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There’s no reason for Brunswick (Conn.) to hide from the proverbial target on its back. There’s every reason for the Bruins to embrace it.
Look at Brunswick’s depth chart and you’re not going to find many, if any, holes. There’s an insanely good senior class, headlined by a pair of NLF top-10 prospects in Leo Hoffman and Tomas Delgado. The junior class might be just as good, with two more top-10 prospects in Payton Anderson and Luke Hublitz.
Anywhere you look, the Bruins are loaded. Coming into the season on the heels of a one-loss campaign that culminated in the inaugural Prep Nationals championship, Brunswick knew that it would be expected to not only match that, but surpass that. There’s nothing to suggest, with maybe an argument to the contrary coming from Long Island power St. Anthony’s, that this shouldn’t be considered the top team coming into the season.
You won’t find the Bruins ducking from that hype, either. Sure, it means that they’re going to get everyone’s best shot, but that’s a good thing.
“I love it,” Hoffman said after Brunswick completed a 10-7 come-from-behind over host and four-time defending Inter-Ac champion Malvern Prep. “Coming to Brunswick, we knew we were going to have a target on our back. We love it. From the No. 1 guy to the 48th guy, we all love it. We talk about competing in practice and also in the games. That’s all we’re about, is competing from the first practice whistle on.”
Passing a Major Test
Brunswick’s schedule is absolutely loaded. Besides playing its Prep Nationals friends once apiece before hosting the end-of-season tournament again, there are upcoming battle with perennial powers like Darien (Conn.), St. John’s Prep (Mass.), Taft (Conn.), Hill Academy (Ont.) and Avon Old Farms (Conn.), among others. Malvern definitely fit that bill and came out of the gates looking like a top-10 team. The Friars quickly racked up a 3-0 lead on the strength of goals from sophomore Logan Turley (Big 4 HHH), four-star senior Cornell commit AJ Nikolic and sophomore Owen Mears (Big 4 HHH). Panic time for the Bruins, right?
“Tomas said it in the huddle at the end of the game, we weren’t worried,” Hoffman said. “We’ve played in so many tough games. We were super excited, honestly, we love tests. Their keeper had a couple of great saves at the start, but once we fell into the zone, I knew we were going to be OK.”
Explosive Offense Paces the Bruins
Hoffman (Team 91 Long Island / Penn) was the catalyst when he got the Bruins on the board off of a Jackson Wolfram (Prime Time / Brown) feed. The two reversed their roles on the next goal, with Hoffman snapping a feed to a cutting Wolfram, who obliged with a nice jumper. It marked the start of a 6-0 Brunswick run, one that included a nasty backhander in traffic from four-star junior Brown commit Hudson Hausmann (Eclipse) and an Anderson goal that showed everyone exactly why he earned his five stars. Need proof? Check this out.
Payton Anderson, how are ya. The @PrimeTimeLax08 standout and @CuseMLAX commit gives Brunswick a 5-3 lead with this beautiful individual effort. 🐻 pic.twitter.com/eA8BAZeCke
— NLF (@natlaxfed) March 30, 2023
Pretty cool, huh? It’s almost impossible to guard Brunswick’s ridiculously potent and balanced offense. Hoffman finished with two goals, his second coming where he used his insane first step to split a double before hammering a rocket off the right elbow in a microcosm of what makes him such a special prospect.
Malvern Comeback Falls Just Short
For as good as the Bruins are, the Friars had their opportunities to pull off the upset. Newly-minted sophomore five-star Michael Ortlieb (Big 4 HHH) converted a Nikolic pass for his second of the game to bring Malvern to within one with 4:25 to play. Malvern won the ensuing faceoff, but it looked like a Friar lost a pass in the glaring sun. Delgado, who did yeoman’s work on the defensive end, on the faceoff wings and in transition, got rewarded for his dirty work when he snapped home a Hoffman pass to ice the game for the Bruins.
