07/09/2018 5:16 AM
This is a recap story from the Leading Edge Shootout. Click here to see the Saturday's photo gallery from the event and click here for Sunday's. Follow MyLacrosseTournaments.com on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
With plenty of warning that there was little time left in the half, Canyon Birch caught the ball and started trekking toward the opposing net.
He faked to his right, rocked back to his left and uncorked a screamer that immediately found the back of the net with a resounding swish of ball meeting twine. It was the first goal Birch scored at the Leading Edge Shootout, but it'd be far from his last one.
For the Manasquan (N.J.) '19 attackman, considered to be one of the very best players in the country in the 2019 recruiting class, it was just another couple of days at the office as he helped the LE '19s to a championship at their host event. The dynamic righty showed that he's got no trouble exploding past defenders and ripping righty bombs, but he also showed that daring him to go left isn't much of a sound strategy, either, scoring a handful of goals on what should dubiously be considered his off-hand.
"I usually shoot every day and I'll double the amount of reps I do righty and do that lefty," Birch said. "I'm jus t trying to get that natural feel for my left hand and improve my skill at that. It definitely gives me a lot more looks and being able to go both hands makes it harder for defensemen to cover me."
That's underselling it a little bit. Birch erupted this spring for Manasquan, breaking the New Jersey state single-season scoring record. A year after posting a 77-goal, 29-assist campaign as a sophomore, the Army West Point commit vaulted into the record books by amassing a ludicrous 123-goal, 52-assist, 175-point season. He had seven games of 10 or more points, including three games of 10 or more goals.
"It was awesome and a really great feeling," Birch said. "My teammates did everything for me. They helped me out so much by feeding me the ball, creating space when I needed to dodge and just kind of always being there."
One hundred and seventy-five points don't come easily, though, and teams tend to figure out pretty quickly those that are likely to beat them, which meant that Birch saw just about every defense you can imagine this year. While there were times where things like being shut off frustrated him, he knew that if he'd be able to continue his frequent dates with the back of the net if he powered on through.
"The lock-offs are definitely frustrating," Birch said. "You just have to stay patient and have your teammates help you out there with off-ball picks and creating space. The biggest thing is creating space for everyone else, because eventually they'll start falling off the lock and try to do some different things."
It can be hard to avoid thinking about breaking such a big-time record, especially after Birch hit the 100-point plateau before the calendar had even changed to May. Despite that, Birch realized somewhat quickly that he'd have a chance to go inscribe his name in the Garden State's record books.
"I guess I realized about midway through the season, but I had to keep my head down and not focus on that," Birch said. "I didn't want to focus on points. I wanted to focus on being the best player I can be and set my teammates up and try to get us to be more successful."
Standouts from the Leading Edge Shootout
Ben Anastos '20, goalie, Concord Carlisle (Mass.) / 3d New England
Anastos seems to love the Leading Edge Shootout, because he always does really well here. He's an excellent communicator and never really has to make any ridiculous saves because he's seemingly always in the right place. Anastos makes terrific outlet passes, too, and he's going to be in high demand in a couple of months.
Sean Boll '19, attack, Kellenberg Memorial (N.Y.) / Long Island Express Tradition
Boll was filling up the stat sheet in a hurry for Tradition. He was incredibly productive, thanks in large part to his ability to beat his man and turn the corner to score. He also showed off a good lacrosse IQ and was able to contribute in a multitude of ways.
Joe Boyle '19, attack, St. Anthony's (N.Y.) / Long Island Express
Boyle does an excellent job of protecting his stick in tight quarters, which allows him to finish at the rack. The lefty was giving defenses fits with his shiftiness, and his lacrosse IQ allows him to see plays develop before they happen. He can score in a couple of different ways, and if he can get a half-step quicker, he'll be a matchup nightmare for just about anyone.
Matis Cole '20, FO/SSDM, Milton Academy (Mass.) / 3d New England
Cole was excellent for 3d, showing off a willingness to scrap for every loose ball and often coming away with it. He won his share of clamps, but his most impressive attribute was his relentless hustle. He also had a beauty of a goal in the championship game, weaving his way through the defense and dumping a shot home before taking a hit.
