The 2012 college season showcased some of the dazzling talents of tomorrow today. It seems that the evolution of the game at the collegiate level has not only changed the half-field strategy that coaches employ, but also their management of personnel. Talented first-year players are taking the field and carving out an early spot for themselves in future lacrosse headlines. The Tar Heels seem to have adopted this mantra to its fullest extent, and it made for some entertaining ballgames this year. Jimmy Bitter, Joey Sankey and Chad Tutton were some of the most electrifying athletes to take the field this year and their chemistry gave UNC that elusive spark they’ve been missing.
Maybe this year was an anomaly, but the trend toward younger players grabbing those starting roles was more than common. Matt Poillon of Lehigh led his team to their first ever NCAA tournament berth with a save percentage of almost 60% and the Mountain Hawks aren’t showing many weaknesses for the future. The ACC Freshman of the Year,
Goran Murray, led an extremely green defensive unit to Memorial Day for their second straight appearance. I was most impressed with his shutdown of Zach Palmer in the regular season but Loyola found the recipe for success in using a more heavy-handed approach. Despite that lapse, Murray was one of my favorite new defensive faces to watch and will definitely be causing attackmen fits for the next few years. Colgate’s Ryan Walsh, though slightly overshadowed by his Tewaaraton partner in crime, lit up the scoreboards for over 60 points this season. The thing that impressed me most of all about all of these youthful stars was that they didn’t just have great seasons, but their teams had great seasons.
Head Coach Joe Breschi, nicknamed “Mr. Positive” by IL commentator Quint Kessenich, has always been a top-level recruiter in my opinion. Maybe it’s something about his coaching philosophy or the charismatic way he relates to his players, but upper echelon high school players seem to gravitate to this program. Or maybe it’s just because they look so damn good in those colors. Regardless, the talent has been there for a number of years but the gears just didn’t seem to mesh until lately. The speedy attack combination of Bitter and Sankey lit up the score board for a number of games and did so in true SC Top 10 style. Chad Tutton impressed from the midfield and drew a pole on a number of occasions. Combined, these three freshmen totaled 111 points in the 2012 season.
The one good thing about summer from a sports perspective is all the showcase games that are going on right now. These are a literal goldmine if this trend toward freshmen starters is going to continue. Coaches can get a sense of who steps up in high-pressure scenarios and fans get an early look at who’ll be playing for their favorite teams. I’ll be checking out the Under Armour All America game this weekend thanks in part to my withdrawals that are already setting in from the college game. After that, it’ll be back to scouring the internet for highlight reels and preseason workout videos…