“They’re a big, strong, athletic team and they’re well-coached, so we knew we had to bring it,” said Malvern junior Brown commit Ennis Udo, who scored once and set up Mears’ tally. “It’s a game of runs. They went on some runs, we went on some runs, but our team has a lot of fight. If we’re down five or we’re down 20, we’re going to fight back. We’re never out of a game.”
Brunswick – Malvern Prep Standouts
Payton Anderson ’24, attack, Brunswick / Prime Time – Syracuse – NLF No. 6 ’24
“Bear” is still a very apropos nickname for a lefty offensive player who can bounce between attack and midfield and simply maul defenders on the way to the cage. Injuries to Brunswick’s attack line have pushed the Syracuse verbal to the lefty attack spot and uh, yeah, that’s a good move. Side note: imagine your first midfield being so loaded that you can move a guy like this to attack and not skip a beat in the midfield. First-world Brunswick problems.
Anyway, Anderson was phenomenal for the Bears, scoring a pair of goals that showed what makes him a potential gamebreaker in the Dome. The goal in the video above was one where he ate checks like they were nothing before burying a 10-yarder on the run. If that’s not your cup of tea, there’s always his second goal, which looked a lot like this.
Anderson simply bullied his way to the rack before dunking the ball home despite a ton of contact. He also made pinpoint feeds throughout the day, perhaps none better than a back-post skip pass for a Max Warden (Brown) dunk. Anderson has better speed and footwork than you’d expect from a 6-2, 200-pounder, so he’s a veritable mismatch, particularly in high school.
Lucca DiBartolomeo ’23, LSM, Malvern Prep – Penn State – NLF No. 5 ’24
Another Malvern game, another Lucca DiBartolomeo writeup. He’s just that consistently impactful for the Friars. He did a very nice job when tasked with covering Brunswick’s elite midfielders in 1v1 coverage, flashing solid footwork without ceding to the normal LSM’s urges to go over the head every other run. The future Nittany Lion continued to gobble up ground balls with relative ease, grabbing what must have been a half-dozen loose balls. DiBartolomeo is a perfect fit for Malvern’s hybrid defense, and Paul O’Grady‘s scheme allows DiBartolomeo to make an impact all over the place. When he checks, it hurts. A lot.
Andrew Greenspan ’23, faceoff midfield, Brunswick / Prime Time – Notre Dame – NLF No. 38 ’23
An elite technician who’s as battle-tested as anyone in the senior class, Greenspan showed a wealth of moves and counters to keep Malvern’s rope unit off base. You can basically match Greenspan’s win/loss record with Brunswick’s first-half play. He lost the first two faceoffs and Malvern got out to a 3-0 lead. When Greenspan won five of the next six faceoffs, Brunswick went on a 6-0 run. That’s not a coincidence.
“I think getting a good handle on the whistle and getting a good handle on my opponent helped me figure out where to win it cleanly,” Greenspan said. “Sometimes, it takes a few faceoffs to get hot, but I felt like down the stretch, our wings did a great job and I was able to figure out where to put the ball. It’s a total blessing. Our guys are so talented. I feel like any time there’s an open ground ball, my wings pick it up, and any time they get on the offensive end, they score. It’s so impressive. They’re such good players and I’m very thankful to be able to play with them.”
Leo Hoffman ’23, midfield, Brunswick / Team 91 Long Island – Penn – NLF No. 2 ’23
For a long time, the comparison for Hoffman has been fellow Team 91 LI product, current Duke attackman and former midfielder Andrew McAdorey. Both are shorter, but not small, freak athletes with unreal speed, explosiveness, agility and change-of-direction ability. The biggest thing, though, is how neither loses speed when they’re changing direction, which helps separate them from everyone else both literally and figuratively.
Hoffman helped orchestrate the comeback from Brunswick’s early deficit by converting a Jackson Wolfram pass. He then returned the favor on both of Wolfram’s goals to show off his passing ability. Hoffman’s second goal, though, was a microcosm of what made him such a highly-prized commitment for Penn. He used that deadly first step to split a converging double and wired a shot off the right elbow. It was a huge juice goal to tie the game at 3 and give Brunswick all the momentum. Later, he helped ice the game by setting up midfield running mate Tomas Delgado’s stepdown to make it 9-7.
