Peter Baum, that came into the season with more pressure. Pannell is living up to the hype. He fed Steve Mock for the game-winner in Cornell's 12-11 win at Virginia on Saturday night.

2. Tom Schreiber – Princeton, Jr. Midfield (10 goals, 15 assists)

Despite a last-second loss to North Carolina on Saturday, Princeton has looked like a top five team through the first few weeks of the season. The big reason is the play of Schreiber. The junior has 15 points this season, but Schreiber's imprint on the game goes way beyond the numbers. His game does not have a visible weakness and the majority of the Tiger's goals start with a play made by number 22. Princeton takes on Cornell and Rob Pannell in the final game of the regular season on April 27.

3. Lyle Thompson – Albany, Soph. Midfield (12 goals, 23 assists)

Numbers don't always tell the story, but in this case they do. Thompson is leading the nation in scoring with 35 points through five games. He has had some of his biggest games in upset wins over Syracuse and UMass. The Danes midfielder has put himself near the top of the player of the year conversation, but Albany needs to stay in the top 20 for Thompson to remain there.

4. Jesse Bernhardt – Maryland, Sr. Long-Stick Midfield (24 ground balls, 1 goal, 1 assist)

No player with a six-foot pole can change a game quicker than Bernhardt. The Florida native plays with a controlled chaos that has opposing midfielders running scared. Bernhardt also offers a much-needed vocal leadership to this defensive end that has proved invaluable for the No. 1 team in the nation. I would pay to watch a one-on-one matchup putting Bernhardt against Princeton's Schreiber. Maybe we will get it in May.

5. Eric Law – Denver, Sr. Attack (13 goals, 15 assists)

The Pioneers have rebounded from an ugly loss to Penn State with four straight wins, thanks in large part due to the play of Law. The departure of Mark Matthews and Alex Demopoulos has allowed Law to take a more active role in the offense and has proved to be much more than just a facilitator. He has been incredibly accurate, shooting a ridiculous 62 percent. The senior leads Denver with 28 points, 21 of which have come in four wins against ranked opponents. I have the Pioneers as the third-ranked team in the country and Eric Law is their most important player.

In the Mix (in no particular order):

Justin Ward (Loyola Jr. A), Marcus Holman (North Carolina Sr. A), Mark Cockerton (Virginia Jr. A), John Haus (Maryland Sr. M), Matt Kavanagh (Notre Dame Fr. A), Jason Noble (Cornell Sr. D)

Stock Up, Stock Down

Denver (5-1) — UP

The Pioneers have won four straight games. The offense is lethal and coach Bill Tierney now has the defense playing much better. This team is gaining confidence with every win and heads into this weekend's game against Notre Dame as the favorite.

Cornell (5-0) — UP

Pannell and company are rolling after a one-goal win over Virginia. The Big Red are putting up shocking numbers on both ends of the field, averaging nearly 16 goals per game while keeping opponents under eight. Up next, Yale in New Haven.

UMass (3-3) — DOWN

Life without All-American attackman Will Manny is becoming an issue for the Minutemen, who have now lost three straight. UMass has not put up double-digit goals since its Week 1 win over UNC. I have this group out of the top 20 and things don't get any easier with Penn State visiting on Saturday.

Loyola (4-2) — DOWN

The defending champs have not beaten a ranked team this season and despite a lot of returning talent, this is a group that looks like it's still trying to figure things out. The Hounds problems go way beyond the absence of do-it-all midfielder Josh Hawkins. The offense has looked stale the last two weeks and needs more production from the first midfield of Davis Butts, Sean O'Sullivan and Chris Layne.

Evan Washburn, the former Delaware defenseman and current CBS Sports Network and NBC Sports Network lacrosse commentator, will be providing a column each Monday during the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse season. Follow Evan on Twitter @EvanWashburn.


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