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Aloha Tournaments' Fall Ball Bringing Together Nation's Top Lacrosse Players, College Coaches
For the last 13 years, the Fall Ball Lacrosse Tournament has brought together some of the Baltimore-area's, and nation's, top youth and high school players to display their talent before prospective college coaches.
Developed by Aloha Tournaments co-founder Ray Schulmeyer, Fall Ball started in part with the purpose of helping college-bound players deal with the stress of the recruiting process. In 2002, the first year the tournament started, 13 teams mostly comprised from Baltimore, as well as the state of New York and Michigan, took part at St. Paul's School.
"At the time we started Fall Ball, I think it was the first lacrosse event out there held in the fall," Schulmeyer said. "One of the goals of the event when we started it was to get [college] coaches on St. Paul's campus, so they could see the St. Paul players. We also knew that by inviting other local teams and teams from around the country, it would be a great success and get these kids some exposure."
Since then, thanks to the continued support of St. Paul's administration and Crusaders head coach Rick Brocato, the event has grown far bigger than Schulmeyer thought was possible.
This year's event, scheduled to take place Nov. 7 and 8 at Carsins Run Park, St. Paul's School and the Maryland State Fairgrounds, should be one of the biggest yet. More than 120 teams from around the country are slated to participate during the two-day showcase, with one even making the trek from South Florida.
Schulmeyer, whose son, Michael Cooke, verbally committed to Bucknell after a Fall Ball game about 10 years ago, understands the tournament's value.
"I've had three kids who have played sports in college, and I've seen how hard it is being recruited," Schulmeyer said. "There's a lot of angst that a kid has during that time. If we can provide an event where they go out and play ... we feel at the end of the day ... that we've also given them a good experience."
Part of that experience for the players includes performing under the watchful eye of Division I coaches for the first time in their lives. Among those coaches who have been regulars at Fall Ball are Johns Hopkins' Dave Pietramala, Towson's Shawn Nadelen and Virginia's Dom Starsia.
While Schulmeyer understands the weight Division I coaches and programs carry, he also realizes smaller, lesser-known schools play just as big role in the event's success.
"We get a lot of Division II and III coaches from around the country," Schulmeyer said. "They come from all over, including schools in Indiana and Kentucky, to come out and expose the kids to their schools, and those guys are just as important to us. Every kid should be able to find a place and a match with a school to play in college if they really want to play at that level."
Schulmeyer accommodates coaches by providing them with their own workspace, which includes a booklet on the players and a heated tent.
"We try to take care of the coaches that are there," Schulmeyer said. "We make sure that they have the privacy to do the work that they want to do. We feed them all ... and we need try to provide them as much as information on every player that we can."
As for the tournament's format, teams are broken down into seven divisions -- U-11, U-13, U-15, 2020, High School JV, High School Varsity A and High School Varsity B -- and games are played in a noncompetitive atmosphere.
When Schulmeyer looks back on where Fall Ball has come since its humble beginnings, the payoff for him and his staff still remains.
" ... What gives us a lot of pleasure is when the parents come up to us and tell us what an asset [it's been] for their kids to be a part of the event," Schulmeyer said. "We've found that it provides a lot of structure, especially from an educational standpoint."
Q&A: DeMatha Lacrosse Coach Scott Morrison
During the last seven seasons, the DeMatha lacrosse program has enjoyed its share of success in the competitive Washington Catholic Athletic Conference under Scott Morrison's direction.
Morrison, the 2014 WCAC Coach of the Year, has led the Stags to an 82-55 record and one conference championship since taking over as the program's head coach in 2009. In addition, Morrison's teams have finished a season below .500 two times since he first joined DeMatha as defensive coordinator 12 years ago.
Last year, though, marked the first time the Hyattsville, Md., school finished with a losing record in more than five seasons, as the Stags posted a 7-11 mark. Still, despite some struggles, DeMatha took to Morrison's defensive-first approach and used that to remain competitive throughout the campaign. The Stags yielded an average of 8.7 goals per game and held opposing offenses to single-digit point totals during 11 of their 18 contests.
With a number of key starters expected to return next season, DeMatha looks poised to get back on track and reestablish its winning tradition. Senior midfielder Ricky Koehler, senior attackman Mitchell Howell and captains Zach Taylor and Colin Kasner figure to anchor a Stags offense that tallied 134 goals for Morrison.
Morrison, whose coaching career has spanned 25 years, spoke with PressBox about his tenure with the Stags, his expectations for the 2016 season and how he spends his time away from lacrosse.
PressBox: You've been coaching lacrosse for the last 25 years. After all that time, what is it about the job that continues to drive and motivate you?
Scott Morrison: There's so many reasons I've been doing this for as long as I have. It's working with the kids on a daily basis. Personally, I get a tremendous amount of gratitude out of seeing these guys move on to the next level. But what I am also really proud of is that I have guys who may not be All-WCAC players, but they still leave DeMatha with a passion to play. We've got guys going to Division I schools on a regular basis, but we also have guys who continue to play their passion at Division II and Division III schools. Seeing a lot of guys leaving to play at the next level is definitely a reason that keeps me going.
PB: Last season, the Stags finished below .500 for the second time during your 12 years with the program. What type of adjustments have you been making this offseason to help DeMatha return to its winning ways?
SM: Well, this season, in particular, we only graduated six seniors, so we have 80 percent of our scoring coming back. We've got a couple of starting defensemen back. We are a little battle-tested, and we were extremely young last year. Since I have been at DeMatha, the growth of lacrosse, obviously, around the country has hit home very close to us. There's so much talent in our conference now that six, seven or eight years ago, there may have only been six guys from our conference going Division I. Now, if you look at, there's probably close to 45 or 50 guys going Division I.
Gonzaga has always been strong locally, but they have become strong nationally as well. Paul VI has made huge strides with a future commitment to their lacrosse program. St. John's, they were the frontrunners in this conference years ago, and on any given Sunday, they can show up and beat anyone. I just keep reminding my guys of that. We've had some ups and downs over the years at DeMatha, but the game has changed for the better. We're still extremely competitive, and as far as this year is concerned, these guys are chomping at the bit to get going.
PB: Which players should fans look at for next season? Why?
SM: I would say Ricky Koehler is someone to watch out for. Ricky is a midfielder who is going to High Point. He's about 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, and the kid is just a great all-around player. Mitchell Howell is going to UMBC. Mitchell is an attackman for us and was our leading scorer for us last season. He was first-team All-WCAC last year and is a very, very solid all-around attackman. I want to say he probably had 60 points last season -- about 30 goals, 30 assists. He is just a very well-rounded player.
As for my captains, Zach Taylor is one of our captains, and he is headed to Eastern University. Zach is an extremely underrated player. He's a two-way middie. He kind of made his way up the ranks as a defensive middie. He is extremely fast and scores quite a few goals for us in the transition, and he's just a great overall kid. Our other captain, Colin Kasner, is uncommitted, but he's talking to a handful of schools right now. He's a defenseman who is about 6-foot-1, 185 pounds. He's got all the tools. He can cover. He has a great a stick. He is highly recruited and just needs to figure out a few things before he decides where he is going.
For more from Morrison, including how DeMatha stacks up against the rest of the WCAC and more, check out the full interview here.
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