Best High School Lacrosse Players To Battle In Under Armour Classic
By Dave Lomonico
One thought crept into Alex Joyce's mind as he carefully scanned the other 43 names on the Under Armour All-American boys' roster.
The annual Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Classic, which will pit two 22-person teams against one another in a North-South showdown at Towson June 30, features a who's who of high school lacrosse stars, many of whom could be starring on a college field next spring.
Joyce, a goalie from Landon High in Bethesda, was one of 10 Maryland boys selected to play on the South side, while the girls' roster featured 11 locals.
"As a goalie, when you look up and down that roster and you see guys like [attackman] Case Mathesis (Darien/Conn.) and some of the best goal scorers in the country, it's kind of overwhelming," Joyce said. "I'm just glad a lot of these guys are on my team and not on the North side. Being selected to this game is an honor, but it's going to be a challenge, no doubt."
Joyce's task may be daunting, but he's no slouch as a netminder. The Landon stalwart is rated the No. 88 player in the country, according to the ESPNHS Top 100, and he has been committed to powerhouse Georgetown since November of his junior year.
"I also looked at Maryland and Cornell, but the welcoming feeling, the terrific academics and the atmosphere of the school really sold me on the Hoyas," Joyce said. "Georgetown only has a couple goalies on their roster, so I'll have a chance to see the field early."
Joining Joyce at the UA game will be his Landon teammate, midfielder Charlie Schnider. The No. 46-ranked recruit, according to ESPN, Schnider will head to Ohio State next season after previously committing to Maryland.
Schnider said he pledged to the Terps during his sophomore year because it was so close to home, but a few academic lapses put his scholarship in peril. Unable to meet Maryland's grade requirements, Schnider turned to the Buckeyes in late May.
"I was thrilled with OSU, because the coaches there completely understood my situation and helped me through it," Schnider said. "I took a trip up there after I decommitted from Maryland, and I loved the campus and all the guys. I talked to [current Buckeye and former Landon star] Luke Howard, and he really vouched for the school."
Schnider will get a chance to meet his future teammate, Gilman's Robby Haus, at the UA game. A defenseman, Haus committed to the Buckeyes during the fall of his junior year, though he also considered North Carolina, Notre Dame and Bucknell.
"Definitely the big-time athletic feel at Ohio State drew me in," Haus said. "Then the campus, the coaching staff, the players and their style of defense were big. OSU is similar to Gilman in how they wreak havoc and really get after it. That's what I do best."
Two of Haus' Gilman teammates will also be competing in the UA game, tying the Greyhounds with Calvert Hall for most players represented from one school on the South side. Gilman attackman Gordie Koerber (No. 33) and midfielder Jake Matthai (No. 29) will play alongside Cardinals attackman Ryan Brown (No. 59), defender Evan Connell (No. 50) and attackman Pat Kelly (No. 3).
Unlike most top lacrosse recruits, who commit before their senior years, Koerber waited until last September to make his decision. Koerber called himself a late bloomer, who didn't have many strong suitors until Denver University entered the picture during the fall.
"My mom always told me everything would work out, and in the end it did," Koerber said. "I found a home. Denver is a little far from home, but it's a great city, and coach [Bill] Tierney couldn't have been any nicer on my visit. Denver's offense uses this hybrid Canadian-American style with a lot of quick ball movement that fits me well."
The third Greyhound in the UA game is Matthai. There really was never much doubt where he would be playing college ball. His father played at North Carolina from 1976-79, and when the Tar Heels offered Matthai a scholarship during his junior year, it didn't take much time for him to accept.
"I had a special connection with UNC from the get-go, so that was huge," Matthai said. "Then UNC set itself apart in every aspect -- the people were welcoming, the campus was gorgeous and coach [Joe] Breschi does things the right way. He has his players do community service projects, he holds early practices so guys won't fool around the night before and he's just a very disciplined guy."
Matthai will be one of eight future Tar Heels participating in the UA game. Of the eight, four will be playing alongside Matthai on the South squad: Brent Armstrong (St. Stephens & St. Agnes/Va.), Connell, Kelly and Spencer Parks (St. Paul's).
Kelly and Parks, a midfielder, are rated No. 3 and No. 4 in the ESPNHS Top 100, respectively. Parks said he had a few attractive offers on the table, namely Virginia and Johns Hopkins, but he opted for North Carolina in February of his sophomore year.
"I've been to North Carolina about five times now, and I love it every time I go down," Parks said. "The area is terrific, the coaches are really good guys, and academics there are very strong. It's a great opportunity to play for a great program that competes in a league like the ACC."
Parks and the rest of the Tar Heel commits will have to put future rivalries aside June 30, when they suit up with three Duke-bound recruits, including a familiar face from nearby Loyola Blakefield.
Midfielder Deemer Class, the No. 18-ranked prospect, committed to the Blue Devils in November of his junior year, despite options such as Princeton, Notre Dame and Hopkins.
"Really, everything about the Duke program reminded me of my experience here at Loyola," Class said. "From coach [John] Danowski, whom I have a great rapport with, to the players on the team who welcomed me in, to the great academics, Duke was really a perfect fit for me."
Before Class and Co. head off to college, they'll have one last chance to shine in front of their peers. Schnider, the Landon midfielder, said he remembered watching the Under Armour All-America game on TV last year, when the South squad emerged with an 11-9 victory.
"I was sitting here at this time last year," Schnider said, "thinking to myself: 'Playing in that game is exactly what I want to be doing this time next year. I want to show what I can do against the best in the country.' Now, I'll get that opportunity. This is a terrific way to close out my high school career."
Issue 174: June 2012