July 1, 2012

Future on Display at Under Armour All-America Games

by Matt Forman | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Denver-bound Gordie Koerber scored three goals, including the eventual game winner in the South boys' 12-11 win Saturday night. Koerber is a crafty lefty who "plays Canadian," South coach Ryan Boyle said. "I told him, 'Denver is a perfect fit for you.'"
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

TOWSON, Md. — Who are the stars of tomorrow? Lacrosse fans were offered a glimpse into the future Saturday, when 88 of the nation's top incoming college freshmen — 44 boys and 44 girls — finished their high school careers Saturday at the Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Classic at Towson's Johnny Unitas Stadium.

Three years ago, Tewaaraton Award winners Peter Baum and Katie Schwarzmann shined on this same stage. So who's the next Baum, or Schwarzmann?

Maybe Gordie Koerber (Denver) and Taylor Cummings (Maryland), who were named the day's most valuable players, even if those are gaudy expectations. Either way, future major college contributors we'll hear about at the NCAA level for seasons to come were everywhere.

Koerber, the Baltimore native from Gilman School, took three shots and finished all three, including the eventual game-winner, to pace all scorers in the South's 12-11 win Saturday night. The South held a 9-5 halftime advantage, but the North surged back and even had a chance to tie the game after forcing a turnover and calling timeout in the South end with 11 seconds left. But Luke Aaron (Duke) corralled a sidewinding shot on the right wing from James Pannell (Virginia), Rob's younger brother, to preserve the game.

In the girls game earlier in the day, Cummings and Corinne Etchison (Georgetown), teammates on Lacrosse Magazine's high school girls' national No. 1 McDonogh (Md.), led the South to a 25-13 victory, as each posted a UA All-America Game record eight points. It was a record-setting fame of epic proportions: The teams combined to set new marks for total goals (38) and goals in a half (25), while the South established team marks of 17 at the half and 25 total. The 12-goal differential was the greatest margin of victory in event history.

Here are some other sights, notes and reaction from Towson:

Go West, Young Man

Koerber, a humble and gracious MVP winner, deflected praise and credited his teammates for putting him in good positions to score.

"I had a lot of great players around me, and they made my job easy. I just stuck a couple close ones," he said. "To win MVP was a great honor. I'm humbled to even be at this event."

But those around Koerber didn't shy away from praising his three-goal performance.

"Me and Gordie are really tight. We're real good friends, and we hang out all the time," Spencer Parks (North Carolina) said. "We've played with each other a few times, and so we kind of know where the other is going to be. He's a skilled shooter. A really good shooter."

Parks set up the eventual game-winner when he dodged hard down the right alley and skipped a pass through traffic to Koerber, who fired low-to-low for the score.

"That play, I just saw him open and slung one into him. He was there, and he finished it," Parks said. "I just knew that if I hit him in his stick, he was going to finish it."

Koerber is a crafty lefty who "plays Canadian," said South coach Ryan Boyle, the four-time All-American at Princeton and five-time MLL All-Star.

"Gordie catches everything. He's got great wrists," Boyle said. "He's a heady player. He knows how to get open. When he gets the ball, and he catches everything, then he finishes everything. I told him, 'Denver is a perfect fit for you.'"

Koerber smiled when he said he has "no clue what the deal is, or what to expect," going to Denver next year, but added that offensive coordinator Matt Brown's Canadian-infused "system is pretty similar to the way I play, so I'm real excited to get out there."

Koerber's left-handed finishing ability could make him a logical candidate to slide into the role previously played by All-American Mark Matthews, now with the MLL's Denver Outlaws.

Local Flavor

Four Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) teams ranked in Lacrosse Magazine's final high school boys' top-25 poll, highlighted by national No. 2 Calvert Hall (Md.). Several former Baltimore-area prep stars made sure to show off the strength of local lacrosse, and as Koerber said, "the MIAA had a real nice showing."

"I know some of them, particularly the guys from Gilman — Gordie, Jake Matthei, Robby Haus — and other guys from Trilogy like Pat Kelly, Evan Connell and Kelton Black, and I know some of the names from seeing headlines and whatnot," said Boyle, a Gilman graduate. "It was a pleasure to see them shine, and know that the MIAA is in good hands. They're all off to great schools next year. I'm excited to see them continue their careers."

Along with Koerber's hat trick, Black (Calvert Hall/Johns Hopkins), Ryan Brown (Calvert Hall/Johns Hopkins) and Deemer Class (Loyola Blakefield/Duke) each scored a pair of goals for the South. Parks (St. Paul's) tacked on three points, and Charlie Schnider (Landon School/Ohio State) added two.

Seeing Baby Blue

Parks, an evasive attackman with nifty moves, was one of eight North Carolina recruits named to the UA All-America Game rosters, which tied an event record. Three of those Tar Heels — Michael Tagliaferri, Steve Pontrello and Brent Armstrong — didn't play Saturday since they were in Mountain Lakes, N.J., with the U.S. Under-19 men's national team preparing for the world championships in Finland.

