Canadians in the NCAA (2012) – Week 1

submitted by Jason Donville

Here we go for another year!

It is once again that magical time of the year and that of course means it is lacrosse season. While lacrosse is played all year round in different jurisdictions, it will always be a spring sport to me and spring is just around the corner. And of course, for those of us who just can’t wait until spring has arrived there will always be those teams that for a variety of reasons start their season early.  As in past years, the first edition of “Canadians in the NCAA” focuses on Division I. In this respect there has only been one game played on the men’s side and two on women’s but even with this limited schedule players like Keane, Adams, Diachenko, Matthews and Masterton are already making their marks. So here we go for another year!  

Shillinglaw wins his 300th!

Before we talk about the one game that was played this week in men’s Division I play between Delaware and Detroit, let’s first congratulate Delaware Coach Bob Shillinglaw on achieving his 300th career win on Saturday.  Shillinglaw has won a number of accolades over the years including two “Coach of the Year” honors and has played an important role in the development of some of Canada’s finest lacrosse players including John Grant Jr, Jordan Hall and Curtis Dickson.  Hall describes Coach Shillinglaw as “a dedicated coach who loves lacrosse and cares about his players”. Congrats coach, from all your friends up north!

As for the game, # 19 ranked Delaware defeated Detroit 19 to 6 although it is worth noting that the game was tied at halftime. For Delaware, Dan Keane (Elora) had a good start to the year with 4 goals while Nick Diachenko (Courtice) had a goal and an assist.  Replying for Detroit, Shayne Adams (St Catharines) led the team in scoring with 3 goals while Joel Matthews (St Catharines) had a goal and an assist, Tom Masterson (London) had a pair of helpers and Jordan Houtby (St Catharines) snagged 5 GB’s and 4 CT’s.

Players, coaches and teams to watch in 2012

Every season starts with a number of themes but in this blog we try to focus on themes that are of specific interest to Canadians. The first area of interest is teams that employ a large number of Canadians in their offence and/or box lacrosse influences in their schemes. For those who love the Canadian flavor of the game, here are a few teams to watch in 2012.

Denver – The Mark Matthews (Oshawa) show, with supporting artists Cam Flint (Georgetown) and Jeremy Noble (Orangeville) is playing at a theater near you. However, this year this group is more mature and will be joined by Canadian box lacrosse phenom Wes Berg (New Westminster). Win or lose, Denver is going to be a lot of fun to watch, and my guess is they are going to win a lot more times than they are going to lose.

Ohio State – The Buckeye’s already have Logun Schuss (Delta) in their line-up but what makes this team really exciting is the addition of a superb rookie trio in Reegan Comeault (Pitt Meadows), Turner Evans (Peterborough) and Jesse King (Victoria). Throw in a tough guy like Brock Sorenson (Peterborough) just to keep these guys grounded and you have the makings of one really exciting lacrosse team. This group is young so 2012 may not be their year, but watch out. The Buckeyes are for real!

Detroit – It’s unlikely that Detroit will win an NCAA championship but the four Canucks on this team bring stick skills, grit, determination and attitude. If the likes of Shayne Adams, Jordan Houtby, Tom Masterson and Joel Matthews can stay healthy than Detroit just might make it into the year-end tournament.

Robert Morris – Yes, there have been a few important stars to graduate but the depth of Canadian sharpshooters on the Colonials is still amazing. Kyle Buchanan (Nepean), Kiel Matisz (Stoney Creek), Jake Hayes (Calgary), Tyler Digby (New Westminster) and Kevin Brownell (Burlington) are all back and will play more this year and Dave Morton (Orangeville) is healthy again.  Freshman Jacob Ruest (Cornwall) is a future star and Matt Worlidge (Burlington) will eventually contend for a starting position when he heals.

St Josephs – They never won a game last year, but they have a new coach and he is from Edmonton.  His name is Taylor Wray and he joins Canisius’ Randy Mearns as only the second Canadian coach in Division I lacrosse. And while Wray doesn’t have any Canadians playing for him right now, he has hired Kevin Crowley as an assistant coach. So imagine this. A guy from Edmonton and a kid from New Westminster take over a winless lacrosse team that is based in coach “friendly” Philadelphia.  Sounds like a movie! Sounds like a movie I would like to watch. Good luck T-Wray and Crow!

Canadian players to watch in Division I in 2012 – The big guns

Every year, players who have had good NCAA seasons really step up and become the poster children for Canadians in the NCAA. Here are a few players you will be hearing a lot about in 2012.

Mark Matthews/Denver – Matthews scored 46 goals as a junior and is expected to lead Denver back to NCAA Final 4. Matthews is tall enough and strong enough to handle the double team but both he and his supporting cast are older and stronger than they were last year. It’s going to be fun watching Matthews and Company light it up.

Jason Noble/Cornell – Brodie Merrill set the standard for Canadian LSM’s and it is only fitting that one of his students would come along and be the next standard bearer. A great leader in the dressing room, his quiet demeanor understates his intensity. His 4:40 sprint times combined with great vision and hands tell you in part why he is so good.

Jordan Houtby/Detroit – He doesn’t get the attention he deserves but Houtby is legit. As the starting LSM on Detroit he controls a lot more of the flow and possession than many people realize. Houtby is a superb transition player and might be the most under-rated Canadian in Division I lacrosse.

Jeremy Noble/Denver – The twin brother of Jason Noble, Jeremy is the perfect midfield compliment to Mark Matthews and Cam Flint. Like his brother, he is fast and intense although a tad bit noisier than the other twin we are told. Interestingly, Cornell will play Denver on the 20th of March and we will see these two brothers play against each other for the first time ever.   

