Men's Tewaaraton: Thompson's Inclusion a Milestone Moment
|Albany sophomore Lyle Thompson is
the first Native American finalist for an award that symbolizes
lacrosse's centuries-old roots in Native American heritage.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com
The Tewaaraton Foundation on Thursday announced the five men's and women's finalists for the Tewaaraton Award. Each are invited to Washington, D.C. for the 13th annual Tewaaraton Award Ceremony, May 30 at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian, where the winners will be announced.
Here's a breakdown of the men's field, with notable storylines and omissions.
Marcus Holman, North Carolina, Sr. A
Way back in February, Holman was already the Tar Heels' unquestioned leader, as described in this LaxMagazine.com story by Gary Lambrecht. "We're trying to develop a culture here, where guys hold each other accountable on and off the field," Holman said then. "I always need to be doing something to lead this team, like getting more freshmen to stay after [practice] to lift [weights]. You can't take any days off [as a captain], not when you're responsible for 45 guys every morning."
Holman this year led North Carolina to its first ACC championship in 17 years. He's already won ACC Offensive Player of the Year honors after registering a league-leading 74 points. Should he and the Tar Heels make a deep playoff run, Holman's Tewaaraton case will be strengthened even more. UNC hasn't made it past the quarterfinals since 2010, last made the title game in 1993, and last won the big game in 1991.
JoJo Marasco, Syracuse, Sr. M
He's carried the weight of wearing the heralded Syracuse No. 22 for three of his four years with the Orange, and this year he has finally seemed to live up to expectations. But in an unexpected way. Marasco has 35 assists out of the midfield, and 18 goals, for 53 points.
"We've learned [he] was just miscast his entire career," LaxMagazine.com's Joel Censer wrote a few weeks ago. "He's less goal-scorer and more probing roll back maestro. His savvy, smart, unselfishness and ability to spot feed right to a guy's stick make him the perfect lead dog."
Rob Pannell, Cornell, RS Sr. A
It hasn't been all smooth sailing this year, although Pannell is averaging 5.33 points per game, third highest in the nation. Pannell revealed a bit about his mentality coming off last year's season-ending foot injury after April 27's Big City Classic, when he torched Princeton with five goals and four assists in a 17-11 win at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
"My confidence has been lacking the last couple games. I really haven't been myself all season," Pannell said. "I had my best week of practice this week... I'm getting back to my old ways."
Two years ago as a junior, Pannell was at the Tewaaraton ceremony as a finalist. The award went to Virginia's Steele Stanwick. Last year, Pannell was made the No. 1 overall pick of the MLL's Lizards and was expected to go head-to-head with Stanwick for the top honors again, before breaking the bone in his left foot. If it seems Pannell has been around for a while, he has, but he's still got unfinished business, both individually and as a team with the Big Red.
Tom Schreiber, Princeton, Jr. M
Schreiber has the reputation of being one of the top midfielders in the game, and is basically a do-it-all player for Princeton. His season-long stat line reveals that: 28 goals, 32 assists and 25 ground balls.
But Schreiber will begin the Tewaaraton race homestretch behind the other finalists. He will be the only one to not compete in the NCAA tournament.
Lyle Thompson, Albany, So. A
Thompson has been amazing this year, paired on an Albany attack unit with his brother, Miles, and cousin, Ty. In all, they account for 240 points, or 56 percent of the Great Danes' offense.
Lyle has the most balanced goal-assist ratio and highest shooting percentage of the three, and leads the nation in points per game (6.75). He's only seven points away from breaking the NCAA men's single-season points record of 114, set by UMBC's Steve Marahol in 1992. It would be hard not to seriously consider Thompson for the Tewaaraton should he break that mark, which would mean he'd have had at least one great game against Denver in Saturday's first-round, or at least two solid games against the Pioneers and either Holman's North Carolina squad or the two-time defending Patriot League champs Lehigh in the next round. Beyond that, Albany would be in the final four and Thompson would be a big reason why.
Thompson's 108 current points are 11 more than Peter Baum finished with last year when he won the Tewaaraton.
Even bigger picture: It's a significant moment that the Tewaaraton Award — endorsed by the Mohawk Nation Council of Elders and an honor that symbolizes lacrosse's centuries-old roots in Native American heritage — has its first Native American finalist. And it's significant for Thompson, too. He's only a sophomore.
