For years, Maryland had an unquestionable claim to D.C.-area high school lacrosse bragging rights. Baltimore is widely considered to be the center of the lacrosse universe, and sometimes it seems like Anne Arundel County youth are born with lacrosse sticks in their hands. Northern Virginia always seemed to be playing catch up, trying to close a widely acknowledged “gap” built by Maryland’s lacrosse tradition and uncommon fondness for the sport.
But in the past decade, that gap has closed, with Northern Virginia producing loads of Division I talent, stating clearly that if the rest of the D.C.-area hasn’t caught up to Maryland’s lacrosse prowess entirely, it’s getting closer.
Last year, coaches from both states decided it was time for a showdown. Maryland’s finest took on D.C. and Virginia’s best in the first Freestate vs. WaveLAX showdown, and Maryland took two of three games played between teams of underclassmen. Thursday, the teams will face off again at Anne Arundel Community College in the second annual Freestate vs. WaveLAX Top 22 games. Class of 2017 teams will faceoff at 5 p.m., followed by the class of 2015 squads at 6:30, then the class of 2016 at 8 p.m..
The Maryland State Lacrosse Coaches Association has been selecting Freestate teams for more than a decade. Coaches nominate their top players in each class, freshmen through juniors, to participate in Freestate tryouts, which themselves are a highly attended recruiting event for college coaches. The “Top 22″ teams in each age group, as selected by the coaches, make up the rosters for the Freestate vs. WaveLAX showdown.
Virginia and D.C. coaches developed WaveLAX in recent years to provide the same showcase opportunities to Virginia and D.C. players that Freestate affords Maryland stars. Coaches nominate their best players in each class, and between 88 and 126 players at each grade level tried out for this year’s teams. From there, coaches selected “Top 44″ teams for each class, then those remaining players faced off for the final 22 spots at each level.
The end result for both Freestate and WaveLAX is three rosters each of the area’s top talent, hungry to earn notice from college coaches (and for some underclassmen, even the notice of their current coaches), but also for some D.C.-area lacrosse supremacy, too.
The Freestate 2017 roster features several area up-and-comers, including a trio of Landon Bears — attackman Colin O’Brien, midfielder William Powell and defenseman Andrew Fowler. Fowler was also named an Under Armour Underclass All-American last week. Three Bullis players will join forces on the WaveLAX 2017 squad — attackman Alex Trippi, midfielder Michael Chiaramonte and defenseman Zach Lee. They’re joined by Langley midfielder Joe Ulepic, who contributed mightily to the Saxons’ run to the Virginia 6A title game, and midfielders Tyler Iriondo and Joshua Sellers from Robinson, who defeated Langley for the title.
Several area players made the Freestate 2016 team, including Georgetown Prep attackman Keith Fernandez and Landon defenseman Justin Conner. Poolesville midfielder Jonathan Hetrick and Churchill goalie Markus Hurd are also on the rising junior team as the only two players from Montgomery County Public Schools selected to the three Top 22 rosters. Seven of the 22 players on WaveLAX’s 2016 team come from St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes, and other notable names include Langley goalie Patrick Dunne — who was outstanding through the Saxons’ playoff run — and Robinson attacker Johnny Daniel, who was similarly solid for the Rams as they charged to the 6A title. Gonzaga midfielder Nick McEvoy will represent the WCAC champs on the 2016 WaveLAX roster.
The 2015 game was the only matchup WaveLAX won in 2014, and Freestate’s 2015 team looks well-loaded for revenge. There’s attacker Gunnar Schimoler and defenseman Craig Chick from 4A/3A champion South River, two of six players from Anne Arundel County public schools on the roster. Howard,the 4A/3A runner-up, is also well-represented with lockdown defender Adam Friedman and potent scorer Cody Ford. Good Counsel midfielder Ryan Lynch, another Under Armour Underclass All-American, will also represent Freestate in the rising senior showdown.
WaveLAX 2015 should give Freestate all it can handle thanks to a 22-player roster overflowing with top talent. That includes McLean midfielder Alex Morris and Gonzaga midfielders Luke Vassos and Teddy Myers. There’s top faceoff man Luke Brugel, the Paul VI FOGO who won the King of the Hill faceoff competition at Under Armour Underclass tryouts. High energy attackman Chris White, the steady leading scorer for state champs Robinson, should also contribute, along with one of Loudoun County’s best midfielders in Loudoun Valley star John Skinner.
The complete rosters of all three Freestate and WaveLAX teams are up online here, along with more information about both teams and the selection process for the Top 22′s. Tryouts for both teams were held in early June.