2014 College Lacrosse Preview: Offensive Savants Headline Tewaaraton Race

USA TODAY Sports

This isn't just a race between point generators, though.

There have been three Tewaaraton Trophy winners that earned the recognition despite not playing in the national championship game in the year that they received the award: Doug Shanahan (Hofstra, 2001), Peter Baum (Colgate, 2012), and Rob Pannell (Cornell, 2013). In all other years, the highest honor in college lacrosse was bestowed upon a player that took runs on Memorial Monday, with eight of the ten winners finding a roster position on the national champion of that season (only Matt Danowski (Duke, 2007) and Max Seibald (Cornell, 2009) played on teams that didn't win the gold). The Tewaaraton's history is one of postseason admiration, but the award is trending -- based on the winners the last two seasons -- toward recognizing full-season performance and not isolating the honors to just those players that help programs reach the ultimate peak of Division I lacrosse.

This could indicate a shift in the voting paradigm, and that could make this season's chase for the Tewaaraton interesting. There are a handful of cats that look like potential locks for the finalists list, but the actual outcome carries with it some notable intrigue depending on how the year progresses. This is good for the award and even better for the game.

LEADING CANDIDATES

Lyle Thompson -- Albany
A finalist for the 2013 award, Thompson -- just a junior -- looks like a first among equals: Falling just a point shy of Steve Marohl's record for points generated in a single season last year, the attackman is poised to potentially duplicate his effort from a season ago. Only one attackman in 2013 exceeded Thompson's value in LaxBytes' Player Impact Ratings last year (Pannell), and Thompson will have the opportunity to display his ability with a higher profile from a season ago against a schedule that should allow him numerous chances to aggregate face-melting numbers. His candidacy for the Tewaaraton is potentially tied to Albany's overall performance in 2014, but Baum still brought the trophy to Hamilton in 2012 despite the Raiders' exit from the NCAA Tournament in the quarterfinals in the season of his recognition.

Kieran McArdle -- St. John's
Undervalued and overlooked, McArdle is going to anchor an offense that is set to destroy the souls of opposing keepers all season long. His effort in 2013 was impressive (he finished sixth among attack in LaxBytes' Player Impact Ratings last year and was second in the nation in points per game (6.54)), but it's his relative value that is most telling about McArdle's performance: He's the anchor to a unit that finished 2013 ranked third in adjusted offensive efficiency and finished last season ranked first in adjusted individual offensive value at 20.73 points per 100 total offensive opportunities (that value was five points greater than Pannell's mark from last year). While McArdle may not put up the raw numbers that Thompson might, he's just as valuable and productive as the Great Dane.

Jordan Wolf -- Duke
Duke's offense is a Panzer tank, but it's Wolf -- finally in his senior campaign -- that is the laser guidance system for the destruction machine. The attackman is surrounded with talent, but it's his play that sets the tone for the Devils' ability to make the scoreboard blink so rapidly that it explodes in a fiery explosion of comedic ineptitude from failing to keep up with Duke tallies. Wolf's potential to put up raw numbers is there, but his candidacy likely hinges on: (1) Whether voters dig into the details of who Wolf puts his numbers up against (the Devils have a lot of chaff on their slate); and (2) Whether voters recognize the value -- existent or non-existent -- that Wolf provides the Duke offense. The strength of Duke as a team in 2014 likely impacts Wolf's chances to give the Blue Devils their third Tewaaraton winner.

Tom Schreiber -- Princeton
A dynamic midfielder expected to go first in the Major League Lacrosse Collegiate Draft, The Human Weapon is a machine sent from the future to annihilate the concepts of defensive strategy. Schreiber is a pure midfielder, one of the strongest players at his position in recent seasons, and is the accelerator for the Tigers' offensive efforts. His ability to pass and shoot on the run without preference is extraordinary. The senior ranked 10th in individual offensive value last season at 12.55 points per 100 total Princeton offensive opportunities and was in the top five in LaxBytes' Player Impact Ratings for pure offensive midfielders. His raw numbers may lag a bit compared to his peers (due, in part, to the pace at which Princeton plays), but Schreiber is still a crushing force of offensive might. If cats like Mike MacDonald, Kip Orban, Jake Froccaro, and Ryan Ambler have strong seasons for the Tigers, Schreiber is likely partly responsible for those efforts. And that's exactly why Schreiber stands as a leading Tewaaraton candidate -- it's not just what Schreiber does; it's also what he means to the guys in his orbit.

SECONDARY CANDIDATES

David Dickson -- Bucknell
The junior should come into his own this coming season. The raised profile of the Bison should assist Dickson's potential candidacy.
Wes Berg -- Denver
The Pios are going to score goals, and Berg looks like the cat that could score the most. A 60-goal season keeps Berg in the discussion.
Connor Buczek -- Cornell
Out of Pannell and Steve Mock's shadow, the junior has the opportunity to take the reins of Matt Kerwick's offense -- with the assistance of Matt Donovan -- and show his worth to the nation.
Mark Cockerton -- Virginia
Like Berg, Cockerton has the potential to put 60 tallies on the board. That's a tough number to ignore. His ability to find twine could put the Canadian in the discussion for the Tewaaraton.
Joey Sankey/Jimmy Bitter -- North Carolina
Here's the issue for these two guys: Who's more valuable?
Justin Ward -- Loyola
Ward was robbed of serious Tewaaraton consideration last season. In a year in which he'll feature for the Greyhounds, Ward's role in Loyola's offense should highlight his ability as a balanced offensive option.
Alex Love -- Hobart
Love is a decided long shot, but are there 10 college attackman that you'd take ahead of the senior? The cat scores a ton of goals, even if he's not considered a elite attackman compared to some of his peers.
Brandon Mangan -- Yale
Like Ward, Mangan's candidacy hinges upon clarity from the national audience as to what he is able to accomplish.
Ben McIntosh -- Drexel
McIntosh is establishing himself as a quiet midfield force for the Dragons.

DEFENSIVE GUYS

A defensive player has never won the Tewaaraton, but five look like potential candidates should they perform at an exceptional level:

  • Joe Fletcher -- Loyola: The only collegian to make first-cuts with the United States National Team.
  • Matt Poillon -- Lehigh: Austin Kaut is generally recognized as the country's best ball-stopper, but you can make an argument that Poillon could surpass Kaut this season.
  • Austin Kaut -- Penn State: The Blonde Satan is evil truth.
  • John LoCascio -- Villanova: The do-it-all pole for the Wildcats is arguably the best at his position this season.
  • Michael Ehrhardt -- Maryland: The anchor to Maryland's defense.
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