Players from all over the country gathered at the haven for high school sports, IMG Academy, to showcase their talents in front of a number of collegiate programs including UNC, Yale, Harvard, Syracuse, Lehigh, Brown, and a host of others. The event kicked off with a day dedicated to collegiate-level positional training and concluded with tournament-style play, including an All-Star game and Final, where players were able to utilize their newly acquired skills.
Berger Balls Out for MVP Honors
If you were watching the ‘23 class at all this weekend then it would be impossible for you to miss midfielder Nico Berger from Buckingham Browne and Nichols (Mass.) and Laxachusetts With a 6-2, 200-pound frame, Berger certainly doesn’t blend in, but that’s not all that stood out. Fierce bull dodging, a cannon of a step-down, and an ability to react to an incoming slide helped Berger separate from the pack.
A two-goal, one assist performance in the championship earned him ’23 MVP honors en route to a championship for Team 1. Berger supported his squad wherever they needed him, clamping high-caliber middies left and right and pushing the ball in transition. It’s safe to say that Berger was the most dangerous and versatile midfielder at the event.
Other 2023 Standouts from IMG
Jack Jenkins, attack, Hudson (Ohio) / Burning River
Part of a loaded Team 2 offense, Jenkins’ explosive first step left defensemen in the dust allowing him to draw a slide and be unselfish with the rock. The 6-2 Ohio native sees where a clean look at where a slide is coming from and where his equally impressive teammates found space. Jenkins’ ability to use both hands and sling the ball on cage after a quick rollback was the reason he had a goal in almost every game he played in.
“I like to think that I am an all-around player with the ability to dodge, feed, and finish,” Jenkins said.
Uncharacteristic of the typical ‘showcase player’, Jenkins was consistently looking for the extra pass. Jenkins is sure to be a great addition to any Division I attack class.
Cole Cashion, midfield, Rumson-Fair Haven (N.J.) / Leading Edge – Yale and Ryan Demato, attack, St. Augustine Prep (NJ), Leading Edge
These two Leading Edge products complemented each other nicely throughout tournament-play, both showcasing remarkable lacrosse IQ and creativity. Cashion, who committed to Ivy League powerhouse Yale shortly after the event, consistently dodged with his head up and what he lacks in size, he makes up with a lightning-fast left-to-right split.
Demato, a leading scorer for the Hermits last spring with 30 goals and 13 assists, was the flashier of the two, utilizing behind-the-back and no-look feeds to find his buddy Cashion for easy goals on multiple occasions, including a pair of goals in the championship.
Lloyd, a 6’2” 200 lb gazelle, terrorized offensive players with his pure athleticism all weekend. He was able to utilize the positional training provided the day prior to improve his game for real-life play.
“The positional training at NLF at IMG gave me great tips to improve my 1v1 form. I’m athletic enough to keep up with these guys so it really just comes down to the little things for me,” Lloyd said.
KJ told me that the best part of his game is his ability to see “two plays ahead,” which showed itself in his team-oriented style of play and anticipatory sliding efforts. Already having the dimensions for a Division I athlete, it would be a surprise to see Lloyd stay uncommitted much longer.
Prissert and Lloyd served as a high-powered long-stick midfield unit for Team 2. Prissert constantly found himself crossing the midline after snatching up loose ground balls and running transition offense, even if he was playing close defense. He even added a tally in the championship game after fighting for a gritty ground ball and going the distance to put his team within a goal. He was a true utility man throughout the weekend, aiding his team at the faceoff X and wings to create loose balls and locking down his 1v1 matchups. Prissert committed to Brown shortly after the event.
Sim’s coaches throughout the weekend were impressed with the pole’s college-level skill. His lacrosse IQ was seemingly the best aspect of his game. Aggressive but smart, he knows midfielders’ and attackmen’s tendencies and is able to beat them to the spot. Sim refuses to slide upfield in favor of staying closer to the danger zone right in front of the goal, something even college-level defensemen struggle with. That, plus a crazy good stick, made him a perfect addition to Marquette’s class after the event.
Jack Vandegrift, attack, La Salle (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH
A very shifty attackman with the ability to put the ball in the net, Vandegrift had an excellent weekend and was able to consistently draw a slide. The Pennsylvania native, whose family has a lengthy lineage of reaching the Division I level, quarterbacked the Team 4 attack group and made the All-Star game, where he had a beauty of a low-to-high rip from the wing. It will be interesting to see what Vandegrift can do for the Explorers, who project yet again as PIAA favorites, in the spring.
Maybe I’m more inclined to watch goalies given my background and love for the position (ed. note: Scott was a mult-year starting goalie at Philly powerhouse Conestoga and is an All-American at Gettysburg) but there was no denying that these ‘23 goalies stole the show.
Professional goalie and established goalie coach Scotty Rodgers was on the scene to provide a high-level positional training session prior to tournament play.
“The stress of playing in these events with college coaches is enough, so I try to break it down really simply. It’s eyes, hands, feet. It’s mentality. Preparation leads to confidence. I gave them 2-3 drills to add to their routine,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers’ tricks of the trade must have worn off on the young keepers because they were stellar. While every goalie in the ‘23 class had solid campaigns throughout the weekend, there were two that were obvious difference makers for their D-units.
Being the only goalie on a showcase team can have its ups and downs, but Dacanay consistently made the saves expected of him. He also stole some that no one expected. Dacanay, the presumed starter for the Quakers this spring, was the most explosive tender of the bunch which allowed him to move laterally and beat the ball to its target.
“The training sessions allowed me to get my hands and feet moving together and I think it really prepared me well for tournament play,” Dacanay said.
As soon as Dacanay made a save, he was looking upfield for a streaking midfielder. It was these aspects of his game that allowed his team to advance to the championship.
Being calm, cool, and collective is not something that comes easy when a 90-mph shot could be on its way in your direction, but Bryant certainly made it look easy. A big, lefty goalie with patience and superb ball-tracking ability are qualities any college recruiter should be searching for in their next star net-minder and what you get with Bryant. Bryant’s dominance became apparent when he took over duties in the second half of the championship game and completely shut down a high-powered Team 1 offensive group. He made all the right saves at the right time and refused to give up the lead.
“The competition here is so good. There is no one here that lacks in their skill level and there were a lot of tough shots,” Bryant said.
Bryant was able to weather the tough shots he received to lead his team to an NLF championship. He was rewarded for it with a commitment to Bellarmine right after the event.
Dillon Bush, Attack, Park City HS (Utah), 212 Lacrosse / Team 91 National
Quinn Coughlan, Midfield, Landon School (Md.), VLC
Fred Fulkerson, Attack, Arapahoe HS (Co.), Denver Elite Silver
Luke Theberge, Attack, Belmont Hill (Mass.), Laxachusetts
Mason Tucker, faceoff midfield, King’s Ridge Christian School (Ga.), Team 91 South