"To have [eight North Carolina commits] says a lot. It says we're a talented class," Parks said. "It's going to help us in the long run. Some of us hung out when we went on our official visit, and we haven't seen each other in a while. We still have Facebook groups, chats, emails, all sorts of stuff to stay in touch. But it was a great way to get back together."

The others headed for Chapel Hill: Zach Powers, Upper Arlington (Ohio); Kelly, Calvert Hall (Md.); and Mathei, Gilman School (Md.).

Young Froc

Jake Froccaro, younger brother of Princeton midfielder and second-leading scorer Jeff, made a case for MVP, even in the losing effort. Froccaro (Princeton) scored two goals, won 12-of-16 faceoffs and picked up eight ground balls.

"Jake's a warrior. He battled hard," said North coach Jesse Hubbard, the three-time All-American at Princeton and three-time MLL scoring leader.

Garden City's Devin Dwyer (Harvard) and Salisbury School's Mikey Morris (Johns Hopkins) were the other North scorers with more than one goal.

Hop To It

Morris, Brown and Black scored two goals each, giving Johns Hopkins recruits six of the game's 23 goals.

Morris clanked the pipe on a couple early scoring chances, though he showed a knack for the highlight-reel play. His goals came on a time-and-room laser, and a quick-stick inside finish.

Brown scored the first goal of the game, falling over while shooting low-to-high, and tacked on another at the start of the second quarter by converting a close-range shot on the doorstep.

Both of Black's goals came in the second quarter, as he connected on a righty sniper coming across the middle, then bowled over his defender running down the lefty alley before hitting the bounce-shot.

Psyched To See It

The sight of future Hopkins fixtures showing off their potential must have pleased Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala, who was seen talking with several players on the field after the game.

Other coaches identified in attendance: Denver's Bill Tierney, Hofstra's Seth Tierney, Penn State's Jeff Tambroni and Michigan's John Paul, who landed his first UA All-America recruit in La Costa Canyon (Calif.)'s Brendan Gaughan.

True to Your School

Conestoga (Pa.) and Calvert Hall (Md.) each had four players selected for the South roster — one shy of tying the event record for an individual program.

Black, Brown, Kelly and defenseman Evan Connell represented the Cardinals, which lost 11-10 in late March head-to-head to national No. 7 Conestoga, the PIAA champs. The Pioneers present on Saturday included: Bradlee Lord (Maryland, Connor Frisina (Delaware), Jamie Ikeda (Duke) and Miles Thomas (Drexel).

Lord, dodging from behind, gave the South an early 3-1 lead on an impossible-angle lefty shot over the shoulder of Dan Marino (Garden City/Virginia).

On the other end, Thomas was seemingly in the middle of every play. He picked up a team-high seven ground balls and tied the game-high with three caused turnovers, while getting out in transition.

"Miles Thomas and Jamie Ikeda, they're special. We had Ikeada everywhere on the field, and I had to ask Miles if he didn't want to go back in the game, because it seemed like he was always on the field," Boyle said. "I was busting their chops, because we wanted to win the ground ball battle, and the Philly guys I know are always scrappy and pick those up. I've had a chance to play with a lot of Philly guys in college and professionally, and it's just great lacrosse. You can see why Conestoga has had all the success they've had."

Thomas, a rangy and athletic long-stick midfielder, might have been the second-best pole on Conestoga one year ago, as he played behind 2011 Under Armour selection Brian Dailey (Duke). He could help the Dragons fill the shoes of graduating All-CAA long-stick Frank Tufano.

North Quick Hits

- Hubbard called defenseman Bobby Duvnjak (Manhasset, Harvard) "an animal." Duvnjak won 4-of-5 faceoffs, picked up five ground balls and caused three turnovers. He showed strong 1-on-1 cover skills and a knack for clearing the ball.

- Midfielder Sammy Davis (The Governor's Academy/Penn State) "was flying up and down the field," Hubbard said. Davis, explosive and athletic, scored in the first quarter on aggressive dodge down the right alley, baiting his defender with a stutter-step and then finishing on a bounce-shot.

- Darien (Conn.) teammates Case Matheis (Duke) and Henry West (Cornell), who led the Blue Wave to a Class M state title, were two of the game's more anticipated players. Matheis, dealing with a hip flexor injury suffered in the state finals, finished with one assist, but showed off his shiftiness and showed no ill effects from a torn lateral meniscus at the end of his junior season. West had 1 and 1, and flashed some of the game's best dodging skills from the midfield. He was slowed last year by a hairline fracture in his left leg, but didn't let that stop him as a senior.

- Nick Doktor (Irondequoit/Penn) missed several weeks this spring with a separated shoulder, though he looked fine Saturday. Doktor scored at the end of the first quarter on a fastbreak, faking high and burying the ball low.

Light the Lamp

It took nearly one minute, 20 seconds for the first goal of the girls' game to be scored — the North's Madison Acton (Duke) sliced between two defenders slipped a shot over the goalie's shoulder — and the teams continued to score at roughly that pace for the rest of the afternoon, combining for 38 goals.

The game featured a frantic, up-and-down scoring pace. In the stadium press box, someone joked: "We're in a scoring drought. Neither team has scored for two-and-a-half minutes. The South is slowing it down."

