Becoming one of the most prominent tournaments in the summer, NHSLS has turned into one of the best ways to see how a player fits into a system for their high school team. While there are loads of viable options to see the country’s best players in one location, it’s gotten to the point where just about every Division I staff makes it a point to come to Blandair Park and Oakland Mills HS for at least a session of NHSLS.
Among 137 college coaches (from 89 different schools) in attendance, one particular Division I coach commented on the importance of seeing players with HS teams as opposed to the club environment.
“As college coaches we are always trying to evaluate a player’s competitive level and desire to do whatever it takes to win,” said a D1 head coach in New England. “There are so many club tournaments that they can lose their competitive edge – how many times can the same club team from Baltimore play the same club team from Long Island without it getting stale? NHSLS allows the opportunity for a high school team from Boston to play a high school team from Texas, and that’s tremendous for the sport and probably would never happen without these types of tournaments.”
There’s obviously something unique and hugely important about the opportunity to play with your high school classmates as opposed to your summer ball team. With no disrespect meant towards the relationships forged on the club circuit, it’s different when you’re playing with kids you go to school with everyday.
“There is nothing like competing with your best friends, which typically are your high school teammates. The ability to compete and represent your high school, your state and your region cannot be understated in these tournaments and lends itself to excellent evaluating.”
Tal Bruno, a contributor for RR the last two summers and a rising senior shortstick midfielder at Hopkins, was on site for a day of NHSLS Session II and has his rundown of who caught his eye. In addition, check out a list of HM’s and the event’s All-Tournament team.
John John Lombardi ’18, A, Salisbury (Conn.) – Michigan
Lombardi stood out as one of the most impressive players at the tournament. Proving himself as the heartbeat of an exceptional Salisbury squad, the strong right-handed attackman notched two goals and an assist during the teams championship loss to the highly-touted Haverford School. In an earlier game, he scored four dazzling goals to secure a win. Lombardi’s unmatched speed and quickness was on full display as he crossed up defenders time and again with slick split dodges and finalizer moves behind the cage. He lacks height, but possesses an athletic, stocky build that allows him to be physical with defenders and get his hands free for blazing shots underhand or overhand. The rising senior also showed his leadership within the offense as both the main initiator and finisher, taking point directive on fast breaks and broken situations. The cornerstone of Michigan’s recruiting class, this kid is a player and gives his team a spark whenever the ball is in his stick.
Grant Matthews ’19, A, St. Paul’s (Md.)
A thick, barrel-chested young attackman who played with a SP squad that consisted mostly of JV players, Matthews uses his size to create scoring opportunities for both himself as well as his teammates. Playing the X attack position, the two-handed Matthews finds himself at the helm of the Crusaders offense, directing the flow of the game while doing his own part within the attack unit. He is a true quarterback on the field, and shines in the feeding game, but is a formidable threat as a dodger, finisher, and outside shooter. Watching Matthews play, it appeared that he could score at will, showing to be an especially tough matchup for opposing shortstick defenders as they struggled to match his feet and physical dodging style. In little more than one half of play, the rising junior put up two impressive goals and an assist that seemed effortless, yet meticulous. With his strong IQ and physical gifts, Matthews may continue to be a nightmare for defenses for years to come.
Jax Popovich ’20, F/O, Salisbury (Conn.) – Uncommitted
“Pinch and” Popovich stood out as one of the stronger face-off middies of the tournament, and was heavily relied on by his teammates even at a young age. Only a rising sophomore for Crimson Knights, Popovich makes use of his hand quickness and sturdy physique as he muscles out wins at the X. He is tenacious on groundballs and a competitor in the open field, but his ability to go on unanswered runs is what set him apart at this event. He is a strong, dependable young player that should continue to develop his trade with a few years left at the high school level.
TJ Malone ’18, A, Haverford (Pa.) – Amherst
Malone had an exceptional showing in the championship game against Salisbury, notching three important goals in dramatic fashion to help secure a Fords win. Bringing his team from a one-goal advantage to a three-goal advantage in a matter of minutes during the second half, the small, sneaky left-hander displayed his ability to handle pressure situations and thrive on the big stage. He just flat out produces, but does so quietly, taking advantage of his oppenents defensive miscues. Malone can also handle heavy checks, shown as he ran through half of the Salisbury defense before dumping in his second goal of the game with smooth precision. I was able to watch him play an earlier game as well, and was impressed with his on-field presence and patience, along with his on and off-ball scoring ability.
Frankie Higgins ’18, LSM, Hingham (Mass.) – Bucknell
Perhaps the most important player to his team’s success that I saw at this event, Higgins literally does it all. If the goalie had gone down, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Higgins strapping on a chest protector and throat guard. Tall, strong and fast, the righty pole excelled at the face-off X, on the defensive end of the field, in transition, as well as the offensive end. This kid actually stays on and plays within the offense, not just to keep defensively weak opponents on the field, but as a legitimate scoring threat. His coaches and teammates would give him the green light to dodge in settled 6-on-6 offense, and he handled it with grace and confidence. With one of the best stickwork skillsets I have seen from a LSM, Higgins eludes the frantic checking of opposing defenders as his teammates jam tough passes in to him on the crease. His defensive ability paired with his do-it-all mentality on the other end of the field left me extremely impressed, and I expect to see him continue to challenge the public perception of what a pole should be.
