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Team 91 knew the deal once the final whistle sounded. The team picture with the banner, the additions to the T-shirt collection – LI Smash has won its share of tournaments through the years. So there should’ve been little surprise when they came out on top in the Class of 2022 division at CrabFeast in Bel Air, Md., on Sunday.
But the way the top-seeded Smash got through the tourney, with back-to-back gritty one-goal wins, left room to be impressed anew.
Loyola commit Brady West’s (South Side, N.Y.) goal in the fourth quarter separated Team 91 Smash from Mesa, 7-6, in the final. It was the kind of team goal that typified Smash’s depth: Michael Leo (St. Anthony’s, N.Y. / Syracuse( dodging from midfield into the space left open by a Mesa defense shading toward NLF No. 1 ’22 Joey Spallina (Mount Sinai, N.Y. / Syracuse), then threading a pass for West to handle on the doorstep and deftly punch home.
“It just flew by,” West said. “I got into space and saw Mike Leo dodging. And I just got to a spot where there was no one else, caught it and finished.”
Putting the Team in Team 91
By and large, Spallina was held fairly quiet in terms of scoring, with a goal and an assist in the 8-7 win over ADVNC in the semifinals and a goal in the final. The ball still found his stick plenty late in the game, though, either to calm the game down or provide secure hands to protect the lead.
But that merely illustrated how deep the supply of talent on Team 91 is. West had a goal and an assist in the semifinal. Jack Flaherty (Chaminade, N.Y. / Navy) scored in both teams. Marcus Wertheim (Smithtown East, N.Y. / Brown) tallied twice in the final, while Anthony Mollica (Massapequa, N.Y. / Hofstra) scored in the semi and set up a goal by Alex Pfeiffer (Sachem North, N.Y. / Albany) in transition in the final.
“Joey’s an amazing player,” West said. “Everyone sees it every day, day in and day out. We see it through his hard work. And sometimes we have to have his back.”
Add in a dogged defensive effort that allowed just 12 goals in the first four games to get to the semis and you have the makings of an unbeaten weekend.
Another run for Mesa
The team they met in the final was somewhat of a surprise. Mesa drew the 10th seed despite a 3-0 finish on Saturday, which meant an early morning wakeup call for the Pennsylvanians. But it edged out seventh seed Leading Edge, 6-5, before routing No. 2 Team 91 Carolina, 10-4, and stopping 3D New England in the semifinal, 8-7.
Seven games make for a heavy workload, particularly for the team that won last week’s Big 4 HHH Champions League. But more games for a group that has been together for years is just fine by them.
“It’s just a huge step forward,” Mesa midfielder and Cornell commit Charlie Box (Marple Newtown, Pa.) said. “We’ve taken off from last year. It’s a lot of fun to be back out here with the guys. Obviously we wanted to win, but credit to them (Team 91), they’re a great team. We’ll be back and ready for the next tournament. … It’s just so much fun playing with these guys. We’ve been playing together since third grade. Finally that’s all clicking together.”
Mesa had six players score in the final. Joseph Sheridan (Malvern Prep, Pa. / Richmond) led the team with a goal and an assist. Brendan Hickey (Tower Hill, Del.) tied the game with a strong low-and-away shot off the dodge in the fourth quarter.
That only set up West’s winner … and set off similar celebrations for Smash.
“It means a lot,” West said. “We haven’t seen each other in a while. We just all ended high school and for all of us to come back and really click again, it shows how hard we’ve worked the last couple of years.”
CrabFeast 2022 Standouts
Austin Oppenheim, faceoff midfield, Mount Sinai (N.Y.) / Team 91 LI Smash / Fairfield
Oppenheim’s win-loss numbers don’t jump off the page in the semifinals and finals. The future Stag, who helped Mount Sinai to a Long Island championship this spring, often won so cleanly as to generate instant offense, as was the case in setting up the game-winning goal in the semifinals. He held his own as Mesa threw two guys at him in the final, including a strong battle on the ground to win possession and set up West’s winning goal.
