High school lacrosse has always been home to gobs of parity – to use a cliche, any team can be defeated on any given day. It’s simply too difficult to predict how a group of 14 to 18-year-olds will perform from day-to-day with all that goes on in their lives, combined with the fact that there’s far more high level talent across the country than there was five years ago. With that said, coaches are opening up their schedules to play some incredibly challenging non-league games, which makes it easier on me when it comes to stacking teams up across the country for rankings purposes. This weekend, there are several marquee games taking place that should provide increased clarity now that we’re midway through April. Have a look at the games to keep an eye on between now and Sunday.
FRIDAY, APRIL 15th
No. 2 Bullis (Md.) at No. 19 Landon (Md.), 4:30 p.m.
UPDATE, 4/16, 10:00 am: Bullis 11, Landon 7 (story coming)
I’m not gonna tiptoe around it, these two schools absolutely despise each other. Heated rivalries take place across all sports and on top of that, several former Landon players are on the Bullis roster. Last year’s game was a 7-6 bloodbath that ended on a three-minute non-releasable called on a Landon assistant coach for having an illegal stick. The Bears won that game and finished in the national top five, but now the tables have turned with the Bulldogs holding a No. 2 national ranking and the Bears nipping at their heels.
However, it’s been a tumultuous week for both programs – Bullis had a starter expelled from the school and Landon took a pretty one-sided 13-9 loss to Gonzaga in a game that was 10-3 midway through the third quarter. Despite both teams holding an 11-2 record thus far in 2016, the coaches will have to get these kids to focus regroup, relying on their senior leaders to pave the way in a contest that means an awful lot in the IAC.
There’s talent all over the field and a ton of great positional battles will take place. In cage, Bullis’ Jake Simon (Taft School PG / Brown) will face Landon counterpart Shane Corcoran (Navy) while Joseph Stein (Bucknell) and Justin Shockey (Navy) have been on a roll at the face-off X for their respective squads. There’s no shortage of high-flying attackmen either: the Bulldogs’ line of Steven Shollenberger (Drexel), Alex Trippi (UNC) and Nicky Petkevich (Colgate) is as good as it gets. The Bears, of course, have No. 6 sophomore Joey Epstein (Johns Hopkins), who will need to rebound from a rough performance against Gonzaga. Fellow starting attackmen Drennan Greene (Army) and Nate Buller (Duke) are reportedly both out for this game, though Landon hopes to get Buller back from a hand injury soon. Defensively, the Bulldogs have been excellent despite being unheralded. That might be the big difference, as the Bears struggled off-ball and with defensive communication and Bullis’ attack has been tough to slow down. Landon’s capable of stopping them with the right gameplan, but it’s a tall task.
Despite all that’s been happening this week, it can’t be too difficult for players to get up for Landon vs. Bullis – the trash talk, physicality and crowd atmosphere should be off the charts. I’ll be there providing coverage via @tyxanders.
No. 3 McDonogh (Md.) 12, Severn (Md.) 7
No. 22 Haverford (Pa.) 15, Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 8
No. 23 Syosset (N.Y.) 9, Farmingdale (N.Y.) 4
La Costa Canyon (Calif.) 9, Torrey Pines (Calif.) 6
St. Ignatius Prep (Calif.) 8, Poway (Calif.) 3
Hun (N.J.) 12, Academy of the New Church (Pa.) 8
Georgetown Prep (Md.) 16, Episcopal (Va.) 9
Ward Melville (N.Y.) 10, Huntington (N.Y.) 5
Highland Park (Tex.) 6, The Woodlands (Tex.) 4
SATURDAY, APRIL 16th
No. 9 New Canaan (Conn.) at No. 18 Brunswick (Conn.), 7:00 p.m.
UPDATE, 4/16 at 9:00 – New Canaan 13, Brunswick 8
It’s not a league game but there’s no doubt that it will have the feeling of a rivalry due to the proximity of the schools and relationships from club ball. Ranked as the No. 9 private school team on Thursday, ‘Wick will hope to complete a big week (they also handed Taft their first loss) by knocking off a Rams team loaded with RR Top 100 players all over the field. New Canaan’s led by midfield stalwarts Kyle Smith (Denver) and Ryan O’Connell (No. 6 Jr., UNC), while the Rams will need to account for Brunswick’s touted scorers in Reilly Walsh (No. 3 Sr., Duke) and Alex Buckanavage (No. 13 Jr., Michigan) on the attack. Harvard-bound senior defenseman David Strupp will likely cover Walsh, though it’s likely they’ll want to pay a ton of attention to Buckanavage with his crafty ability as a dangerous lefty around the cage.
In addition, there will be of the Northeast’s most renowned goalies squaring off in New Canaan’s Drew Morris (No. 67 Jr., Maryland) and Brunswick’s Jack Stephenson (No. 46 Sr., Georgetown), both left-handed netminders. For the junkies who want to eschew their social lives and replace it with high school lacrosse on a Saturday night, there’s a rumor that the game will be live streamed, so I’ll tweet the link out once it becomes available.
No. 4 Deerfield (Mass.) 15, Choate (Conn.) 5
No. 8 Darien (Conn.) 11, No. 17 Manhasset (N.Y.) 8
Delbarton (N.J.) 13, No. 10 Malvern Prep (Pa.) 11
No. 15 IMG Academy (Fla.) 19, Seton Hall Prep (N.Y.) 6
No. 21 St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) 20, Niskayuna (N.Y.) 9
No. 22 Haverford (Pa.) 9, Salisbury (Conn.) 5
Taft (Conn.) 12, No. 25 Westminster (Conn.) 6
Brother Rice (Mich.) 19, Dublin Jerome (Oh.) 6
SUNDAY, APRIL 17th
No. 1 Hill Academy (Ont.) vs. No. 14 Culver (Ind.) at Brother Rice HS, 1:00 p.m.
If you want to see some unbelievable creativity and Canadian scorers on display, I would suggest making the trip to the Detroit area to catch a pair of programs that have churned out Division I-ready offensive talent over the years. We all know that these teams are known for what they can do on offense, but I’ve been incredibly impressed with what they bring to the table defensively after watching them multiple times so far this season.
To put it simply, Hill’s been off-the-charts this spring, especially in a 18-8 win over mighty IMG Academy earlier this month in a game I was able to attend in Rochester. They were dominant in every sense of the word, exploding for nine goals thanks to stellar work at the face-off dominance by Justin Inacio (Ohio State) and outstanding transition play. Cornell-bound Jeff Teat was his usual self on the attack end and senior defenseman Jeff Henrich (Ohio State) continued his rise up the charts with a great performance down low. Henrich and the defense will need to be playing their best ball in unsettled situations, as Culver loves to create offense by flourishing in transition.
For Culver, they’re boosted by North America’s No. 2 senior in Denver signee Ethan Walker, who has put up well over 200 goals over the last few seasons. It’s not just Walker that you have to worry about though – there are tons of other weapons, from an impressive group of sophomore scorers to juniors Jackson Reid (Ohio State) and Wheaton Jackoboice (Brown) at midfield and attack, respectively. On the defensive side, both goalies have been playing great lacrosse and the experienced group of close guys have thrived this year. Notre Dame-bound Kanak will likely draw Teat but it will take the whole unit to slow him down, just like it will take the whole Hill defense to stymie Walker’s abilities.