As always, the Jesuit tournament proved informative and enjoyable. Two days full of lacrosse with players and squads competing from across the Great State. What’s not to like? While day one was cold, rainy, and downright dreary, day two cleared up and was absolutely beautiful. We must be in Texas in the spring!
After soaking everything in, some ideas on players, teams, and specific games that were especially meaningful materialized.
Players to Watch:
Nicholas Orme (Flower Mound / Goalie): The Force keeper looked great all weekend, making big saves all over. Orme could be one of the key factors for Flower Mound to make a run at the state championship as players must finish on the big goalie presence. There is a difference between throwing the ball on cage and actually depositing it in the old onion bag. The only rough game for Orme was against the Woodlands, but most goals were in tight. In addition, he made plenty of saves or the game may have really gotten out of hand.
Ryan Schaffer - A & Brett France - LSM (Plano West): Plano West has already suffered two devastating blows to their roster early in the year with Daniel Kravit (Jr. – Attackman) and Mikey Douglas (Soph. – Goalie) both suffering foot injuries. In their senior campaigns, Schaffer and France will really have to step it up. Both of these competitors did just that at the Jesuit Invitational. Schaffer tallied two goals against Jesuit and France made plays all over the place. Schaffer will have to bring a young attack up to speed, and France might headline the strength of a defensive-minded Wolf Pack.
Tyler Brock (Highland Park / Att): Following up an impressive 2012 campaign, the HPD2 squad is looking for consistency as many players have made the step up to the D1 squad. One player who will lock it down for HPD2 is 6’2” attackman, Tyler Brock. The Scots are a log jam at attack carrying 5 seniors on the D1 team so, instead of sitting Brock on the Varsity sideline, he will be forced to lead at a young age. A strong carrier, smart distributor, and natural leader, Brock will have tons to work with as the freshman grade at Highland Park is once again very strong. Highland Park D2 looked much sharper at the Jesuit Invitational than they did a year ago, bad news for the rest of D2.
Nicholas Orme had an impressive weekend for Flower Mound.
Ryan Schaffer will have to be the primary initiator for Plano West in 2013.
Brett France is the epitome of an LSM. Fast, handles, ability to finish, and put the ball on the ground.
Tyler Brock will be a good place for the HPD2 offense to start.
Brief Team Assessments:
Jesuit. What can you say but that the Rangers are the real deal. Jesuit was sharp on offense, way past mid-season form, drawing slides, forcing rotations, and moving the ball with purpose to the backside. Defensively, they applied the pressure! If your back is to the defense for too long, the double is coming. Do NOT wait for it.
Woodlands. The Woodlands offensive is humming along. The Highlanders were able to put points on the board. Defensively, TWHS is looking good as well. What was most impressive about the Woodlands was their offensive depth. Missing Fairfield commit, Tyler Murphy, the Woodlands offense kept moving along. The Highlanders rolled for the most part until they met up with the Rangers. Playing Jesuit at this early date, though, was the best thing that could have happened to dynamic Woodlands group.
Flower Mound. The Force are definitely contenders once again for D2 title. The Mound is sharp in every phase. They are skilled, athletic, and can execute. What will be the toughest challenge for FM is staying healthy and carrying this momentum for the duration of the season. The next biggest hurdle for FM is figuring out a way to stay in D2 as this type of program strength is fairly unrivaled on the D2 level.
ESD. Coach Kennedy took a very balanced approach to the weekend getting all of his young players valuable minutes against quality opponents. Goalies rotated from top to bottom as did all the positions. While the bulk of the offensive fire power was missing, it gave other players an opportunity to carry the load. Sam Romano asserted himself as a big time threat. Jack Beare, the crafty finisher, usually hangs out on the crease but was forced to carry this weekend. His feet have improved, and he now gets a step on his COD. Preston Crow and Will Stroud also looked strong on O for ESD. This weekend was, however, all about defensive evaluation as Coach Kennedy had all of his guys out there except for Reed Seidel who was sidelined with an injury.
Plano West. As we said, the Wolves are dealing with the injury bug. Kravit is a tremendous setback, and the loss of transfer Frederick Stucker IV is crucial. A usually explosive offensive unit will now look for its defense to become strength. That is a very real possibility with Brett France, Mac Haug, Gage Bradshaw, Bryce Barnett, and Graham Marcus locking down the defensive side of the field. On offense, Matthew Cohen, Chris Darby, and a man called Larry Blaser all showed promise for the WolfPack.