Not really, though the South scored only eight second-half goals.

"This was unbelievable. It was so great to have so many talented players. Everywhere you turned, there was another great player," said South coach Becky Groves, the coach at Maryland 2A/3A state champion Century, which ranked No. 5 nationally in LM's season-ending poll. "I watched the girls practice yesterday — they practiced twice — and I told them, 'I knew you were good. I just didn't know you were this good.'"

But Groves had some prior knowledge of the South's strength, specifically that of Cummings and Etchison, since Century played McDonogh in late April.

"I was just happy they were on my side this time," Groves joked. "They're great. They're just great, great players. They see the field so well and they make everyone on the field better.

Taylor Cummings totaled five goals, three assists, 11 draw controls and four ground balls in a record-setting Under Armour All-America girls' game Saturday night at Towson.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

100% Reason to Remember the Name

If you hadn't previously heard Taylor Cummings' name, well, now you have. She'll make sure you won't forget it.

"She's ridiculous," Groves said.

Lacrosse Magazine's 2011 national high school player of the year scored 61 goals and dished out 34 assists this year for undefeated McDonogh.

On Saturday, Cummings showed once again why she's expected to make an immediate impact for the Terrapins. She totaled five goals, three assists, 11 draw controls and four ground balls.

"Taylor Cummings is going to make her name known right away at Maryland," said North coach Shannon Smith, the 2011 Tewaaraton winner and three-time All-American at Northwestern, where she was the school's all-time leading scorer. "She is unbelievable."

And Cummings ensured he high school chapter of her career had a storybook ending.

"It was so much fun," she said. "To receive this [MVP] honor, I am so grateful. It was such a way to end my high school career."

Etch a Sketch

Meanwhile, Cummings' best friend Etchison was just as remarkable, matching her eight-point outburst (three goals, five assists). Four of the combined eight goals scored by the dynamic duo were assisted by the other member.

"Corinne really sees the feel well," Groves said. "There was one play where Taylor was open by a stick's length, and Corinne hit her right on the stick. Boom — goal. She was covered. But Corinne just threaded the needle."

Said Cummings: "She's an awesome feeder. She has the best field vision of anyone I've ever seen. She can make the impossible happen. She's so dominant scoring. She's a fantastic athlete and a fantastic player. I'm sad that it was our last time playing together, but to come out and for both of us to be successful, it was awesome. I'll miss playing with her."

Scoring Devils

The South's Kelci Smesko, a midfielder from Ridgewood, N.J., bound for Duke, matched Cummings' game-high five goals, four of which came in the first half.

As the South pushed transition and created fast breaks, Smeko's defender pulled off and left her alone near the crease. Smesko knew what to do, converting all but one of her six shots.

"I was able to get open on the crease and my teammates found me. I got some great feeds in there. I've got to give a shout out to my teammates," Smesko said. "We all played so well together. We had a great chemistry, especially for only having two practices together. We were successful because we played so unselfish."

Smesko was one of five girls headed to Duke, a game-high for the girls. She'll be joined in Durham by: Acton, Lincoln-Sudbury (Mass.); Emma Lazaroff, Fairview (Colo.); Claire Scarrone, Rumson-Fair Haven (N.J.); and Kelsey Duryea, The Governor's Academy (Mass.), who did not play Saturday due to injury.

"We're a really strong, well-rounded class, all the way from goalie through the attack," Smesko said. "We have great middies and attackers too. We're well-balanced. I'm really excited to get down to Durham and see what coach [Kerstin] Kimel has in store for us."

Twice as Nice

Two Boyds are better than one.

The South's Brooke and Kelly Boyd became the first set of twin girls to play in the All-America game, joining twin boys Rhamel and Shamel Bratton (2007), and Charley and John Dickenson (2006). In total, 12 families have had more than one family member play in the game, but nine of those combinations were both boys; Betsy (2009) and Katie Mastropieri (2010) were the only other pair of girls siblings.

Brooke and Kelly, both midfielders from St. Paul's School (Md.) committed to Virginia, were introduced in tandem during pre-game ceremonies.

About nine minutes into the first half, the Boyds connected for a goal. Moments after picking up a loose ball on a draw control, Kelly fed in front to a cutting Brooke, who deposited the quick-stick shot past North goalie Taylor Bowman (Towson).

"They have such a connection together," Groves said. "I told them they were going to play on the same midfield line, and I knew they had that connection. So the Boyd-to-Boyd goal was great to see. That just made me smile."

Keep It Balanced

The North finished with 13 goals courtesy of 12 different scorers. Only Sammy Jo Tracy (North Carolina) from Bedford, N.Y., found the back of the net twice, and her second goal was scored with just more than a minute remaining in the game.

"One thing we stressed on the attack was to be unselfish. Work together, with one another," said Smith, who has plans to coach high school on Long Island next year as her budding career gets underway. "That speaks volumes about how many talented kids there are out there. They share the ball very well."

Tracy also compiled three ground balls and three draw controls. Fellow Empire State representatives Anne Heagerty (Georgetown) and Kayla Treanor (Syracuse) stood out, and each added three draw controls.

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