AJ Nikolic ’23, attack, Malvern Prep – Cornell – NLF No. 28 ’23
Nikolic’s versatility shined again. There might not be a more two-handed scoring threat in the senior class than the future Big Red. Nikolic buried a pair of lefty goals for the Friars, including one hammer from the wing while matched up against a pole. Later, he took another Bruin pole for a ride, beating his man down the alley, cutting back to the middle and finishing lefty. An excellent finisher, he’s also very cognizant of how the defensive attention that he receives opens up the rest of the offense. Nikolic capped his day with a nice setup of a Michael Ortlieb EMO goal that slashed Brunswick’s lead down to one with fewer than five minutes to play.
Hunter Spiess ’23, defense / LSM, Brunswick – Princeton – NLF No. 35 ’23
It might not be long before Spiess finds another star next to his name in the NLF Rankings. He’s back for his second year as the Bruins’ No. 1 cover option and is so fluid and good with his footwork that he could probably leave his stick on the sideline and still be just as effective. Spiess throws checks to keep offensive players honest, but he’s quietly effective as a pure cover guy. On the flip side, his stickwork is excellent and he makes an impact on faceoff wings for the Bruins. Spiess will be able to find the field for the Tigers because of his versatility.
“We’ve really just had a standard that’s been set by past guys like Colin Mulshine (Prime Time / Princeton), Will Donovan (Notre Dame), Charlie Johnson (Prime Time / Duke) and a bunch of others,” Spiess said. “They’ve set a standard for us to play super aggressive defense, really good on-ball, really good off-ball, talking, things like that, so we’re just trying to carry that on for every defense, every year, and I think we’re doing a pretty good job so far. There’s always stuff to improve on, though.”
Spiess is still a relative newcomer to the position after being a midfielder until eighth grade. You’ll see those middie skills shine through when he’s in the middle of the field as a pole, but making the move to defense was a major blessing for him and his future.
“I used to play middie and then I switched to defense,” Spiess said. “I just did it for fun at first, still playing middie for my town team, Greenwich Youth Lacrosse, which is an awesome program. Then I just started playing some long pole for Brunswick, really liked it, made the switch and it’s been awesome.”
For him and Brunswick, sure. For opposing offenses? Not so much.
Brunswick 10, Malvern Prep 7
Brunswick 2 4 2 2 – 10
Malvern Prep 3 1 1 2 – 7
Leo Hoffman ’23 (NLF No. 2 ’23 / Team 91 LI / Penn) 2 goals, 3 assists
Payton Anderson ’24 (NLF No. 6 ’24 / Prime Time / Syracuse) 2 goals, 2 assists
Jackson Wolfram ’23 (NLF No. 84 ’23 / Prime Time / Brown) 2 goals, 1 assist
Max Warden ’24 (Brown) 2 goals
Tomas Delgado ’23 (NLF No. 7 ’23 / Prime Time / Duke) 1 goal
Hudson Hausmann ’24 (NLF No. 22 ’24 / Eclipse / Brown) 1 goal
Andrew Greenspan ’23 (NLF No. 38 ’23 / Prime Time / Notre Dame) 13-for-21 faceoffs
Tucker Williams 14 saves
Malvern Prep (3-2)
AJ Nikolic ’23 (NLF No. 28 ’23 / Cornell) 2 goals
Michael Ortlieb ’25 (Big 4 HHH / NLF ’25 5-star) 2 goals
Ennis Udo ’24 (NLF No. 78 ’24 / Brown) 1 goal, 1 assist
Owen Mears ’25 (Big 4 HHH) 1 goal
Logan Turley ’25 (Big 4 HHH) 1 goal
Dylan O’Connor ’23 1 assist
Chris Rabena ’23 9 saves