HPD2. HPD2 is a work in progress. The Scots got everyone reps to evaluate. The Scots will continue to work hard and will be ready as the year moves along. In goal, Colby Kneese (Fr.) looked impressive as did defenseman Harrison Hoyt (Fr.). The Scots’ D2 program is a tremendous asset to their players’ overall development as all of their players get invaluable game time experience.
Rounding out the group are Westwood and Hillcrest. Westwood really played tough the entire weekend. It was encouraging. The players and staff were animated from beginning to end. Senior goalie AJ Anderson even got some runs in at the midfield proving a truly, team first attitude, whatever it takes. For Hillcrest, the Panthers are definitely in a rebuilding period, but their underclassmen look strong led by a sophomore midfield line of Griffin Johnston, Austin Marsh, and Will Wakefield. This will be the strength of the young Hillcrest squad. In goal, a successor to Ward Weber’s standard of play might be in the making. Freshman Kevin Mondy did a phenomenal job standing tough the entire tournament. As a freshman, it is never easy to play the #1 Jesuit Rangers and #5 Woodlands Highlanders in the same week, but Mondy was unflappable. He faced shot after shot, letting some in, but sending many the other way. There are definitely pieces for Coach Elliott and company to build on.
Hank Likes helps anchor the defensive pressure for the Rangers.
Brian Welling is a catalyst for the Woodlands offense.
Ryan Mulka is another large presence for Flower Mound.
ESD played everyone on D this weekend, trying to find the right combo.
Ryan Schaffer congratulating soph. Larry Blaser for his 2nd tally against ESD.
Colby Kneese looked strong in cage for HPD2.
Soph. Austin Marsh will add tremendous value to a young offensive unit at Hillcrest.
Matchup of the Tourney: Woodlands vs. Jesuit
The game everyone wanted to see as the weekend progressed was Jesuit vs. Woodlands. That opportunity came on Sunday. When you watch games consistently, certain patterns emerge. Jesuit stepped into the game as the aggressor. In the State of Texas, Jesuit has established a precedent with sharp offensive execution, defensive pressure, and excellent goaltending. Coming into the game, the Woodlands offense had been firing on all cylinders averaging roughly 13 gpg (goals per game) at the tournament.
The first half was all Jesuit. The Rangers dictated possession time and finished on early opportunities. Coker attacked the defense behind drawing slides and moving the ball with purpose through X., while Lee Belland initiated from up top. Tack on a couple of extra man goals, and you’ve got Jesuit commanding an early lead, 5-0.
The Woodlands did, however, settle in and actually won the 2nd half. Jesuit started to move through the depth of the roster, while the Highlanders converted several opportunities. Hayden Stanifer and the defense did a tremendous job withstanding several offensive barrages by the Rangers to keep the game close. A contest that served both groups well, we will see how both teams continue to improve as the season progresses.
In a matchup of these two programs’ JVs, Jesuit JV took the victory against the Woodlands JV by one. A game full of skilled competitors, the Rangers ultimately won due to several failed clears and extended possessions. For Jesuit, sophomores Chris Surran and Sterling Coker showed well as did freshman attackman Mac Elliott. For the Woodlands, freshman goalie Aidan Thorpe did great. On defense, freshman defender Johnny Daniels matched up against Coker working hard trying to contain him. On the offensive side of the field, freshmen Stephen Cannon and Connor Binney highlighted the Highlanders offensive effort. The contest was one of the closest games of the tourney and a tremendous display of what we will be enjoying in the years to come.
That is our brief assessment of the Jesuit tournament. Next weekend is the Mudslinger in Houston, and the first big contest of the spring schedule, Plano West at Westlake. We will have you covered with the Mudslinger schedule and more team previews on the in-between. If you head out to the Mudslinger, please stop by the StickStar booth, as we will have StickStar Apparel for sale (cash or check only). If you cannot make it down, follow us on Twitter as we WILL have you covered @StickStarLax!
The StickStarReport 2013 is just getting warmed up. See you in the HTX!
Ryan Billig finishing in transition.
Young Chris Surran, known for solid stick work and crafty handles, looked impressive.