Jack Fabean '19, LSM/D, Manasquan (N.J.) / Leading Edge - Richmond
Fabean left an early impression when he got under an attackman, threw him to the ground, scooped up the ground ball and started transition the other way in the first game of the tournament. He never relented, either, showing an impressive ability to either play up top or down low at close defense. On the wings, he displayed a great stick, grabbed a ton of ground balls, and can really run in the open field. Defensively, he erases guys with his 1v1 defense and plays with an edge.
Ryan Kindel '20, midfield, Patriot (Va.) / VLC
Kids that are Kindel's size shouldn't be able to run as well as he does, and it's jarring to see a 6-2 midfielder be able to pull away from much smaller opponents. He's extremely fluid and gets separation with ease and has a hard shot that usually finds its way on cage. He definitely favors every coach's preached overhand shot, and it works well for him. He had a great stepdown high-to-low crank against 3d.
CJ Kirst '20, attack/midfield, Delbarton (N.J.) / Leading Edge
Kirst is everything that you'd expect from a coach's son. His lacrosse IQ is off the charts, he NEVER goes easy on a ride and he can do everything that you ask him to do. He's good for at least one caused turnover on the ride every game, and he also filled up the stat sheet elsewhere. Kirst can get his hands free, he can turn the corner, he can feed and he can take a hit to make a play. Kirst is superb on ground balls and also took some D-middie runs, where he naturally excelled.
Stephen Krug '20, goalie, Iona Prep (N.Y.) / Express North
Krug isn't the biggest goalie out there, but his quick feet helped him move around the cage well, as well as make some big-time kick saves. He was great in a semifinal loss to Leading Edge, making three or four kick saves and a handful of others before LE pulled away. He is very tough to beat on low shots, too.
Brendan Maher '20, defense, Melrose (Mass.) / 3d New England
Maher stood out right away with how well he runs. He looks like he can stay stride-for-stride with just about anyone, and that allows him to be a little bit more aggressive with his 1v1 defense. He stayed right on his opponents' gloves and he makes life uncomfortable for attackmen. He had a particularly impressive caused turnover in the round-robin game against Leading Edge, where he easily dislodged the ball.
Morgan O'Reilly '20, midfield, St. Anthony's (N.Y.) / Long Island Express - Sacred Heart
The latest in the O'Reilly family to commit to Sacred Heart, O'Reilly's size helps him stand out immediately. He cuts an imposing figure by towering over most, but he's also very fluid for his size and does a nice job of dodging with his head up. He's got the athleticism to beat most guys off the dodge, but he's also unselfish and is happy to hit his teammates with a feed. Once he fills out a little more, he'll be awfully tough to stop.
Billy Rojack '20, LSM, Seton Hall Prep (N.J.) / Leading Edge
Rojack has been enjoying a fantastic summer, and his play this weekend continued his upward trajectory. If you don't focus on protecting the ball around him, it'll end up on the ground. He doesn't throw huge checks, but short, accurate ones that give people problems. Rojack has a good stick in traffic and is confident when handling the ball. He plays with an edge and can't be fun to play against.
Dylan Vitale '19, attack, Lacey (N.J.) / Team 91 New Jersey
Vitale carried the scoring load for 91 Jersey all weekend, thriving both as a dodger and an off-ball finisher. He does a great job of beating his man off the dodge and opening up scoring chances. Off the ball, he's adept at finding soft spots in the coverage and quickly finishing anything he can get his hands on.
Mark Allan '20, goalie, Harborfields (N.Y.) / NY All Greys
Ben Balser '19, midfield, Poly Prep (N.Y.) / Long Island Express Tradition
Anthony Bartolotto '22, attack, Miller Place (N.Y.) / Team 91
Nick Capannelli '20, FO/M, Patriot (Va.) / VLC
Christian Cechini '19, attack, Apex (N.C.) / Leading Edge - Penn State
Matt Franzoni '20, midfield, Manasquan (N.J.) / Team 91 New Jersey
Colin Freer '20, defense, Westfield (N.J.) / Leading Edge - Princeton
Cam Kewley '20, defense, Boston Latin (Mass.) / 3d New England
Connell Kumar '20, midfield, Seton Hall Prep (N.J.) / Leading Edge
Lane McCarty '19, LSM/defense, Delaware Valley (N.J.) / Leading Edge
Quentin Sommer '20, midfield, St. Anthony's (N.Y.) / Long Island Express