This weekend marked the eighth year of the Under Armour All American Lacrosse game, which took place at Towson University in Maryland in unrelenting heat. The event, which features the most talented young lacrosse players in the nation, is made up of an Underclass Elite Tournament and the Senior All-America Game.
Overall, fourteen future Cavaliers participated in the event, with four being highlighted in Saturday night's Senior game on ESPNU. Goalie Matt Barrett and midfielder Matt Emery held it down for the South team, while midfielder Zed Williams and attackman Ryan Lukacovic represented the 'Hoos for the North.
For a little background, the two senior teams (each made up of 22 guys) are selected by a committee headed by editors from Inside Lacrosse Magazine, and the underclass squads are picked after regional tryouts. Check out the official website for more information on the weekend's activities here.
Let's look at how the Cavaliers fared...
Matt Barrett- The highly touted goalie out of Malvern Prep in Pennsylvania started the second half of action for the South team. Barrett got off to a rough start, letting in a series of goals, but playing between the pipes in a game like this is arguably the most difficult position on the field. Much like my short game in golf, defensive coordination and communication is the first to go when a group hasn't played in awhile, or together at all. Add in the fact that both teams feature the country's best shooters and one-on-one attackmen, and the goalie is in for a rough night.
Once he got settled, however, 6'0", 230lb, keeper finished with 12 saves (in a half!) and helped stave off a vicious rally from the North and preserve the South's 28-24 win. He made some stellar blocks down the stretch and is surprisingly quick for his size.
Barrett's presence on grounds in the fall will make an already tumultuous goalie situation even more unstable as he vies for the starting spot against Dan Marino and the incumbent, Rhody Heller. It'd be interesting to see someone like Barrett with the support of Scales, McWilliams, and Danseglio, not to mention hitting the likes of Chris LaPierre on the clears.
Matt Emery- If the name sounds familiar to you, you're right. Matt is the little brother of rising 4th year and all around midfield superstar Rob Emery. The two look almost identical on the field, both in build (Matt is listed as an inch taller than big bro) and playing style. Emery finished with a goal, three groundballs, and a caused turnover in the Senior game.
With Big Emery and Ryan Tucker returning to anchor the midfield, it will be interesting to see the makeup of the rest of the first midfield along with the second and third lines. Last year's number one midfield prospect (Will McNamara) should be fully healthy after missing last season, and it's possible to see a healthy LaPierre running some attack as well. Little Emery is a talented player and has the shot like Rob, so there's always room for a second 'Cali Cannon'. I like the addition of Emery to an already deep (Florence, Walrath, Riley, Harbeson) midfield.
Ryan Lukacovic- Luka, an attackman out of Chaminade in New York, played the second and fourth quarters for the North squad. He finished with one goal and one assist, but had some issues corralling the ball throughout the game. That could be a side effect of dealing with all new gear (they got some SERIOUS Under Armour swag), or nerves, but nothing that should be a concern at this point.
Ryan is a smart kid (plans on majoring in Engineering, so maybe not that smart), and was good with positioning on the field. He always seemed in the right spot, whether or not the ball got to him. It's hard to fully gauge from these games how they will fit in at various schools, but he's a talented player that will be a benefit to the Virginia attack.
Zed Williams- I can't wait to see this kid in a Virginia uniform. Williams, a 6'2", 185lb, midfielder out of Silver Creek High School in New York, is possibly the biggest recruiting mystery of the off season. There is little to no video highlights of his playing, but his numbers are just ridiculous. He broke Casey Powell's (of Syracuse fame) New York state points record...in his junior season. Zed had four seasons in which he scored over 100 points, two of which he scored over 170 points. He literally did it all for his team, facing off and playing both sides of the ball, often for the entire game.
Williams had a relatively quiet game for the North, scoring only one goal. However, he let loose a couple shots that went just wide, and it was incredible to watch. Everyone around me was dying for him to get another crack at an outside shot, and I wouldn't be surprised if he was shooting it over 90mph. He looked at ease with possession, and moves fluidly up and down the field.
The biggest hurdle for Williams, a member of the Seneca Tribe, will most likely be the adjustment to living in Charlottesville as a student-athlete and getting comfortable in his role on the team. Both Williams and Lukacovic are currently enrolled in summer school at UVA, which should help in the transition process. He is a very polite, humble, nice kid, and I am 100% on board with his play. I'll say it again. I can't wait to see this kid in a Virginia uniform.
I only got the chance to really observe two players committed to UVA during the underclass portion of the tournament. Ryan Conrad, a member of the 2015 class at Loyola Blakefield, played for the Baltimore team that eventually won the underclass tourney. He had a handful of goals and assists throughout the three day tournament, and looked consistent on the field.
I only saw Tyler Kellogg for one possession, but it was enough for him to stick out in my mind. I made it over to the far field for the start of overtime in the New England (Kellogg's team) vs. Long Island game, and the finish was impressive. New England won the faceoff and immediately went on the attack, rotating the ball out top where Kellogg found time and room and buried a 20 yard shot in the top corner to seal the win for his team. Also a member of the class of 2015, Tyler is one to keep an eye on over the next couple years.
Players I don't want to face next year:
Oh man, is there some tough competition out there. Maryland's Matt Rambo scored eight goals in the senior game, setting a new points (breaking Chris LaPierre and Matt White's previous of six points each in 2009) and goals record. If he doesn't start growing out an oily mullet and wear a red bandana in his hair, he's doing it wrong.
Also impressive is future Tarheel Stephen Kelly, who went 24-38 on faceoffs (63%) and had a goal and two assists for the South. He was instrumental in the South's win.
Future Denver middie Zach Miller put up a quiet five goals for the North, along with one assist and nine groundballs. He looks unbelievably comfortable with the ball, and is a constant threat to score. As one spectator around me said, "He's silky smooth." Couldn't put it any better.
For those of you that might be thinking, "Ok, well what a poor showing for UVA. Three goals? The Maryland guy got eight!", let me reassure you some. The Under Armour All America Game is a great showcase of the amazing talent around the country. Sometimes, Virginia guys excel, sometimes it's someone else. Three of the previous seven games, the MVP has been an incoming Wahoo (Garett Ince in 2007, LaPierre in 2009, and Mark Cockerton in 2010).
In 2008, a player named Chris Bocklet had one goal. He finished fifth in UVA history with 137 goals in his career. So, the game can be an indicator of future greatness, but overall, it's not the end all be all for a career.
All in all, the Senior game was one of the most enjoyable I've seen in awhile, despite the obvious lack of defense. I think all four UVA players will contribute to what Coach Starsia is building in Charlottesville, and will help rebound from last year's uncharacteristic season. Only six months or so until the season kicks back up...get excited.