Marcus Wertheim, midfield, Smithtown East (N.Y.) / Team 91 LI Smash / Brown
Coming off of a 38-goal, 32-assist campaign for Smithtown East, Wertheim was similarly massive in the final. He scored twice, both goals where he got the ball in tight quarters around the crease – once a pass, once scooping a ground ball – and finished. He’s a physical presence around the cage and has soft hands to make plays when harassed by defenders.
Dominic Senft, defense, Chaminade (N.Y.) / Team 91 / LI Smash / Air Force
Smash allowed only nine goals in three games Saturday, then three against Crabs in the quarterfinal. There’s a lot of reasons for that stinginess, and Senft is a big one. He’s got quick feet and an active stick. Though not the biggest defender, his low center of gravity and good footwork mean you’re not going to run by him or power through him.
Michael Leo, attack, St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) / Team 91 LI Smash / Syracuse
Leo loomed large on the final goal, making the play that created space for West to win it. He added a goal and an assist in the semifinal. Leo, who popped 40 goals to go with 10 assists for an outstanding Friars team this spring, is an imposing attackman who is quick on his first step off the dodge. He’s very good at creating space for himself, has a heavy shot and, as the winner by West showed, has the audacity and skill to thread passes into tight windows.
Joseph Sheridan, midfield, Malvern Prep (Pa.) / Mesa / Richmond
Sheridan was outstanding Sunday. He scored two goals and added an assist against 3D New England, then had a goal and did all the running to lead to a second goal in transition. He’s outstanding at creating space for himself off the dodge, either with a strong upper body or quick feet. With a powerful, pinpoint shot, he doesn’t need much room to get his shot away.
Jack Shoemaker, defense, Loyola H.S. (Calif.) / Mesa
Shoemaker was with Mesa last week at Big 4 HHH Champions League, too, and performed outstandingly in both. Joey Spallina scored just once against Mesa, and Shoemaker was the one often tasked with guarding him. Shoemaker has a low center of gravity that he uses to generate leverage, tremendous footwork and great stick skills. He is a valuable outlet in transition with deceptive open-field speed and passing skills.
Andrew McMeekin, faceoff midfield, Episcopal Academy (Pa.) / Mesa / Princeton
McMeekin and Jake McCarthy (Haverford School, Pa. / Merrimack) from a solid partnership at the X, and both came up with big wins on Sunday. But McMeekin, an Eastern Pennsylvania All-American for the Churchmen, separates himself with what he does after the draw. Not only does he have quick hands, but he works hard on the ground, has an ideal combination of upper body strength and balance with his lower body, and helps create attacks with his quickness and passing.
Maxwell Sloat, attack, Sacred Heart Prep (Calif.) / ADVNC / Duke
Sloat is just a monster on attack. He can facilitate from X, accessing passing angles with his 6-3 frame that few can find. He’s got a huge shot with a relatively quick release and fast hands. His footwork is quick, his upper body lets him be physical and he can let it rip in the narrowest of shooting windows.
Quinn Krammer, attack, Lake Washington (Wash.) / ADVNC / Princeton
The hair is often why you notice Krammer first, but then you realize that the guy with that hair is always near the ball, always creating chances, always doing something that makes the defense react. This week was no different. Krammer is listed as an attackman, but he does plenty of work in transition, is great on the ground, isn’t shy about getting physical and even put in a few decent shifts in the defensive half.
Aidan Housenbold, defense, Torrey Pines (Calif.) / ADVNC
Housenbold is another defender who did well on Spallina, managing the powerful attackman effectively in close defense. Housenbold looks a little unorthodox – maybe it’s the low defensive stance he gets into – but his footwork is excellent, his one-on-one defending is outstanding and his stick is constantly probing for an opening in coverage.
Russell Hutchinson, defense/LSM, Holderness School (N.H.) / 3D New England / UMass
Hutchinson has the athleticism to play at LSM or defense. He’s physical in locking down in close defense and very good tracking players through X. He’s also got the active stick and open-field danger characteristic of an LSM.
Jack Pappendick, midfield, Buckingham Browne & Nichols (Mass.)/3D New England/Duke
There are a lot of similarities between Pappendick and future Blue Devil teammate Max Sloat, which is a tantalizing pairing. Pappendick dictates the tempo of the offense. He does it with his off-ball movement, with the paralyzing threat of his shot off the dodge and with his passing vision with the ball in his stick.