Future Stars Shine at Under Armour All-America Games
South goaltender Bobby Wardwell, headed to Syracuse in the fall, made 12 saves and was named MVP of the Under Armour boys All-America game Saturday.
© John Strohsacker
BALTIMORE -- Eighty-eight of the country's best incoming college freshmen lacrosse players -- 44 boys and 44 girls -- finished their high school careers Saturday at the Under Armour All-America games at Towson. Future college stars, and players we'll hear about at the NCAA level for seasons to come were everywhere.
South goaltenders Bobby Wardwell (Syracuse) and Conor Kelly (Notre Dame) combined for 21 saves for the South team in an 11-9 win. Wardwell's 12 second-half saves tied AJ Fiore (2009) for the most in a single game in the six years of the UA All-America boys competition, and Wardwell only allowed two goals. The Clifton Park, N.Y., native from Shenendowah High had nine saves in the fourth quarter and was named game MVP.
In the girls game earlier in the day, Penn State-bound Tatum Coffey scored five goals for the North in a 15-10 victory. Her goal total was the second-highest for a player in a UA All-America girls game. Here are some other sights, notes and reaction from Towson:
Wardwell credited his defense and Kelly, from Haverford School, downplayed his performance -- pointing out he also allowed seven first-half goals -- but South coach Rick Brocato, the coach of St. Paul's (Md.), made sure to give credit to both goalies after the game, particularly with all the offensive talent on the field in the all-star game. The North went nearly 26 minutes without scoring in the second half, and scored none in the third quarter.
"Conor really held them at bay in the first half, especially in the first quarter it was like a shooting gallery out here," Brocato said of 16 first-quarter shots from the North, to six from the South. "And then Bobby had a tremendous second half. He's a pretty special kid."
Wardwell heads this fall to Syracuse, a team that is looking for a starting goalie to replace four-year starter John Galloway, now with the MLL's Rochester Rattlers. The Orange have three returning goalies on the roster, and Wardwell incoming.
"I can't wait to get there," Wardwell said. "When I first committed, the [coaches] said since Galloway is gone, it's going to be an open competition to see who gets it. It's not going to be easy."
Jimmy Bitter, younger brother of former North Carolina attackman, Billy, is following the same path to college as his older brother: Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts to North Carolina. There will surely be comparisons of the two the next four years.
Saturday night, the younger Bitter showed flashes of the athleticism that Billy displayed as a Tar Heel. At times, Jimmy darted around on attack, and he threw a nifty bounce pass to the center of the field on a fast-break. He also showed off a strong shot, and scored two first-half goals.
Gribbin Guts It Out
For the North boys, Brandon Gamblin (UMass) controlled faceoffs early, winning four of six in the first quarter against a combination of Bobby Gribbin (Maryland) and Ryan Tucker (Virginia). The North led 4-1 after the opening quarter in part because they had more possessions.
But Gribbin (Maryland) took more faceoffs in the second half and managed to equalize Gamblin, and Lyle Thompson (Albany). Gribbin won 8 of 14 faceoffs for the game, and the two teams each won 12 draws.
"Bobby Gribbin did a great job on faceoffs the second half," Brocato said. "I thought Bobby seemed to have [Gamblin's] number. He was fighting through cramps the entire second half, too, so he really toughed it out."
Gribbin was one of seven Maryland commits to play in the game. Another, long-stick midfielder Goran Murray tied for the team lead in goals with two. Terps coach John Tillman chatted on the field with his future players afterward. He was pleased with what he saw.
Penn State-bound Tatum Coffey scored five goals for the girls North team in a 15-10 win.
© John Strohsacker
In the All-America girls' game, Tatum Coffey, a U.S. U19 women's team member from Toms River North (N.J.), led the North squad to the 15-10 win. Coffey scored five goals, including back-to-back scores early in the second half to give the North a three-goal lead that put the game out of reach for the South.
Coffey also contributed to several draw controls, and maneuvered out of traffic to give her team possession. Asked what her strengths are as a player, she said: "I think speed and vision on the field."
Coffey originally committed to UMass, but last July 1 then-coach Alexis Venechanos left to take a job at Ohio State, changing Coffey's plans. She had to go through the recruiting process again, but said she actually enjoyed it, and chose Penn State, led by new coach Missy Doherty.
"I got to see more schools. It was pretty cool in a way. At the time, I progressed more, so different schools fit me," Coffey said. "I'm confident about the team. I'm excited to bond more with the players. I'm expecting, with Missy, to hopefully get to the final four, you know? That's what I hope the goal is."
North coach Carol Rose, the head coach at Northport (N.Y.) on Long Island, was impressed with Coffey.
"Tatum Coffey had a great game," Rose said. "Great smile, great kid, just an unbelievable person and unbelievable athlete. She was playing midfield, she was doing defense. She was everywhere."
After a historic second season for the Florida women's team that ended in the NCAA quarterfinals with a loss to Duke, the Gators will have a familiar roster next season. Because they're only beginning their third varsity season, the whole team returns -- one rising senior, 16 rising juniors, and 10 either true or redshirt rising freshmen -- making it a special challenge for incoming recruits to earn playing time.
Nicole Graziano, a midfielder from Mendham (N.J.) who scored three goals in the North win, understands this. She said playing in the All-America event with so many talented players was good preparation for the competition she'll face in practices in Gainesville.
"This was definitely a good test for that," Graziano said. "It's going to be really fun. They're such a good team. They're competitive with all the top D-I schools. ... It's going to be unbelievable."
Playing With The Enemy
Even in the loss, South coach Mary Bartel, also the coach of Notre Dame Prep (Md.), found it refreshing to have several usual opposing players on her team instead of normally facing them during the high school season. She mentioned Annie Thomas (John Carroll), Jen Cook and Brooks Lawler (McDonogh), Caroline Seats (Roland Park) and Morgan Rubin (Bryn Mawr).
"We're a little disappointed we didn't get the job done, but it was a lot of fun," Bartel said. "It's good to get to know the ones that you play against. We face them for all the years they're in high school, and they do the damage against us on the scoreboard. What an honor to be on the same sideline as them."
Working on the Weekend
The undercard to the All-America senior games is the three-day underclassmen competition held concurrently at Towson. A who's who of college coaches on the recruiting trail made sure to pay attention. About 50 coaches lined two separate boys fields during Friday afternoon's round robin play alone.
Coaches who set up shop in folding chairs, included but were not limited to: North Carolina's Joe Breschi, Johns Hopkins' Dave Pietramala, Penn State's Jeff Tambroni, Cornell's Ben DeLuca, Denver's Bill Tierney, Hofstra's Seth Tierney and new Michigan varsity coach John Paul. Over on the girls' fields, Syracuse's Gary Gait, Navy's Cindy Timchal and UMBC's Kelly Berger were among those in attendance.
Ten teams each on the boys' and girls' sides competed in the round robin starting Friday. Pool play ends Sunday morning, with semifinals and finals to be played Sunday afternoon. Players were grouped into teams from Baltimore, Long Island, Midwest, New England, New Jersey, South, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Upstate New York and the West, and featured many of the top rising sophomores, juniors and seniors in the nation. Nearly 3,000 players tried out for the underclass teams.