The Naptown National Challenge summer lacrosse tournament has been a huge success in its first two years of existence, so the organizers did what they thought worked best — they made it bigger.
After 46 teams participated in the event two years ago, the number of teams grew to 96 a year ago. This year’s edition will have 153 teams representing at least 18 different states and Canada.
The event kicked off on Monday at five different sites and consisted of 32 teams in the Class of 2019, 2020 and 2021 brackets. The Class of 2022 is the largest with 20 teams, the Class of 2023 boasts 11 teams, the Class of 2024 consists of 14 teams and the Class of 2025 is represented by nine teams.
In the high-school age brackets, each team played two games on Monday and the teams received seeds by a committee of college coaches and members of the Hoganlax staff based on the results. From there, all teams played in the championship bracket starting Tuesday morning.
The 2023, 2024 and 2025 brackets played three games on Monday in pool play and were seeded by division for Tuesday action.
“The number of teams will be 32 from here on out. It is the best for the schedule and best for the number of fields we have at each location,” said Matt Hogan, founder and director of Hoganlax. “What we wanted is that when everybody wakes up the next day, they will have a chance to win the championship.”
From the outset, Hogan has co-organized the Naptown National Challenge along with Dave Cottle, head coach and general manager of the Chesapeake Bayhawks.
Cottle said Bayhawks owner Brendan Kelly has become more involved the last couple years to the point the professional lacrosse franchise is now co-operator of the Naptown National Challenge.
“In just three years, this tournament has grown to be one of the best in the country. We have gone from 46 to 156 teams, which is remarkable,” said Cottle, noting that every major college coach from Division I to Division III was in attendance. “I’m very proud of what this event has become.”
The Class of 2019 games were played at South River High while the 2020s were at Davidsonville Park. HoganLax placed the 2021s at Kent Island High and the 2022s at Annapolis High. White Marsh Park in Centreville played host to the 2023s, 2024s and 2025s.
Three days of competition culminates with the championship games being contested at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Wednesday. Action gets underway with the 2022 game facing off at 2 p.m. followed by the 2021 game starting at 4. Next up is the 2020 contest beginning at 6 and the 2019 matchup commencing at 8. All four games will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Washington.
The Class of 2019 Annapolis Hawks team is loaded with county talent, including Severna Park goalkeeper Shane Carr, attackmen Ian Krampf and Garrett Nilsen of St. Mary’s, Jonathan Jarosz of Severn, close defensemen Jack Bragaw of Broadneck, Ryan McDaniel of Archbishop Spalding, along with BJ Burlace and Cal Hadley of St. Mary’s, among others.
“I think the competition level is significant. That was one of our goals,” Hogan said. “We wanted to put on a first-class showcase that allows you to play in Annapolis at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium but also have very competitive teams.”
“Orange Crush in 2020 is probably one of the best teams around, as is Igloo Black Ice in 2021. But in this tournament, you better be ready to play,” Hogan added.
The Hawks should have highly-seeded teams across the board and the 2019 team will have its work cut out for it with the likes of Team91 from New York, Matlax Capital, which defeated the Hawks a year ago and fourth-seeded Denver Elite.
Title sponsor for the tournament is Lexus with other sponsors listed as Atlantic Tractor, Visit Annapolis and RBC Wealth Management.
“Our whole goal is to just provide a playing environment where the kids can safe and competitive and equally enjoyable for the parents,” Hogan said. “One of our mottos is to create family memories by people coming to visit a place like Annapolis.
“Those are things that are important to us. We’re trying to put on an event that encompasses more things to make us more than just a lacrosse tournament. We want people to have fun and be happy at our events,” Hogan added.
There were more than 150 college coaches that took in games across all the levels on Monday, so the opportunity for being noticed by a future mentor is available during the high-profile event.
“We don’t just have the Top 10, Division I schools here,” Hogan said. “There are plenty of other D I schools here, along with Division II and Division III schools as well. There is a school for everybody here looking at them. That’s what makes this experience good. No matter what your level is there is probably a school here that would value having you on their team. There is a lot of opportunity here.”
Naptown National Challenge Championship Pairings
Annapolis Hawks vs. Duke’s Nationals, 2 p.m.
Team Carolina vs. Kooper’s Lacrosse Club, 4
Team 91 Crush vs. Thunder LB3 National Team, 6
Team 91 Lacrosse vs. Madlax Capital, 8