In our Behind the NLF Rankings Features, we will take a deeper look into what makes some of our top club programs, teams, and student-athletes achieve their elite-level success.
Crabs Club Director and 2023 head coach Ryan McClernan shared with us how this group has risen to the top of the ranks.
What makes this group such a special group on and off the field?
McClernan: The majority of this group has been playing together since they were in the seventh grade. We have an experienced and dedicated team, with a great nucleus, and this group is battle-tested. We have played every other top team over the recent years, and while we have not won them all, we have defeated all of the top programs at least once, and we look forward to future battles, beginning this summer.
Most memorable moments, and any signature games that stand out?
McClernan: We have had a lot of great moments with this group. With all of the challenges that have come within the past year, I would say we are fortunate to have had such amazing families and impressive young men. With all of the obstacles that everyone faced last summer – and we were certainly not alone in those – the kids stayed with it, adjusted, and built on their success, with hard work and dedication.
Winning Crabfeast last summer was certainly special, as we had to change dates, locations, adjust on the fly, and then come together and defeat some fantastic competition, – with FCA and the Annapolis Hawks providing great competition in the end.
When did you know you had a special group on your hands?
McClernan: This group has really come together over the years, as the core really came to light in 8th-grade when they played together in a local Maryland club league. They had a couple of nice wins, against traditional powers, like the DC Dogs, and actually won that league – that summer. We overcame a lot early, as they played through adversity, fought tired legs, and showed that they had a lot of fight and perseverance n them.
Who are some of your toughest opponents and rival clubs in the Class of 2023? What makes these matchups so good?
McClernan: We have a club mantra, which is, “Respect all, fear none.” There are so many great teams in the Class of 2023. Whether it’s Team 91 Long Island, MadLax DC Dogs, or any of the other top programs that we play, we have great battles. We love the challenge that these programs provide, and we respect these programs, knowing that anyone can be No. 1 at any given time. The coaches and players are so talented that it can be anyone at the top, and we will find out this summer – when all is said and done.
Top Ranked Standouts
NLF No. 10 ’23 Jacob Pacheco, midfield, Boys’ Latin (Md.)
NLF No. 21 ’23 AJ Marsh, defense, McDonogh (Md.)
NLF No. 23 ’23 Quintan Kilrain, defense, Lawrenceville (N.J.)
NLF No. 40 ’23 Owen Dixon, attack, Loyola Blakefield (Md.)
Under The Radar Players
Kyle Foster, defense, Boys’ Latin (Md.)
“Foster has great size and athleticism,” McClernan said. “At 6-foot-4, Kyle (Foster) has great reach and he is exceptional on the ground. He is a kid who should be ranked, and we are looking forward to a breakout year from him.”
Foster is also the half-brother of former Crabs standout and North Carolina midfielder Pat Foster.
Turner Ashby, attack, Plant (Fla.)
“Ashby is a kid who came to us from Florida, as he summers up in Sherwood Forest (Md.), ” McClernan said. “He is a quiet and coachable kid, who is a fantastic athlete – with good size, and really runs well. He can play either attack or midfield (which he will play for us this summer). Ashby has put up some gaudy numbers down in the Tampa area and we look forward to seeing what he can do this summer season.”
On Coaching this team: What are some of the qualities that make this group stand out?
McClernan: This team is built with a balanced, core nucleus – featuring, big, fast, and strong athletes.
It all starts with our defense, which is an experienced group – with four or five guys making their varsity high school teams as freshmen. They not only made their high school teams but also started and were real contributors at successful and nationally recognized programs. We go 6-foot-4, 6-foot-3, 6-foot-2, and 6-foot on our backline, and they do a great job of starting our transition game. Marsh, Kilrain, Foster, and Riley Chai-Onn, (St. John’s) (Highlights) are all great athletes.
Offensively Jackson Walsh, attack, Boys’ Latin (Md.) (Highlights), Chris Matia, attack, Lawrenceville (N.J.), Dixon, and Pacheco lead the way for us.
Our transition game is something we pride ourselves on, and it starts with this group and translates throughout the team. Speed and athleticism are two qualities this team prides ourselves on.
I just love coaching this group, but more importantly, they are a really nice group of kids. They play hard for each other and the coaching staff has great relationships with the kids and the families.
The Crabs 2023 Coaching Staff
Ryan McClernan – Director and 2023 Head Coach
With nearly 30 years in the game, McClernan is the owner and founder of the club. A 3x US Lacrosse U19 World team selector, McClernan was honored to Chair the 2003 World Games held at Towson University. In 2014, he helped the Baltimore Under Armour team win 5 one-goal games on their way to a national Under Armour underclassman championship. He is a former head varsity high school coach (Greenwich HS, CT) head JV coach (Mt St Joe, Md), and freshman coach (Boys’ Latin, Md). – Crabs bios
McClernan has longtime coach Brad Rodier also on the staff. Rodier has been a member of the Crabs coaching staff since 2008 and has been a JV lacrosse coach at several MIAA and Baltimore County High Schools. Rodier is a graduate of Elon University.
Also assisting this season with the 2023 team will be Johns Hopkins defenseman, Brendan Shure.
June 19-20: Young Guns – Cedar Lane and Carsins Run Bel Air (MD)
June 26-27: CrabFeast
July 16-18: NLF Championships
July 24-25: NAL
From the Coach’s Box
On Battling through the Pandemic: “We are certainly not alone, but I do not think people talk enough about how these teenagers deserve so much credit for what they have sacrificed and what they have persevered through. They have transitioned to-and-from all of the virtual learning and attentiveness at school, the lack of get-togethers, the lack of a normal social scene, and the dedication and extra effort they have put forth is impressive. The kids are tough and resilient these days and a lot of the credit goes to the great lacrosse families and the lacrosse community, in general, who have all stayed positive, flexible, and dedicated to their kids and the game.”
On Recruiting: “We have built a strong foundation of relationships with college coaches, where we are honest with everyone throughout the entire recruiting process. I think it is important to recognize how difficult it is to play college lacrosse, whether it is at the Division1, 2, or 3 levels. As one of the oldest and well-known club programs in the nation, we have built a quality track record, where consistency in every relationship is also important. We want each player to achieve their highest level of play. Our kids stay focused, work hard and understand (as my grandmother always said), “that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” One school may appreciate your beauty more than another, but we believe and work hard to make sure that there is home for every player.”