Luke DiGiacobbe ’19, M, Malvern Prep (Pa.) – Penn
DiGiacobbe is the prototypical Philly dodging middie, and is the push that gets the wheels turning for the Malvern offense. He slammed in two strong goals in a tough loss to the tournament runner-up, Salisbury. He possesses decent size with time to grow along with great foot speed. His shot on the run is powerful, and comes off at high velocity and accuracy, and he occasionally strays from the norm, shooting old school high-bouncers to keep goalies on their toes. As said before, DiGiacobbe is a true Philly middie, and plays with toughness and swagger.
Xavier Dorn ’18, D, Haverford (Pa.)
Dorn appeared as a true student of the game, keeping a continual dialogue with his defensive coordinator, goalie and fellow defenders throughout the final game of the event. He is a leader of his defensive unit as a rising senior for the Fords, and plays a smart brand of lacrosse balanced with a physical style of on-ball play. With above average size and good footwork, he can sit down and play shutdown D on opposing teams first or second attackmen, but thrives off ball as he directs teammates through slide packages and broken situations. Dorn has the IQ, physical attributes, and competitive nature that will make him a solid investment for coaches in Division I or the higher levels of Division III.
Brandon Sulhoff ’18, A, Northern (Md.) – Robert Morris
A super athletic lefty attackmen for the Northern HS team, Sulhoff displays exceptional quickness and agility, complimented by his ability to handle tough passes under duress and finish his shots masterfully. Sulhoff exhibits a crafty, aggressive style of dodging that frees him up for scoring opportunities. He is a threat as both a shooter and a feeder, putting constant pressure on opposing defenses with deep range and vision behind the cage. He exemplifies a complete attackman, able to play with and without the ball and forces defenders to stay alert at all times.
Will Mark ’19, G, Salisbury (Conn.) – Vermont
Yet another outstanding young player out of the Connecticut powerhouse, Mark played a very impressive game in the championship loss to Haverford. The Northern California native is a huge right-handed goalkeeper that plays fundamentally with great technique and focus only seen from veterans of the position. Specialty positions such as goalies often take the blame in big game losses, however Mark played lights out for the first half, only allowing three goals as a junior starter. Even at a young age, Mark gives his teammates a spark of confidence and gets the bench excited following an important defensive stop, something not often found from younger goalies. And there were plenty of instances where he made seemingly impossible saves on high quality shots from opponents. He is especially sound on shots in the upper half of the net, and fills up much of the goal. Adding to his stopping ability, Mark showed a confidence in the clearing game, either making tough outlet passes with accuracy or carrying the ball himself with riders snapping at his ankles, simultaneously displaying his athleticism. He should be expected to make an early difference at the next level.
Tim Loeffler ’19, A, St. Paul’s (Md.)
Evan Lotz ‘19, A, Malvern Prep (Pa.)
Pearse Glavin ’20, A, Haverford (Pa.)
Scott Deck ’18, A, Haverford (Pa.)
Luke O’Grady ’18, A, Haverford (Pa.) – Providence
Cole Allen ’18, M, Salisbury (Conn.) – Siena
Gavin Burke ’19, M, Haverford (Pa.)
Peter Garno ’19, M, Haverford (Pa.) – Virginia
Daniel Horak ‘18, M, Northern (Md.)
*Ryan Niggeman ‘19, D, Haverford (Pa.)
Max Jogerst ’20, D, Malvern Prep (Pa.)
Billy Carlini ‘19, LSM, Malvern Prep (Pa.) – Holy Cross
Joseph Rochte ’18, D, Hingham (Mass.)
NHSLS All-Tournament Team (selected by tournament staff)
Travis Talarico ’19, D, Bergen Catholic (N.J.) – Bucknell
Michael Randazzo ’18, G, Bishop Moore (Fla.)
Max Schelling ’18, M, Chatham (N.J.)
Justin Coppola ’19, M, Garden City (N.Y.)
Matt DeSimpliciis ’19, D, Garden City (N.Y.)
Joe Marchesano ’19, M, Glen Ridge (N.J.)
TJ Malone ’18, A, Haverford (Pa.) – Amherst
Ryan Niggeman ’19, D, Haverford (Pa.)
Marshall Terres ’18, M, Hingham (Mass.)
Jude Brown ’18, A, John Carroll (Md.) – High Point
Jacob Purcell ’19, D, Northern (Md.)
Patrick Helrigel ’18, LSM, Northport (N.Y.)
Jack Killian ’19, M, Oxbridge Academy (Fla.) – Providence
Braedon Rupp ’18, LSM, Oxbridge Academy (Fla.)
John Lombardi ’18, A, Salisbury (Conn.) – Michigan
Jacob Walthour ’18, LSM/D, Salisbury (Conn.) – Syracuse
Kyle Pearce ’18, LSM/D, St. Viator (Ill.)
Patrick Anderson ’19, M, St. Xavier (Oh.)
Nick Thomson ’18, A, Summit (N.J.)
Stephen Sajer ’18, D, Summit (N.J.)