Cameron Mann/Jacksonville – Cameron Mann is a superbly skilled player but what all of his coaches and team mates rave about is his character. That said, Mann scored 37 points last year while grabbing 45 GB’s and 9 CT’s so he obviously has a very complete game. If the Dolphins have a great year, Mann will be a big part of the story-line. 

Canadian rookies to watch in Division I in 2012

Predicting which rookies will have the biggest impact each year is tricky because a lot depends on the strength of the program they are joining. That said here are my picks for five rookies worth keeping an eye on.

Reilly O’Connor/Georgetown – Reilly O’Connor (Brooklin) has great hands, great touch and excellent decision making abilities around the cage. O’Connor might be the best offensive threat coming out of the Canadian rookie class in 2012 and that’s high praise given the depth of the scoring touch in this class.

Wes Berg/Denver – Superb stick skills and athleticism, Berg is probably the best 19 year old box lacrosse player in Canada. The only question is how quickly he can pick up the nuances of the field game. The rumors out of Denver are that he is a learning really quickly. 

Reegan Comeault/Turner Evans/Jesse King/Ohio State – Remember Crowley and McBride at Stony Brook? This is kind of what it feels like is going on in Columbus. Three superb rookies to go along with Logun Schuss. Hard to say how long it’s going to take for the chemistry to kick in, but it will.

Dan Taylor/Lehigh – Dan Taylor (Calgary) is big, strong and athletic and can shoot. Reminds many of Carter Bender. Taylor needs to learn the field game but will eventually become a high impact player.

Canadian Women in Division I in 2012

One of the interesting stories in Canadian lacrosse in 2012 is the jump in the number of woman in Division I lacrosse, which leapt from 16 in 2011 to 22 this year. While the raw numbers still lag the men it should be noted that this is a 37% increase and 11 of the 22 women are freshman suggesting that the number of Canadian women playing Division I lacrosse is about to grow quickly to the 40-50 player level. If that trend holds up than that is terrific news for Canadian lacrosse. At the same time, the number of men playing Division I lacrosse is down slightly and the men’s freshman class in particular is down sharply.

 Players and teams to watch in 2012

I will be the first to admit that I don’t know as much about the women’s game as I do about the men, but I am a fan of their game nonetheless and committed to covering it. Like the men, the first areas of interest for fans are those teams that employ a large number of Canadians in their offences. For those who love the Canadian flavor of the game, here are a few teams to watch and a few comments on their high impact players. 

Detroit – Head coach Laura Maness will be installing a new offence this year and the three Canadian’s on her roster are likely to play a prominent role. Emily Boissonneault (Brooklin) had a superb 2011 season scoring 63 goals in 18 games and has been named the team captain for 2012. She will be supported by Corina Mahorn (Whitby) and Erin Campbell (Orangeville) who are also gifted offensive players. All three have the potential to lift Detroit to some unexpected wins in 2012.

Canisius – Canisius is coming off its most successful season in school history that saw it win the MAAC Championship. Several Canadians played key roles in last year’s Championship run including returnees Megan Oosting (Lakefield) who scored 52 goals last year and Carly Quinn (Orangeville) who scored 43 goals along with 22 assists. In 2012, the Griffs welcome talented rookies Taylor Smith (Ashburn) on defense and midfielder Tori Quinn (Orangeville).

Virginia Tech – The Hokies are coming off their winingest season in 12 years and what makes this team interesting to watch is the fact that they have snagged two of Canada’s best up and coming lacrosse players in Taylor Landry (Whitby) and Jacqueline Boissonneault (Brooklin).

Canadian rookies to watch in Division I in 2012

Taylor Landry/Virginia Tech – The 2012 women’s rookie class is the strongest that Canada has ever delivered to the NCAA with 11 freshmen joining the ranks of Division I lacrosse. Of this group, Taylor Landry is by far the highest impact Canadian. Landry led Team Canada in scoring at the 2011 FIL World Championships with 22 goals and 7 assists in 8 games and was voted to the tournament all-star team. Landry could crack the Virginia Tech line-up as a freshman defender but has the potential to become a dominant two-way midfielder.

Katie Donohoe/Monmouth – Donohoe (Peterborough) was also voted to the 2011 All World All-star Team and played an important role in Canada’s bronze medal performance. Hard to say whether she will start but if she does, she has the potential to steal games.

Jordan Lyons/UMBC – Lyons (Peterborough) has speed and power and can play both attack and midfield. Lyons was third in team scoring at the Worlds with 15 goals and 4 assists in 8 games and should become a top rookie in her first year at UMBC.

Games upcoming

Not many games being played close to the Canadian border this week but there is one that is really important. On Sunday, Michigan plays its first Division I game against Detroit at 1PM and it should be a great game. The other game worth checking out is Bryant at Colgate on Saturday at 1PM. 

Final thoughts

If you ever watched Kanatiio Adams play lacrosse than at some point during the game you would turn to the person beside you and with a huge smile on your face say “did you see that?” And the person beside you would be laughing and he would be shaking his head and he would say something like “amazing”. That’s how precious Kanatiio Adams was, that’s how good he was at playing the game of lacrosse.

Kanattio Adams passed away on the 2nd of January, 2012. Some called him son, others brother, some called him roommate, team mate or friend, most just called him Tiio. He wasn’t just a good lacrosse player, he was superb and he undoubtedly would have been the starting LSM for Team Iroquois at the upcoming World U19 Championships in Finland. He was also an outstanding student athlete, on his way to one of the best and most academically challenging universities in the world (Cornell) on a full ride nonetheless. And he was funny too, a real practical joker with a smile that was all about joy and friendliness.

Words can only say so much at times like this. His uncle wrote a poem at the time of Tiio’s funeral and in it he said “that there’s a hole in our heart the shape of you”. That comes pretty close. So does the word “amazing”. Rest well Tiio.

Yours in lacrosse – JP Donville

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