NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL LACROSSE SHOWCASE
Where top high school teams compete and players get recruited.
Fall Session November 23, 2019
Columbia, MD – The National High School Lacrosse Showcase is one of the premier events on the summer circuit.
For West Coast lacrosse programs Mercer Island (Wash.) and Bellevue (Wash.), Lakeridge (Ore.) and Los Angeles’ Loyola Academy (LA Cobras), who attended the NHSLS this past weekend, it was an immersion.
“You look at the roster of teams, and it’s some of the best teams in the country,” said Mercer Island coach Ian O’Hearn.
After winning one match combined in pool play, the West Coast squads split eight games over the final two days of the opening session.
Lacrosse has seen massive growth west of the Mississippi River in the last two decades.
O’Hearn, whose team won the Washington Class 3A state title in the spring, said there were only 20 varsity lacrosse teams when relocated to the state in 2002. There’s 90 now.
“The competition is getting better each year. West Coast teams come east and realize what the next level is,” said O’Hearn.
“We came here to play the best,” said Loyola assistant coach Brett Tietjen. “It’s a learning experience, but the kids need the exposure.”
With Air Force, Denver and Utah the closest Division I programs along with a handful of Division II and III programs, West Coast high school lacrosse squads travel east in the summer for recruiting opportunities and better offseason competition.
Tietjen said the LA Cobras will attend the University of Virginia’s team camp this week. Lakeridge participated at the National Lacrosse Invitational in New York before traveling to Maryland for the NHSLS.
Sheinin, Tietjen, and O’Hearn are transplants from the East Coast where lacrosse has its roots. They agreed the growth out West would depend mainly on getting kids involved at an earlier age.
“Starting them young and get them in on it and make sure they play multiple sports, so they don’t get burned out,” said Lakeridge rising senior goalie David Nyhus. “We see a lot of kids come into our program, like sophomores and juniors and sometimes even seniors who are burned out from football and want to try something new.
At the end of the season, they always say I wish I played this in second grade and got good at it.”
The Massachusetts post-graduate school defeated two-time defending champ Chaminade (N.Y.), 7-3, in the title game.
“You don’t get a chance to be with your guys in the summer a lot,” said Deerfield coach Chip Davis. “It’s good to come together and face good competition.”
Deerfield won seven games in less than 72 hours on the hot turf fields at Blandair Park in the Baltimore/Washington suburb of Columbia. Deerfield defeated three-time MIAA A A champ and Inside Lacrosse’s co-national champ Calvert Hall, 8-1, in the semifinal, and perennial MIAA A stronghold St. Paul’s School in the quarterfinal round Saturday.
Rising junior goalie Michael Scharfenberger said it was an excellent start for the 2020 campaign.
“We got a couple of new seniors, new sophomores and this is to build chemistry before school starts,” said Scharfenberger, who was outstanding in net the final two matches.
Culver Academy, which finished No. 1 nationally by Lacrosse Magazine, went undefeated in pool play and eliminated Washington Catholic Athletic Conference power Gonzaga (D.C.) in the quarterfinal before being upended by Chaminade in the semifinal.
The Long Island private school got out to a 2-0 advantage against Deerfield in the championship game, but rising senior attack Matthew Pecora’s natural hat trick ended the first half for Deerfield.
For Pecora, it was great reuniting with his teammates.
“It’s good to see everyone back together. These are the guys I’ve been playing with for three years,” said Pecora. “It’s hard to hop on to a new team for a random tournament and build chemistry right away.”
Columbia, MD – On Blandair Park’s 5th field, tucked nearly a football field length away from the main fields at the National High School Lacrosse Showcase (NHSLS) late Saturday afternoon, University of Virginia men’s lacrosse coach Lars Tiffany stands near a tent watching the LA Cobras from California play Lovett (Ga.).
A little more than a month ago, Tiffany and the Cavaliers returned to the summit of Division I college lacrosse. But on a hot Saturday afternoon, Tiffany was like many of his coaching brethren, walking around the Howard County fields, scouting potential recruits for the next couple of the seasons.
“Eighty-five to 90-percent of recruiting is done in June and July,” said Tiffany. “I like it intense and concentrated, so then the rest of the year is allowed to focus on the student-athletes.”
More than 100 coaches were in attendance over the five-day NHSLS event, considered one of the best on summer recruiting circuit.
“It’s pretty incredible how much it’s grown,” said Ty Xanders, Inside Lacrosse’s Director of Recruiting and High School Content. “If you ask a college coach, there’s no better recruiting environment than watching a player with his high school team.”
