Taking place this past weekend, the CT80 Division I Showcase was held for the first time ever at Yale at Reese Stadium. The approach to the event is a little bit different from other individual showcases. There aren’t a half dozen fields going at once with hundreds of players in attendance. It’s one field for 2019’s and one field for 2020’s with 80 kids per class in attendance making four teams. It’s not about exclusivity, it’s about exposure.
Andrew Stimmel, an assistant at Yale, told me the smaller event is by design. Any event in its first year also will have to deal with not really knowing who would attend.
“We weren’t really sure what we were going to get, but there were definitely Division I players out here tonight,” Stimmel said. He talked about the larger showcase events sometimes working against what they are meant to do by making it hard for kids to get seen by coaches. Whether it be less playing time, or just the sheer scale of an event, sometimes a gem of a player can get lost in the shuffle.
The event ran through the afternoon and into the evening, with each team playing at least two games followed by an All-Star Game (made up of the top 40 players) for each graduating class. After over five hours of play, each player in attendance had definitely been seen and thoroughly evaluated by the coaches in attendance from over 20 college programs. Ultimately, that should be the goal of any showcase event, and CT80 accomplished that: one day of non-stop games and plenty of exposure for every kid who played.
Stimmel also said that the possibility of having another CT80 Showcase in the summer was very real. At this time of year, there are still a lot of lacrosse players who are playing other sports or doing other things that might have made the fall date challenging. One of the best features of an event like the CT80 is that, in my opinion, it is small enough that it would be fairly simple to repeat.
Here are some of the players who stood out on the field:
JB Conner ’19, M, Mamaroneck (N.Y.) / 2-Way
Conner was looking to dodge early and often on Saturday night, and frequently had positive results. A natural leftie midfielder, Conner showed an ability to separate his hands from the checks of a defender to get his own shot. Alley dodges are where Conner shines most, and when slid to, he’s smart enough to step or roll away from pressure to move the ball along. Conner ripped a shot that pinged in off the far post on a lefty alley dodge in the all-star game that got some ooh’s and ah’s from coaches on the sideline.
Brian Bonnist ’20, A, Suffern (N.Y.) / Express North
Bonnist is a truck. The defensemen that showed up for the 2020 showcase were a deep group, and Bonnist looked like a problem for just about all of them. Bonnist was backing defenders down and drawing early doubles as he simply was overpowering one on one matchups. With a strong righty shot and decent hands around the net, he stood out as one of the top attackman at the event, in either class.
Conor Foley ’19, A, Walpole (Mass.) / Team Central
Foley set the stage for the entire day scoring four goals in the first game played. He did most of his work on the day dodging from X and attacking his strong right side. Foley can create the half step he needs to get above the goal line, and from there he was capable of scoring with minimal angle. If his defender didn’t get above him, Foley was able to punish them by taking one step upfield and getting a shot off around his man, using the defender as a screen. Foley was scoring in bunches for the entire night.
Cameron Bartolomeo ’20, F/O, Xavier Catholic (Conn.) / Boneyard
When you start the All-Star Game at the face-off X and the other team sends out a long pole against you and just concedes the ball, you know you’ve had a good day taking draws. The top FOGO of the 2020s in attendance, he showed more than an ability to simply win clamps, circling the ball well after. Bartolomeo was able to pop it out to himself, a teammate, or an open area just about every time. With the ball in his stick, he gives the impression that he is not just looking to dump it right away to get off, but that he’s comfortable staying on the play offense if needed.
Rafael Rodriguez ’20, M, Sachem East (N.Y.) / FLG
People say all the time that overspecialization within lacrosse is bad, there are no more two way middies, back in my day we stayed on to play both ends, etc etc. Well, I give you Rafael Rodriguez as the answer. A throwback middie if there ever was one, Rodriguez made plays on both ends of the field. In the all star game Rodriguez looked unbeatable on defense on dodges from opposing midfielders, and on offense created his own shot with his athleticism and quickness. He also showed that he has hands that are well above average, with several nice face dodges past over aggressive sliding defenders. After a few trips up and down the field making plays, his coach would ask if he needed a rest, and Rodriguez would simply wave him off.
Roy Meyer ’19, LSM, Chaminade (N.Y.) / LI Express
Overheard from coaches on the sidelines about Meyer: “That kid has the sickest hands I’ve seen.” Accurate. Meyer has a smoothness to the game that makes it look like things just come easier to him. His greatest strengths are on face-off wings and when he plays off ball defense. Meyer picked off more than a fair share of passes, and put on a show with the ball in his stick, stepping around riding attackmen and midfielders with face dodges and stickwork, then looking to push the ball up the field.
Jack Stockdale ’20, D, Brewster Academy (N.H.) / Boneyard
The 2020 group was loaded on defense, but Stockdale looked to be near the top of the group. A tall, rangy athlete, he showed the strength to handle the physical attackmen, but also the speed to run with quicker, more shifty players. He had the best footwork in the group, and was aggressive as an off ball player. Stockdale recognized the right time to go as a slider, but also was aggressive in seeing a good time to get a double team on the ball and create a turnover. He also had the sense to know when a defender wasn’t really beat or the matchup was good, and he didn’t have to slide, which makes a huge difference for a team defense.
