On a team headed by stars like senior defenseman Joe Fletcher, senior attackman Justin Ward and junior attackman Nikko Pontrello, Pat Laconi tends not to draw the limelight.
And the Loyola Maryland senior defensive midfielder, who leads all Division I short-stick players in caused turnovers (27), said he's fine with blending into the background.
"I don't really need to get a lot of press," he said. "This year compared to last year, at least statswise, I'm much more productive this year. So it would make more sense that this year, I've gotten more recognition than I got last year."
That recognition is well deserved. Laconi, who is one of three captains with Fletcher and Ward (Old Mill), leads the top-ranked Greyhounds (12-1) into Friday's Patriot League tournament semifinal against Colgate (9-5). He has scored eight goals this season, which surpasses the five goals he had entering 2014.
But it is Laconi's defense that distinguishes him from others. Senior midfielder Matt Sawyer has the unenviable task of facing Laconi in practice.
"It's so hard to get the first step on him," said Sawyer, who has 14 goals and six assists in his first year as a full-time starter. "I think he's one of the fastest kids on our team, and he's also so strong that if he gets that initial jam on you, there's just no way you'll be able to get around him. There are times when I'd rather dodge against a long-pole than a short-stick in Pat. He's just unbelievably quick. You can go down the alley and roll back, and when you roll back, he's right there."
With the graduation of short-stick defensive midfielder Josh Hawkins and long-stick midfielder Scott Ratliff, Laconi and senior Kyle Duffy were the only returning members of the "rope" unit with starting experience. The acclimation of a pair of long-stick midfielders in sophomore Jason Crane (Chesapeake-AA) and freshman Ryan Fournier, as well as junior short-stick defensive midfielder Mike Kutzer, puts Laconi in a mentor role.
"They look up to me in the same way that I looked up to Josh and Scott in my freshman and sophomore years," he said. "I wanted to make sure that what they do, that's what I did. If they tried to do some things, I wanted to help them as much as they helped me in previous years."
Coach Charley Toomey said another difference in Laconi is his more vocal presence on the field.
"I think he's a guy that is helping other people to grow up," Toomey said. "He's expected to help Ryan Fournier and Jason Crane take that next step as part of the 'rope' unit. He's helping Mike Kutzer and Kyle Duffy. He's got a voice this year. I think that's been the biggest difference for he and Fletch. I think they have a voice on that defense, where maybe they were overshadowed a little bit last year by Scott Ratliff and Reid Acton."
Laconi's play has propelled him into the conversation for top short-stick defensive midfielder in the country — a group that includes North Carolina senior Ryan Creighton, Maryland senior Brian Cooper (Archbishop Spalding) and Duke junior Will Haus.
It's an elite club, but Laconi deferred when asked about his inclusion.
"I love that people would say that, but I would never be able to accept that, because I couldn't say that I've watched enough of the other great short-stick defensive midfielders like Ryan Creighton," he said. "I can't judge it based off of reading about them. … It's an unbelievable honor for people to put me up there."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun