It might be tough to find a more competitive backyard battle than when the Kirst boys square off.
There’s the perfect amount of brothers, too, for some intense pick-up. Five boys means 2v2 with a goalie, and naturally, it’s going to be the baby of the family that gets caught in net. That’s Caden, a 2024 goalie who gets to work on his game by facing shooters that nobody his age will.
They’ll usually pair off evenly, with Connor, a midfielder at Villanova, and CJ, a 2020 at Delbarton, teaming up against Colin, a rising sophomore goalie at Lehigh, and Cole, a 2018 attackman at Seton Hall Prep. After that, game on.
“We just mess around, but we go hard,” Cole admitted. “It’s a good time.”
Maybe that’s a big reason why there’s such an impressive lineage out of the Kirst family. Their father, the late Kyle Kirst, played at Rutgers and coached at Summit HS and Leading Edge until he unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack in 2015. It’s impossible to think that he wouldn’t be immensely proud of the players and people that they’ve become.
Connor played in all 15 games as a freshman for the Wildcats this year. Colin got in a game at Lehigh. Cole helped Seton Hall Prep to a 16-4 record and a win over nationally-ranked Delbarton and is a Division I prospect in his own right. You can find multiple people to tell you that CJ will be the best of the bunch, and it’s too early to predict anything about Caden. More importantly, though, the words, “awesome kids,” and “unbelievable family” always seem to be immediately added to their descriptions without much prompting.
It’s not easy to grow up without your father there, but the Kirsts’ mom, Michelle, has held it down remarkably as her boys continue to impress on the lacrosse field.
“She’s kind of like a superhero,” Cole said. “She’s got a lot of stuff on her mind. If I tick her off, she gets really angry, but I know that she’s got so much stuff going on. She’s really special. The brother that stepped into that father figure is Connor. I look up to him like my dad. It was really bad and sad losing my dad, but it’s definitely strengthened me.”
The middle Kirst is a big-bodied attackman who’s as intelligent a player as it gets. He’s excellent on ground balls in a nod to his previous career as a midfielder, and he’s excellent in finishing around the cage. Last weekend, he helped the Leading Edge 2018s win their home tournament, the Leading Edge Shootout, via an 8-7 overtime win over Express Connecticut. He’s picked up a lot of tricks from his father, but none stick with him as much as one piece of off-the-field advice.
“I learned that you want to treat every person the same way, whether they’re the best player or the worst player,” Kirst said. “You want to treat them with respect. He was definitely the best coach I’ve ever had. I miss him, but I know he’s always watching and he’s always there with us.”
Players Who Impressed at the Leading Edge Shootout
Ben Anastos ’20, G, 3d New England / Concord-Carlisle (Mass.)
Anastos does a little bit of everything well in the cage. He’s an advanced communicator for his age, he doesn’t waste a ton of movement when he’s moving around and he’s athletic enough to take away shots all over the cage. Anastos is also a big help in the clearing game with his good outlet passing.
Nicky Bond ’18, M, Leading Edge / Westfield (N.J.)
It’s not the Princeton commit’s first appearance on Recruiting Rundown and with good reason. Our No. 53 recruit in the ’18 class was absolutely unstoppable in a Sunday game against the Long Island Tomahawks, willing Leading Edge back from an early deficit with four or five goals. Give him time and room and that scoreboard is changing in a hurry. When he got the ball, everyone paid attention. He capped the tournament by burying the overtime winner in the championship with Princeton assistant Jesse Bernhardt keenly watching.
CJ Baroni ’19, M, 3d New England / Governor’s Academy (Mass.)
An absolute bull in a china shop, and that’s meant in the most endearing way possible. Baroni barreled his way to the rack for a pair of tone-setting, back-to-back early goals in the ’19 title game. The Bucknell commit is a load to stop when he starts dodging downhill, and when he gets close to the net, he’s got a sweet handle that allows him to make plays in tight.
Christian Cechini ’19, A, Leading Edge / Apex (N.C.)
Let it fly, my dude. The lefty was a surgeon from the righty wing, frequently unleashing rockets that goalies had no chance to stop. A Penn State verbal, he carries himself with confidence and bounces back in no time from misses, and he also does a good job of finding and involving his teammates. Bonus points for some solid flow.
Donovan Econn ’19, D, Legends West / Harvard Westlake (Calif.)