Tiffany said team events provide two big pieces of information for a coach.
“Do you understand the schemes? Are you coachable?” said Tiffany.
Tiffany said club tournaments, which dominate the recruiting calendar, as well as individual showcases, are just as important in the evaluation process.
The participating players at NHSLS agreed to get to play with the school mates and get evaluated is a win-win.
“It brings a different level of competitiveness,” said Flyers’ (New York’s Chaminade) face-off specialist/midfielder James Ball. “It’s awesome playing with the underclassmen who’re getting a chance to get out there and run.”
“You can see how a kid fits and better understand his role where he might fit at the college level,” said University of California coach Ned Webster, “It’s better lacrosse from a spectator standpoint.”
Bordley stepped down after the 2018 season, ending a 42-year run that included 31 Interstate Athletic Conference titles and four national championships.
“We feel a lot of pressure there. The legacy of the program is very strong,” said Healy. “We were relatively inexperienced.”
Landon finished 10-5 last spring.
Healy said there were some growing pains.
“Early in the year, we didn’t have a lot of confidence in ourselves,” said Healy. “It was awesome to see how much they grew throughout the season.”
The past season marked the end of Nostrant’s 28-year tenure at Haverford. Brendon Dawson, who served as an assistant during the spring, is now in charge.
“There hasn’t much of an adjustment. We know the guys,” said Dawson, who coached collegiately at Haverford College and Widener. “Now, it’s just getting used to not having him anymore.”
Dawson said he and Nostrant have the same coaching philosophies. He doesn’t plan to make a lot of changes.
“It about celebrating the history of the program, and putting some things I’ve done in the past and trying to implement,” said Dawson. “It’s not reinventing the wheel. We’ll do some things differently, but not in a way it’s completely different.”
Nostrant has relocated north to Baltimore where he is Gilman’s new coach. Nostrant replaces Brooks Matthews, who retired after 15 seasons and two MIAA A Conference championships.
Nostrant said he excited for “a fresh start.”
“There’s a lot of similarity between Gilman and Haverford, but it’s exciting to get to peel back the onion and kind of go back to fundamentals and principles,” said Nostrant, who won 15 Inter-Ac titles and two state championships at Haverford. “Brooks is a phenomenal coach and left me a nice team. There’s no shortage of talent.”
Nostrant, who regularly played MIAA A Conference programs while at Haverford, will now get a full heaping of arguably the nation’s best.
“You got to change your whole mindset. You got to be healthy and bring your A-game every game,” said Nostrant. “Competing in this league brings out the best in all of us.”
The NHSLS presented an early start on the 2020 season for participating teams.
“We’re competitive which is good to see especially since a lot of our returning seniors aren’t here,” said Bush, whose team reached the PIAA Class 3A state final last month. “We’re giving our younger guys an opportunity.”
Hit by graduation after winning the Illinois state title, New Trier (Ill.) also used the NHSLS to introduce some of its newcomers for 2020.
Collins was pleased with his team’s defense. New Trier went 4-2 (allowed 18 goals in victories), losing to eventual Session I champ Deerfield Academy (Mass.) and perennial MIAA A stronghold Loyola Blakefield (Md.).
Highland Park (Texas), which reached the Texas Division I state final (lost to Episcopal School of Dallas) went 3-3 over the weekend.
“We don’t have a ton of kids, but they were running through ground balls,” said Highland Park assistant coach Rick Moses.
Considered a second-tier MIAA A Conference squad, Archbishop Spalding (Md.) is slowly shedding that title. The Cavaliers won the NHSLS Session II championship.
“We bought in and played hard,” said Spalding coach Ben Phipps. “Sometimes it wasn’t pretty, but we got the job done. That’s kind of how we’ll have success going forward.”
Spalding went 9-9 (4-6 in MIAA A) this past spring but picked up a landmark first victory over Boys’ Latin School. The Lakers reached their 10th straight MIAA A tournament semifinal in May.
In 2018, Spalding knocked off another MIAA A “blue blood” in Loyola Blakefield. The Cavaliers, who joined the MIAA A in 2004, have yet to qualify for postseason play.
But they’re no longer any easy mark by MIAA A opponents.
“We were kind of young last year, but those kids can put up a fight,” said Spalding rising senior midfielder Tucker Denault, who’s committed to Jacksonville University. “I think we’re a more physical and tough group. The Spalding name is definitely going to change.”