An annual staple of the fall recruiting circuit, Billy McKinney’s Champions League event went down at the Hill School in Pottstown, roughly 45 minutes northwest of Philadelphia. I made the trek up on Saturday morning, getting early notes on the 2021’s before it was time for the 2019’s and 2020’s to show off on Sunday in front of roughly 100 college coaches.
A number of NLF teams attended in addition to a handful of guest teams, and while I wasn’t able to see everybody, I’ll be on Long Island this weekend and plan on catching everybody else that I missed. Have a look below at some of the players that grabbed my attention throughout the weekend.
Brennan O’Neill ’20, A, St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) / Team 91 Crush
Let’s just get this out of the way: O’Neill, who at the time was the earliest ever boys lacrosse verbal, was the best player at Champions League regardless of age. Whenever the lefty steps on the field, he’s a marked man but never disappoints. I was able to watch Crush in two separate halves, twice witnessing O’Neill bury magnificent one-handed goals that John Grant, Jr. (who O’Neill plays like) perfected during his MLL career. It’s easy to drool over his stick work, but it’s his footwork and feel for the game that jumped off the page. Penn State was all smiles watching him on Sunday, but there’s no doubt that they’ll have to fight off rival programs for his services up until signing week in November 2019.
Aiden Blake ’19, M, Haddonfield Memorial (N.J.) / Big 4 HHH
Hailing from South Jersey, Blake is an example of a player who will benefit tremendously from the new rules. Though he never really caught my eye dating back over the new years, I was able to see just why the tall two-way midfielder is picking up steam on the recruiting front. Appearing to be somewhere around 6’2 and 180 pounds, he made a number of impressive plays as the game progressed, whether the “invisible play” or a big goal in transition.
Cole Krauss ’20, D, Delbarton (N.J.) / Leading Edge
I was certainly anxious to see how Krauss performed on Sunday after two notable college coaches raved about his stellar performance while guarding one of the nation’s top 2020’s the previous day in Baltimore. On Sunday, the lefty was terrific both on-ball and off-ball, showcasing his long arms, heavy checks and leadership qualities. It eventually got to the point where no one wanted to go near him (always a good measuring stick) as he absolutely hounded ball carriers, sliding to them with vengeance. Probably a safe bet that he’ll get a ton of attention from top schools when the time comes.
Matthew Major ’20, A, Chaminade (N.Y.) / LI Express
A plethora of sophomore standouts for Express can consistently put the ball in the back of the net, but it was Major who stole the show with a handful of points during the game I watched. An undersized jitterbug (probably 150 or so pounds soaking wet), Major had an elite first step and an excellent change of direction, embracing contact on his way to the cage. He always kept his feet moving and was great on EMO, demonstrating a rapid release that opposing goalies had trouble stopping.
Ben Smith ’21, A, Boys’ Latin (Md.) / Baltimore Crabs
Among 10 Lakers for the Crabs, Smith was lights out on Saturday. I sat with an opposing club coach who pointed him out after playing against him extensively and it didn’t take long for Smith to impress, as he scored a pretty goal then took the ball away in the riding game less than 30 seconds later. Smith turns the corner impeccably, is smooth with the ball in his stick and gritty when the ball was on the ground.
Cade MacLeod ’19, A, Roswell (Ga.) / Thunder LB3
After merging clubs in the past year, this Atlanta-based squad was a blast to watch on Sunday, winning a pair of games while losing one in OT. A number of players dazzled, but MacLeod led the way with his off-the-charts lacrosse IQ and playmaking ability. Not the biggest guy, the Georgetown commit was a poised quarterback, putting up a hat trick in the first half of one game. More than anything, his aforementioned smarts impressed me the most, knowing exactly what dodge it took to beat his defenders.
AJ Volkmann ’21, D, Mount Sinai (N.Y.) / Team 91
Jake Wilson ’21, D, Shoreham-Wading River (N.Y.) / Team 91
It’s nothing new to see Team 91 defensemen tower over the competition and thrive on the club circuit as underclassmen. On Saturday, these two were athletic, mean and relentless. Volkmann was an animal, de-sticking his opponents and constantly taking the ball away from his man to give his squad possession. Wilson was also excellent, pairing his imposing figure with strong footwork and an understanding of off-ball play and angles. Fellow d-man Liam McCormick (Chaminade, N.Y.) and the 91 face-off guys also deserve to be mentioned for their play.
Jack Clark ’21, A, Springfield-Delco (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH
It’s a given that not as many college coaches focused on freshmen in comparison to past years. However, the ACC representatives seeking an early look at 2021’s had to be impressed with Clark’s game on Saturday. A tough attackman who switched hands seamlessly, Clark went hard to the cage with an array of fundamentally sound dodges, drawing a flag and selling out for a goal on one instance. Providing a big spark for HHH, he’ll likely see his fair share of minutes for the two-time defending champion Cougars in the spring.
Mark Sickler ’19, A, Hershey (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH – Army
Trevor Glavin ’19, A, Mountain Lakes (N.J.) / STEPS – Navy
Salvatore Pascarella ’19, LSM, Half Hollow Hills East (N.Y.) / Team 91 – St. Joseph’s
Joseph Cansfield ’19, A, Delaware Valley (N.J.) / Leading Edge
Jack Neill ’19, M, Pace Academy (Ga.) / Thunder LB3
Luke Blanc ’20, A, Seton Hall Prep (N.J.) / Leading Edge
Tyler Cordes ’20, M, Connetquot (N.Y.) / Team 91
Charlie O’Connor ’20, A/M, Paul VI (Va.) / VLC
Connor McDonough ’20, A, Penn Charter (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH
Russell Maher ’20, A, Mount Sinai (N.Y.) / LI Express – Syracuse
Caleb Hammett ’20, FO/M, Hanover (Mass.) / Laxachusetts – Army
Kyle Stephenson ’20, M, Seton Hall Prep (N.J.) / Leading Edge – Rutgers
Jack Walshe ’20, M, St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) / LI Express
Xavier Arline ’20, A, Shoreham-Wading River (N.Y.) / Team 91 – UNC
Anthony Rossi ’21, A, LaSalle (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH
Jayden Smith ’21, LSM/D, Assumption (Ont.) / Edge
Luke Dawick ’21, A, Appleby College (Ont.) / Edge
Leo Johnson ’21, A, Greenwich (Conn.) / Eclipse
Ronan Doherty ’21, LSM/D, Groton (Mass.) / Laxachusetts
Teddy Rockefeller ’21, M, Deerfield (Mass.) / LI Express
Machado Rodriguez ’21, M/FO, Chaminade (N.Y.) / Team 91