The 2014 edition of the Under Armour Lacrosse Classic appears as if it will have a little something for every lacrosse fan. At least it should since 55 games are scheduled when the showcase begins Friday, July 11 at Towson University and concludes on Sunday.
The feature events are Saturday at Johnny Unitas Stadium when the Under Armour All-America Boys Classic (5 p.m.) and Under Armour All-America Girls Classic (7:30 p.m.) are played by recent high school graduates.
Local standouts Shack Stanwick, Tal Bruno and Keegan O'Connor (Boys' Latin) and William McBride (Gilman) will bolster the boys South All-Stars while Cece Finney (Roland Park Country School), Lauren Hudson (Maryvale) and Molly Cobb (Notre Dame Prep) compete for the girls South All-Stars.
The South boys will be coached by former Gilman and Princeton University All-American Ryan Boyle. He will be assisted by his dad, Army alum Darby Boyle, and ex-Tiger teammate Matt Striebel.
"The game isn't about me, my dad or Matt," said Ryan Boyle, who coached the South to a 12-11 triumph in 2012. "It's about evaluating personnel, putting players in a position to win and getting out of their way — while still providing them with some structure."
"The under Armour senior All-American game is all about meeting other elite athletes who will soon be competing at the collegiate level, and this is a great opportunity for them to play with, and against, the best competition in the nation," she said. "Obviously, it would be great to stay competitive in the game and come out on top, but the most important thing is for the girls to gain experience going into their freshmen year of college."
All of the local all-stars plan to play at the next level, including Stanwick and Bruno ( Johns Hopkins University), O'Connor (Maryland), McBride ( North Carolina), Finney (Florida), Hudson (Cincinnati) and Cobb (Notre Dame).
In addition to the senior games, the Baltimore boys and girls underclassmen teams will attempt to continue their winning ways after emerging from last year's competition undefeated in an unprecedented sweep of both titles.
The boys trounced Washington, D.C., 17-11, in the final and Philadelphia, 17-10, in a semifinal to capture their first crown last July at the same time the girls upset heavily favored Long Island, 10-9, on a last-second feed from McDonogh's Megan Whittle to Amanda Ignacio, of Mount de Sales.
Maryvale coach Jessica Randisi won't have either star back in the fold for her second title try with the Baltimoreans, but can count on other returnees to steady the ship, including goalie Haley Hicklen (Towson High) and midfielders Miranda Ibello (Maryvale), Kara Klages (John Carroll) and Hannah Warther (Century) and attacker Brindi Griffin (McDonogh).
Katie Railey (NDP) and Alex Argo (Bryn Mawr) are among the newcomers Randisi is counting on to maintain contender status.
Considering that between 150 to 200 girls vied for the 24 roster spots, competition was keen.
"I really had no idea who most of the girls were trying out," said Randisi, who will be assisted by C. Milton Wright coach Brent Ritz and Dulaney's Kristi Korrow. "We got it down to 60 girls and then we played games the last two days. You get what you get, and I like it that way."
The Baltimore boys also boast key returnees from their title run, such as midfielder Ryan Conrad (Loyola Blakefield), goalie AJ Barretto (St. Paul's), longstick Jack Halpert (Gilman) and attackman Andy Matthews (Gilman). All were instrumental in last year's success.
"We have experience from last year's championship team, which we can share with the new guys this year," said Conrad, a Virginia recruit. "We have have already done this in our practices, and hope it leads to another championship for Baltimore this year. I do not think complacency will be an issue as we have all new coaches and players, except the returners."
Baltimore coach Jimmy Creighton, who piloted Howard High to the Class 4A-3A final in May, said his attack is deep and talented with Patrick Spencer (Boys' Latin), Cameron Carter (Dulaney), Mitch Gordon (St. Paul's), Cole Williams (Loyola), Alex Roesner (Loyola) and Timmy Kelly (Calvert Hall) leading the way.
Like last year, an unheralded defense will protect Barretto and fellow goalie Casey DuBois (Mt. Hebron).
"They may not all be big names, but they all deserve to be here," said Creighton, noting that 270 boys showed up at tryouts. "They really get after it in practice."
He said that last year's star, Barretto, has been sharp.
"He makes the one-on-one save and the time-and-room save, too," Creighton said. "He's the complete package."
Barretto said that defending the title will be a challenge.
"We have a lot of expectations since we won last year and, all the teams are going to be coming for us, so we just have to be ready to play," the rising senior said. "I know that everyone just looks at our offense, but I think we have a lot of talent on our defense. One of our strengths is that we have a big and athletic defense, and we are playing as a unit."