The United States of America -- ranked number one in "Americas" since 1776 -- will look to defend its title as the greatest lacrosse playing nation in the universe at the 2014 FIL World Lacrosse Championship next summer in Denver, Colorado. Team Freedom-Liberty-Muscle Car has won nine world titles since the inaugural event in 1967, failing to win top honors in only 1978 (Team Soaring Bald Eagle-Apple Pie-Voter Fraud lost to Canada in overtime, 17-16) and 2006 (the Canadians won their second title in a 15-10 defeat of Team Soap Box Racing-Baconator-Habeas Corpus). Richie Meade (Furman's head coach) will lead Team Soft Serve Ice Cream-Lee Greenwood Anthem-Swamp Boat Fishin' into the fray along with three assistants, all of which ply their trade at the collegiate level -- Lehigh's Kevin Cassese, Johns Hopkins' Dave Pietramala, and Penn State's Jeff Tambroni. With a staff comprised entirely of Division I head coaches, it's not all that surprising that Team Teeth Whitening-Rascal Scooter-Barbecue invited a handful of current college players to try out for the most destructive lacrosse team ever assembled.
Of the 98 players invited to Goucher College to make their case for representing the stars and stripes, eight will run on college lacrosse fields this coming spring:
|SHORT-STICK DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD||Chris LaPierre||Virginia||R.Sr.||Yup|
|LONG-STICK MIDFIELD||John LoCascio||Villanova||Sr.||Yup|
|GOALIE||Austin Kaut||Penn State||Sr.||Yup|
Schreiber's selection is a no-brainer: There isn't a more destructive weapon in the college game at the moment (thanks to Rob Pannell's graduation); Schreiber is a tactical nuclear weapon in the midfield that is athletic and skilled enough to detonate explosions all over the field. As for the other seven invitees to the camp, this is recognition from some of the strongest lacrosse minds in the world that a handful of the game's best players are crushing skulls at the Division I level. That's a great thing for these players, but it's validation that the college game is still home to some of the best lacrosse talent on the planet.
Projecting whether any of these collegians will make the 40-man Team Deep Fried Everything-Bratwurst IV-Oil Reliant is difficult -- decisions will likely be made on the relative talent of these players compared to their peers, but determined with an eye toward what these players may become a year from now. Based on the full roster of invitees, four players have the strongest shot at making the team:
- Tom Schreiber: There are a ton of incredible midfielders invited to the tryout camp, but you'd have to think that the Princeton midfielder has a fighting chance at making the roster. Schreiber has as much potential at the position since Paul Rabil ran shifts at Hopkins, and he's probably going to be in the mix for the half-dozen or so midfielders that make the final roster.
- Brendan Fowler and Kevin Massa: Compared to Schreiber these are outside shots (mostly due to the fact that Meade isn't likely to carry a lot of specialist depth here), but both Fowler and Massa have something in their favor -- health considerations and thinking about potential matchup advantages against Canada and the Iroquois. Other invitees are arguably ahead of Fowler and Massa (notably Chris Eck and Greg Gurenlian), but each still have an opportunity here to impress and possibly wear the red, white, and blue.
- Austin Kaut: Goalkeeping is all about who is playing hot and who has a history of the most consistency. Kaut is probably the best ball stopper in the college game right now, and that could be his biggest asset in this process. Kaut, however, will need to overcome cats like Jesse Schwartzman, Drew Adams, and John Galloway. This is a tough group to beat out for a roster spot -- I'd be shocked if Meade carries more than two goalies -- but Kaut has the tools to at least make his play part of the discussion.
The four other invitees -- Wolf, LaPierre, LoCascio, and Fletcher -- have an even more difficult road to a roster spot, partly because of the level of talent already at their position and partly because they haven't yet developed as world class talent: Wolf is trying to make the roster at a position where the U.S. has its deepest degree of talent; LaPierre could eventually grow into a world-class short-stick defensive midfielder, but he's behind (at least) Matt Abbott and Dan Burns at the moment (although LaPierre's utility as a two-way guy could pay dividends); Fletcher needs to move past a lot of bodies; and LoCascio is probably going to get squeezed by elite talent and a small number of roster spots. They all, however, have an opportunity to make the roster and it'll be interesting to see how they perform against and with just under 100 of the best players in the world.