With the unpredictable nature of this regular season — no team in the 16-team NCAA tournament field has fewer than three losses — and the expected unpredictability of the post-season, it's very possible that none of the five finalists are playing in the final game of the season, which has been a virtual prerequisite for taking home the Tewaaraton, save last year with Colgate's Baum, who won without making it out of the first round, and in 2001, when Hofstra's Doug Shanahan won the inaugural award without making the title tilt.
It's also possible that someone not in the final five can emerge on the national post-season stage over the next three weekends, such as Canadian attackman Logan Schuss from third-seeded Ohio State, a team that already surprised onlookers by winning the ECAC title last weekend.
If either of those scenarios play out, expect Pannell, the leader in the clubhouse right now, to win the honors. He's been rightfully at or near the top of pundits' Tewaaraton lists all season long.
The wild card is Albany's Thompson. I got a first-hand look at his skills in Finland last summer, when he and the Iroquois under-19 team took down Team USA in pool play of the FIL U19 World Championships. Thompson was limited to one goal in that game by the U.S. defense, but that's only because he drew so much attention and opened up chances for his other talented teammates. At the end, Thompson was in charge of running out the clock on the Iroquois' historic win, maneuvering around and through two and three defenders. Was it a sign of things to come this spring season? It wasn't on my mind at the time, but surely seems to have foreshadowed the year now.
Jesse Bernhardt, Maryland, RS Sr. LSM
Bernhardt had to have narrowly missed the finalist list. The long-stick midfielder is an all-field threat for the two-time national runner-up Terps. Aside from his 50 ground balls, 20 caused turnovers, three goals and three assists, Maryland coach John Tillman raves about Bernhardt's intangibles.
"When he's on the field, there seems to be a heightened sense of energy and everyone seems to play a little faster, a litter harder," Tillman said. "We seem to be a little bit more coordinated in any area of the field that he's in. He usually not only marks a pretty talented player, but when he's off ball he's making sure we're organized."
Eric Law, Denver Sr. A
Law, the former Salisbury transfer, along with teammate Wes Berg have led the Denver offense this year in the post-Mark Matthews era. Law leads the team with 64 points on a balanced 33 goals and 31 assists. Berg, a member of the Canadian U19 team last summer, isn't far behind with 58 points on 44 goals and 14 assists.
Kieran McArdle, St. John's, Jr. A
McArdle ranks second behind Thompson nationally in points per game with 6.54, but was probably done in by St. John's finish to the season. After breaking into the national consciousness mid-season with a win over Notre Dame, the Red Storm faltered down the stretch, losing its next two games to Georgetown and Villanova. They closed the year with wins over Providence and Marquette, but didn't qualify for the Big East tournament. McArdle's talent should not go unnoticed, however.
Scott Ratliff, Loyola, Sr., LSM
The Loyola long-stick compares favorably to Maryland's Bernhardt, with more ground balls (75), caused turnovers (29), goals (13) and assists (4) in only two more games played. He's also taken a handful of faceoffs for the Greyhounds. Played alongside ECAC Defensive Player of the Year Joe Fletcher.
Logan Schuss, Ohio State, Sr. A
The Ladner, British Columbia, native won his second consecutive ECAC Offensive Player of the Year award last week, and that was before the Buckeyes beat Loyola and Denver in consecutive games to win the ECAC championship. Schuss leads Ohio State with 40 goals and 23 assists. He's the first Buckeye to be named all-ECAC four times.
Last year's returning finalists: Peter Baum, Colgate,
Sr. A; Mike Sawyer, Loyola, Sr. A; Will Manny, UMass, Sr.
Remember them? The trio of junior Tewaaraton finalists last year, including last year's winner.
Baum, the reigning champ and No. 1 overall draft pick of the Ohio Machine in January's MLL draft, and Colgate weren't able to replicate their success from a year ago, bowing out in first-round of the Patriot League tournament. Baum finished with 49 points, half his total from last year. Sawyer and Manny were hampered by injury during the year. The sharp-shooting Sawyer has more time to put himself back on the minds of national lacrosse fans in the NCAA tournament, but Manny's time with the Minutemen is finished.