“…this post-Stanwick/Canadian box inspired two-man era, teams just don’t necessarily need a premier Rabil-like midfielder, or a Powell-like attackman to draw slides and generate offense. Now, it’s all picking, re-picking, screening and big-little games from behind…”
Obviously, the spread of lacrosse has made more quality players available for more teams. And it’s not just raw athletes still trying to learn the sport. Slick-sticked offensive studs like Baum, Loyola’s Mike Sawyer (Waxhaw, N.C.), Hopkins’ Lee Coppersmith (Boca Raton, Fla.), Virginia’s Rob Emery (San Francisco, Calif.), Cornell’s Roy Lang (Mill Valley, Calif.) and North Carolina’s Thomas Wood (Dallas), all made an impact this season. And coaches continued to outsource various offensive duties to Canadians with alarming regularity.
Not only is there more talent, particularly offensive talent, to go around for more programs. Offensive sets have become smarter and more efficient and not as reliant on unique kinds of players.
In the early parts of the century, scoring goals in the post-season meant having premier athletes who could always run by their guy. Because those types of players are rare and generally easily identifiable in high school, they usually end up playing for a couple programs with history or warm weather or both. That’s why the Tewaaraton winner was almost always an offensive stud who just led his team to the championship. Ned Crotty, Mike Leveille, Kyle Harrison, Mike Powell and Matt Ward all fit the mold.
So a team like Denver can put the rest of the country on notice with a heavy dose of box influenced pick-and-rolls. Or Maryland– who relied on those grinding two-man games that could make paint dry — reached the final despite not having much of a bonafide offensive star. Loyola won the title when its two best offensive players, Eric Lusby and Sawyer, were of the planted-feet, catch-and-shoot variety.
The media-friendly “parity” meme has been hashed and re-hashed. Usually there hasn’t been much to pin it on other than some early-season upsets or a rogue school making some playoff noise. Whether Loyola’s win was just be a right mix of lock-down defensive midfielders, veteran leadership, and some slingers on offense, or the ushering in of a new era remains to be seen.
But as the nation’s talent base grows and early recruiting makes it even harder to identify who the best kids are; and as offenses continue to find ways to score settled goals without “Rabil-esque” midfielders, winning will likely be even harder to contain to the upstate New York, ACC or Homewood sightlines.