For St. Paul's coach Rick Brocato, scouting players on the South team — the side he will coach in the sixth annual Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Classic— presented some challenges.
While the majority of the roster hails from Maryland and nearby Pennsylvania, there are a few notable exceptions, including soon-to-be Syracuse teammates Brandon Mullins, a defenseman from the Coppell, Texas, and Bobby Wardwell, a goalie from Clifton Park, N.Y.
"It's funny," Brocato said. "I've watched clips on these guys that I'm not as familiar with from You Tube, from various websites, lacrosse websites, and one even from a football website. Wow, they are special athletes. So it's pretty cool."
Considering lacrosse's rapid rise in popularity, it comes as no surprise that Brocato might have to resort to the Internet to scope out players from an increasingly diverse geographic landscape.
On Saturday, Brocato hopes to guide the South to its second win in six years as his team clashes with the North at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium at 8 p.m. The game — featuring 44 of the best graduating seniors in the nation — will be shown live on ESPNU.
"It's really an honor," said Brocato, who has coached the Crusaders lacrosse team for 11 years. "It's humbling too, being part of such a great event and knowing the great coaches that have been able to coach in this game."
On Friday, Brocato held two practices with his team, his only opportunities to gather his players together on the field before Saturday's contest. The hour-and-a-half sessions in the morning and afternoon provided the coach with a chance to organize his lineup and evaluate each unit.
"You certainly don't over-coach in games like this," he said. "Give them some basic stuff that we all need to be on the same page about. Defensively, it's about the slide package and stuff like that and then kind of feel out who plays well together and who might be your power-play unit."
Mary Bartel, the coach of the South team in the girls Under Armour All-America Lacrosse Classic, set for 4 p.m. Saturday at Johnny Unitas Stadium, faced similar circumstances as Brocato.
Bartel, who has guided Notre Dame Prep lacrosse for 23 years, used her two practice sessions to "emphasize the team concept" and get a feel for her players so she can put them in the best position to succeed.
"Make it a pretty game and set an example for the youngsters that are looking up to those big, bad seniors who have reached such wonderful notoriety," she said of her goals.
In past years, the Classic has consistently been a high-scoring affair. Only once did a team fail to reach double-digit goals in the ten previous contests.
Both coaches agree that the All-Star event dictates goals early and often.
"I'd hate to be a goalie in these types of games," Brocato said. "There are some great goalies that are in this game, but it has to be tough on them because even the defensive players are offensive-minded in a game like this. The pace of the game can get a little frenetic and it's up and down and that leads to a high-scoring game."
Besides being lacrosse lifers, there's one more similarity Brocato and Bartel share today: the chance to coach one of their players a final time.
Taylor Michel and Jay Carlson will represent St. Paul's in the Classic and have the chance to spend one last Saturday afternoon on the sideline with Brocato. The attackers, heading to lacrosse powerhouses Virginia and Maryland, respectively — this year's national championship matchup — are thrilled to compete, Brocato said.
Covie Stanwick will take the field a few hours before her brother, Wells, competes in the nightcap. Stanwick will travel to Germany this summer to play for the U.S. U-19 team following her stellar career at Notre Dame Prep.
"We're going to send her off to Germany to bring back a gold medal, so we're kind of hoping to end on a win and send her off to bring home some more wins," Bartel said.