I took a stab at putting together my own 2011 NCAA All-Tournament team and before I go any further, the "All-Tournament" team is really the "best players from the last four teams remaining" team, because lets be honest, no one remembers the guys from the first round. That’s not to say Delaware’s Grant Kaleikau’s performance against Duke on May 15th (3 goals, 3 assists) wasn’t worthy, it’s just to say that, like an MVP or Tewaaraton winner, he didn’t take his team to the promised land. Therefore, the performances that stuck out to me and meant the most to their teams are as follows.
Steele Stanwick, Virgina: No brainer here, the 2011 Tewaaraton Trophy winner showed the country his skills and his vision. Not only did the guy step up when the team was about to crumble, but he showed leadership as a junior that you just don’t see from anyone else in the country. Faced with the duty of being the quarterback of one of the most electric offenses in the nation, Stanwick took the job that Coach Starsia gave to him and dished out 12 assists as well as adding nine goals. Stanwick earns the nod as the best quarterback of any offense in the country.
Ryan Young, Maryland: Faced with adversity, the senior from Manhasset, NY, went on a tear in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. After the tragic news of his mother’s death, Young made it his mission to bring home the 2011 National Championship for his mother. Although he came up one win short, the speedy attackman meant so much to the 2011 Maryland offense as his seven assists came at huge times for Coach Tillman. Just take a look at his pass to Grant Catalino in overtime against the Syracuse Orange.
Jeremy Noble, Denver: While the stories of both Maryland and Virginia were impressive, no storyline meant more to the sport of lacrosse than the success of the Denver Pioneers. Led by a true pioneer in Bill Tierney, the Pioneers shocked many people when they beat Johns Hopkins in the quarterfinals to reach the semi-finals. Noble, a freshman from Ontario, Canada, averaged five points per game and stepped up when senior captain Todd Baxter was lost for round one against Villanova. Sure, some of Noble’s success came from the opposition keying in on guys like Mark Matthews and Alex Demopolous, but it takes role players to win in lacrosse and Noble came up big. Give credit when credit is due.
Honorable Mention: Matt White, Chris Bocklett and Nick O’Reilly of Virginia, Grant Catalino of Maryland.
Colin Briggs, Virginia: It could be said no player stepped up bigger than Briggs did in the National Championship game. Only two days after being suspended from the semi-final game against Denver, Starsia puts Briggs back in the lineup and the junior thanked Starsia with a five goal performance. In a game that saw both Stanwick and Chris Bocklett get shutdown for the Cavaliers, Briggs came to play in the most important game of his life. Briggs finished with seven goals in only three games.
Cameron Flint, Denver: The Salisbury transfer came up huge for Tierney and the Pioneer’s down the stretch was a key player with Noble in filling the void that Baxter left. Saving his best for late in the season, Flint scored three goals against Johns Hopkins and showed off his speed in the quarterfinal win. He will be a big part of the 2012 Denver Pioneer offense.
Curtis Holmes, Maryland: Perhaps the greatest asset to any team in the tournament, Holmes dominated the face-off X throughout the tournament and was key in the ‘Terps overtime win against Syracuse. When Maryland needed the ball or was looking to kill some clock, Holmes was there for the ‘Terps. The 2011 version of Syracuse’s Danny Brennan.
Bray Malphrus, Virginia: The guy completely changed his style of play from a long stick midfielder to a close defenseman and the Virginia defense was a new group. After the loss of Matt Lovejoy and a few awful performances, Starsia went to his senior captain and asked him to make the change and Malphrus shined in his new role. Most noticeably, Malphrus was key in limiting Cornell’s Rob Pannell and forcing him into some low percentage shots.
Ryder Bohlander, Maryland: One of the quieter performances in the tournament, Bohlander had possibly the best defensive final four in a long time as he completely shut down both of his opponents’ finishers in back to back games. It started against Duke, where the John Jay high school product held Jordan Wolf scoreless and then came back two days later and shut down his high school buddy Chris Bocklett. The two attackmen combined for 75 goals in 2011 and the two weren’t able to find the back of the net against Bohlander.
Brett Schmidt, Maryland: Asked to cover the opposing team’s top attackman every week and like Bohlander, Schmidt shined during Final Four weekend. Held Duke’s Zach Howell to just one goal and Stanwick to just an assist, Brett is the smaller of the two Schmidts on the Terrapins defense but he played tough and was able to slow down two of the best attackman in the nation. Not to mention his ability to limit JoJo Marasco of Syracuse to just one goal in the quarterfinals.
Adam Ghitelman & Niko Amato, Virginia & Maryland: This one is a complete tie with the slightest edge to Ghitelman for his senior leadership and ability to anchor a National Championship defense. The stats don’t lie and each goalie had almost identical stats in the tournament. Each goalie made 43 saves in the tournament and each averaged 10.75 saves per game. Amato had a slightly better save percentage at 64 percent while Ghitelman was at 54 percent. Each goalie was phenomenal in the tournament and kept each of their respected team’s in every game.