Recent Landon graduate Luke Howard had no problem handling the four days of tryouts for the national men’s under-19 lacrosse team earlier this month that included seven scrimmage sessions in sweltering conditions. But the Ohio State-bound defenseman is glad he wasn’t charged with watching the workouts to pick the 23-man squad.
Howard and St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes rising senior Brent Armstrong emerged from the talented pool of the nation’s top young players to earn the chance to represent the United States at the Federation of International Lacrosse Under-19 World Championships next summer in Finland.
“When I got to the field on the first day, I looked around and saw big, athletic guys all over the place,” Howard said. “I sat down to watch the end of the game before mine, and it was just like, ‘Wow, these guys are good.’ I went away from it thinking they could have taken anyone. I didn’t think I had that great of a shot, but I guess it worked out for me.”
Howard and Armstrong were nominated by their high school coaches and joined the group of 123 players at UMBC from July 7-10. The players were split into teams that changed throughout the weekend with all the action scrutinized by a 20-coach selection committee.
Coach Tim Flynn called the tryout process “a gauntlet” in the press release announcing the team, and the local players agreed.
Howard, accustomed to being one of the more physically imposing players on the field at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, quickly realized he’d need more than size to stand out in his position group. The honorable mention All-Met said the coaches seemed impressed with his communication on the defensive end.
Of the four incoming Ohio State recruits who tried out, Howard — part of a Landon defense this spring that allowed fewer than five goals per game — was the only one to make the squad.
Armstrong (video here), a two-way midfielder who can also face-off, believes his versatility stood out, helping him become one of just five high school players to make the squad. The North Carolina commit finished his junior season with 26 goals and 22 assists en route to all-Interstate Athletic Conference honors.
“It was definitely really fast-paced and high-energy,” Armstrong said of the tryout. “It took a lot out of me, but the hard work paid off.”
Last Monday, Howard and Armstrong both found out they made the cut through an online posting and a day later received calls from Flynn, a New Jersey high school coach, with more details.
The team will come together several times in the next year to train, including a series of scrimmages in Jacksonville, Fla., around Thanksgiving, in preparation for its trip to Finland next July for the world championships. The United States has won the event, which is held roughly every four years, all six times since it was first played in 1988.
“It’s just awesome,” Armstrong said. “I guess words really can’t really describe it. I don’t think it has hit me yet. I doubt it will really hit me until I put on the jersey.”