Over the past few seasons, the importance of face-off men to a team’s overall success has certainly been well documented by us media folk. A dominant draw-taker, of course, is the difference between a pretender and a championship contender, with Denver riding the magnificent success of freshman Trevor Baptiste en route to their first national title. Other highly touted freshmen – guys like Hunter Moreland (Hopkins), Will Fox (Fairfield) and Luke Palmadesso (Villanova), among others – adjusted impeccably to the college level to thrive as newcomers.
Call it bold, but this incoming group of 2015 HS graduates stands out as what might be the best (and deepest) class of FOGO’s to ever come through the Division I ranks. There’s a healthy mix of guys who will be asked to do a lot early in their respective careers and others that may need to wait while upperclassmen finish out eligibility. Regardless, it’s a special class of face-off men from top to bottom. It’s important to take into consideration that there are a handful of do-it-all types that excelled at the X in high school but will be ranked in the midfield category, where they’re likely to play in college.
Note: Slightly different from the aforementioned lists for underclass standouts, incoming freshmen rankings are meant to reflect how the players project at the college level rather than stats or how talented they are at the moment. Every situation differs: some recruits step into powerhouse programs and have to wait their turn behind more established players on the roster, while others will step into ideal circumstances where significant playing time is easily up for grabs. Those aspects make putting together a Top 100 incoming freshmen list not only such a tedious task but so intriguing to look back on after each class finishes their eligibility.
Tuesday’s list of Top 15 goalies can be seen here – check back over the next week or so for the rest of the incoming freshmen rankings. As always, feedback is welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Alex Woodall / St. Mary’s (Md.) / High Point
Combining a burly, powerful build (6’0, 220) with rapid hand speed and stellar technique, Woodall won 72 percent of his 373 draws to lead the senior-laden Saints to a coveted MIAA crown in 2015. Nicknamed “Big Cat”, he picked up Baltimore Sun Player of the Year honors and was tremendous during the playoffs, going 19-for-25 against McDonogh in the final. Though the Panthers return senior Jamie Piluso (55% last spring), Woodall is simply too talented to keep on the sidelines and will surely contribute this coming spring.
2. James Sullivan / Garden City (N.Y.) / Harvard
Bursting onto the scene as just an 8th grader, Sullivan won 77% during his career under coach Steve Finnell, showing an uncanny ability to not only win the ball forward but create fast break situations. He’s a three-sport athlete with an awesome motor and has done an excellent job polishing his offensive skills. With Sullivan as their catalyst, the Trojans won two New York state titles and a mythical national title. He’ll look to carry over that success in Cambridge, where the Long Island native will provide a spark to a Harvard program hoping to get over the hump.
3. Austin Henningsen / Northport (N.Y.) / Maryland
A bruiser and tireless worker with a thick frame, Henningsen’s determination when going after the ball sets him apart, gobbling up well over 400 GB’s during his final two years at Northport. He won draws at a 70 percent clip over four years against excellent competition, which prepared him for U-19 tryouts in June, making the 30-man training roster. With All-American Charlie Raffa moving on from College Park, there’s plenty of playing time up for the taking, though he’ll have to prove himself against capable upperclassmen on the Terps’ roster.
4. Jake Hervada / Haverford (Pa.) / Delaware
The star of undefeated Haverford’s three-headed monster at the X, Hervada improved mightily in his last hurrah, providing the Fords’ lethal offense with significant possession time. His best performance of the year came in the Inter-Ac Challenge semifinals against rival Malvern Prep and Carolina-bound Charles Kelly, winning 15-of-21 to garner MVP honors. He boasts impressive strength and speed, attributes he used while picking up over 100 career wins on the wrestling mat. The Blue Hens won less than 50 percent a year ago, so they’ll need Hervada’s talents in a major way.
5. Charles Kelly / Malvern Prep (Pa.) / North Carolina
A big name on the recruiting scene with both Duke’s LC and Mesa Fresh, Kelly routinely made quick work at the face-off X, popping it forward with ease to trigger offense for his squad. He’s sturdily built low to the ground, using that to his advantage against his opponents while also showing strong stick skills after the draw. As a senior, the Under Armour All-American corralled 132 groundballs, following up a great junior year that saw him win 75 percent. Early on in Chapel Hill, Kelly is expected to form a dynamic 1-2 punch with junior Stephen Kelly.
6. Richie Lenskold / Bridgewater-Raritan (N.J.) / Penn
7. Michael Sullivan / Greenwich (Conn.) / Lafayette
8. Mikey Giannopulos / Issaquah (Wash.) / Georgetown
9. Reece Belcher / T.C. Williams (Va.) / Syracuse
10. Mike Panepinto / Needham HS, Phillips Andover PG (Mass.) / Brown
11. Tyler Liotta / IMG Academy (Fla.) / Hofstra
12. Jarett Witzal / Landon (Md.) / Bucknell
13. Andrew Pugliese / Darien (Conn.) / Boston U.
14. Nick Martin / Detroit Country Day (Mich.) / Syracuse
15. Ryan Harnisch / St. Margaret’s (Calif.) / Denver