Caleb Zuhoski ’20, A, Riverhead (N.Y.) / Turtles
A bit small, the first impression I got was that Zuhoski might struggle a bit against the big, athletic defenders in the 2020 group. I was wrong. Zuhoski has an elusiveness to his game that makes it look like defenders are chasing him rather than guarding when he has the ball. Zuhoski has great hands, and threw a few stick fakes that turned defenders heads throughout the day. All this adds up to a shifty attackman who can free his hands with relative ease, and always has his head up looking to feed.
Rocky Grillone ’20, LSM, Cardinal Spellman (Mass.) / Boston Kings
Grillone didn’t have the imposing presence of his fellow defenders, but he mixed it up as well as any of them. Grillone was at his best on wing play and on ground balls. If the ball was on the ground in the middle third of the field and Grillone was nearby, he was probably coming up with it or playing it to a teammate. Even a bit undersized, on the ball Grillone was aggressive and played midfielders well and created plenty of turnovers. Plenty of midfielders who got lazy showed a little too much stick were punished for it by Grillone.
Zachary Blake ’19, G, Hopkins School (Conn.) / Boneyard
Showcase events can sometimes cause a problem for defensive units trying to communicate. Nobody knows names, and it’s often a mash of hearing players call it other by number or helmet color. Blake cleaned all that up. He and his defense looked organized and cohesive, and Blake being as vocal as he was started that ball rolling. Blake is aggressive in cage, and attacks the ball on shots that are high. Blake made several impressive kick saves low as well, and really impressed in All-Star game.
Will Martin ’19, A, Mamaroneck (N.Y.) / 2 Way
Tall, lean, and rangy, Martin was one of the bigger attackmen at the event. Martin’s best asset is his hands, as he seemed to catch absolutely everything thrown at him. With the ball in his stick, Martin is at his best from X, using his long frame to lean into defenders and create leverage to turn the corner. The attack unit of Martin, Hudson Pokorny, and Gus Mazzocca looked solid all night, as if they had been playing together for some time. They routinely found each other off ball, cut to the right places, and gave defenseman headaches with constant movement.
Gus Mazzocca ’19, A, Loomis Chaffee (Conn.) / Team CT
Mazzocca is super quick and put his skills on display behind the net a quite a few times. He looked great in the two man game behind the goal, either partnering with another attackman (Hudson Pokorny, another attackman, and Mazzocca had some beautiful two man interaction that led to nice goals), or in the big/little game with an inverted midfielder. Mazzocca was able to use picks to get a step and attack the goal with purpose, not afraid to take some physical punishment to score a goal.
Beaudan Szuluk ’19, D, Avon Old Farms (Conn.) / FCA Florida
Szuluk, for my money, was the top defender of the 2019’s at the event. Szuluk is a big, physical presence. His footwork around the goal line was strong enough to consistently turn back dodgers, and more than just being big and strong, Szuluk gave the impression he knew how to use his size as an advantage. Szuluk’s athleticism stood out in ground ball play and in the clearing game, as he was a serious asset to his team all night in both areas. There was never any panic with the ball in his stick, as he carried it into the offensive end multiple times and was able to withstand some pressure until an outlet came open.
Caleb Holdridge ’19, M, Waterford (Conn.) / Boneyard
Holdridge is listed as a midfielder, but I got the impression he would be just fine at attack as well. His versatility was on display all night. Holdridge attacked from up top, wings, and even called invert to take his man behind the goal and work from there as well. Holdridge uses a quick first step to get separation, and from there has his head up looking to feed when he’s behind, or picking up the sliding defenseman to roll away and move the ball along, and that’s if he hasn’t already taken his own shot. Holdridge also has above average hands, and an ability to finish in traffic that was frustrating defenders.
Maxwell Tetreault ’19, F/O, La Salle Academy (R.I.) / RI Bulldogs
Tetreault was winning face-offs all day. As the event went on, another F/O man who had recently lost came off the field saying, “I just can’t figure this out.” He wasn’t alone. Tetreault won the clamp nearly every time he was out there, and was able to win the ball to himself most of the time. He generated a few fast breaks on the day, and wasn’t afraid to push all the way to the goal if the defense didn’t respect him enough to slide early. Tetreault was also drilling himself and his technique between games when he was team was off the field, something that always tells me he takes his role seriously.
Will Avery ’19, A, Avon (Conn.) / Boneyard
Eric Schweitzer ’19, M, Avon (Conn.) / Boneyard
Hudson Pokorny ’19, A, Darien (Conn.) / Eclipse
John LaViolette ’19, M, Brewster Academy (N.H.) / Prime Time Penguins
Carl Mazabras ’19, G, New Canaan (Conn.) / Eclipse
Zachary Puckhaber ’19, D, Mahopac (N.Y.) / Titans
Edward Glassmeyer ’19, M, Brunswick (Conn.) / Eclipse
Nicholas Handy ’19, M, LaSalle Academy (R.I.) / Laxachusetts
Blake Epstein ’20, A, Fairfield Warde (Conn.) / Express North
Charlie DiGiacomo ’20, M, Fairfield Warde (Conn.) / Boneyard
Joshua Moon ’20, M, Manhasset (N.Y.) / FLG
Chris Gonzalez ’20, G, Fairfield Warde (Conn.) / Boneyard
Jimmy Goranov ’20, LSM/D, Deerfield (Mass.) / 2 Way
Matteo Corsi ’20, M, Detroit Catholic Central (Mich.) / Juiced Cherries
Jake Sullivan ’20, A, Cohasset (Mass.) / RI Bulldogs