My goodness, look at this kid run. Already 6-4 or 6-5, Econn does an incredible job of covering ground, particularly in transition. An attackman takes three strides to match one of his and he’s quite strong off the ground. He also pick-pocketed a couple of unsuspecting attackmen with an active stick.
Kamryn Gill ’19, A, Legacy / Riverhead (N.Y.)
Gill has caught my eye a couple of times this summer, mainly because he’s got some offensive flair in his game. A box lacrosse player since the fourth grade, he’s got great stick control and creativity, and hedoesn’t panic in traffic. He’s reportedly leaned out a little bit, which has added a little bit of explosiveness, and he also has keen field vision.
Aidan Hesse ’18, F/O, Legends West / Loyola Los Angeles (Calif.)
Hesse started winning face-offs early and never relented for the Legends squad. His first option was usually to go defensive and when the ball was on the ground, he did a good job of sticking with it and battling his way to a win. I’d have to imagine that the newly minted Tufts commit won around 75 percent of his draws on the weekend.
Andrew Jenet ’19, G, LI Express / Chaminade (N.Y.)
For some reason, Legacy decided to repeatedly test Jenet low, despite him providing them with plenty of supporting evidence as to why that was a bad strategy. The Furman commit takes away the lower part of the net with ease and dares shooters to beat him high. When they try, he’s quick and explosive enough to take it away despite not being overly big.
Kyle McCann ’19, G, Legends West / Palos Verdes (Calif.)
McCann was my favorite goalie at the Shootout by a healthy margin. He’s got an older brother who’s a backup at Duke, but some of his coaches say that Kyle is better at the same age. McCann doesn’t have explosive athleticism, but he’s got an advanced lacrosse IQ and good command of his defense, which allow him to make a boatload of saves. He’s often in the right place at the right time and he’s strong on his clears.
Aidan Philie ’20, D, 3d New England / Deerfield (Mass.)
It seemed that whenever the ball was anywhere Philie, it was ending up on the ground seconds later. He doesn’t go crazy with any dramatic check attempts, but he does a good job of wriggling the ball free from attackmen who test him. Also a hockey player, Philie moves his feet well, throws effective checks and does a nice job of sliding when he’s off-ball.
Cullen Young ’19, F/O, 3d New England / Avon Old Farms (Conn.)
The uncommitted Young was great in the early going and capped it off by winning 12 of 17 face-offs – including the first eight – in the championship game against Leading Edge UNC commit Matt Angelo, including the overtime draw. A tenacious, tough face-off guy who’s built low to the ground, Young has quick hands and enough athleticism to also be considered a Division I hockey prospect. As a freshman, he was the lone freshman on Avon Old Farms’ varsity hockey team, a perennial national powerhouse. He runs well with the ball and finds the point man with ease.
Evan Zinn ’18, M, Express North / Staples (Conn.)
An absolute monster for the Express North team that made it to the championship game, Zinn did it all. The Hopkins commit stung an early goal down the right alley, then later followed it up with a rocket that found twine with a vapor trail behind it. A good-sized midfielder, RR’s No. 18 player in the 2018 class was able to get to the spots that he wanted to get to with relative ease and drew the pole on basically every possession.
Thor Adamec ’18, LSM, Long Island Express North / John Jay (N.Y.) – Colgate
Matt Angelo ’19, F/O, Leading Edge / Lawrenceville (N.J.) – North Carolina
Evan Barr ’20, G, Leading Edge / Somerville (N.J.)
Nick Caprio ’19, D, Legacy / North Babylon (N.Y.)
Carter Castillo ’19, A, 3d New England / Bishop Feehan (Mass.)
Vince D’Alto ’19, A/M, Legacy / Kings Park (N.Y.)
Max Ewald ’21, LSM, 3d New England / Park School (Mass.)
Jack Fabean ’19, D, Leading Edge / Manasquan (N.J.)
CJ Kirst ’20, A, Leading Edge / Delbarton (N.J.)
Carson Kuhl ’20, M, Mad Dog Select / Westlake (Calif.)
Luke Longley ’20, M, Legends West / Palo Verde (Calif.)
Pete Lucas ’18, M, Leading Edge / Rumson Fair Haven (N.J.) – High Point
Ben Luke ’19, A, Legends West / O’Dea (Wash.)
Michael McMahon ’18, F/O, Long Island Tomahawks / West Babylon (N.Y.)
John Morgan ’19, A, Express Connecticut / New Fairfield (Conn.)
Christian Rasmussen ’20, A, Legends West / Torrey Pines (Calif.)