There’s not a ton of complexity to James Pagano‘s offensive game.
The Team 91 and Commack (N.Y.) attackman knows his role and he knows it well. You won’t find Pagano doing much dodging. He’s not usually the type of guy to be threading inch-perfect passes into closing tight windows. What he does well, though, is score goals.
To be precise, Pagano’s here to rip bombs, and the higher, the better. Aim high and let it fly. So much so that it begged the question, is shooting low for losers?
“It definitely is,” Pagano said with a smile. “When you shoot high four times and it keeps going in, you’ve just got to keep going.”
Pagano was the star of the NLF Futures at IMG 2025 championship game. He shot the ball five times and four of them found twine upstairs. It was a ridiculously effective day for the Team 91 sniper to lead Team 1 to a 7-4 come-from-behind win over Team 7 in a game that featured, conservatively speaking, at least 30 future Division I players.
Pagano Goes Bombs Away
Jokes aside, Pagano was ruthless with his high shots. While not the biggest or the fastest attackman in the world, Pagano’s always been a skilled sniper with a knack for eviscerating top corners. With his team down 3-0 to early and only scoring one goal in the first half after running into a brick wall in the form of Josh Marcus (Staples, Conn. / Eclipse), it didn’t look good for Team 1’s chances.
Pagano got to work. He scored four of the game’s next five goals, with teammate Kaden Parsons (Taft, Conn. / Prime Time) interrupting a pair of two-goal Pagano runs. Team 7 kept leaving Pagano open on the wing, and he was all too happy to make them pay for it. Pagano profiles as an excellent end-of-play option at the next level, and scoring goals never runs out of style.
“I credit it to my team and my coaches,” Pagano said. “They really helped me thrive. I’ve kind of always been a shooter. I’ve been working to expand my game and my dodging, but shooting is my real role. With 91, I’m always sitting on that right wing and letting it fire. It’s pretty fun.”
Mullahy a Problem in the Midfield
Pagano was the one who turned the tides in the win, but midfielder Brendan Mullahy (Fairfield Prep, Conn.) got Team 1 on the board when it badly needed a goal. Mullahy showed his speed and shot when he got rolling down the alley and snapped a – wait for it – high stick-side rip. He later added another goal and set up Pagano’s fourth of the game with a nifty dish in traffic.
Very much looking the part of a high-level midfield recruit at 6-2, 170, Mullahy’s a problem with his size and speed, especially when he gets going downhill. He’s at his best as a North-South dodger who draws early slides and makes defenses pay when he doesn’t get those slides.
“I feel like I’m a great between the lines player, a two-way guy,” Mullahy said. “I have great offensive abilities and can play defense on anyone. I feel like I have to work more on setting up my own dodges and not relying on other people to get my open.”
And as for his two high goals?
“It is true that shooting low is for losers,” Mullahy said with a laugh. “High goes every time.”
Iuliano Locks ‘Em Down
It also helped Team 1’s cause that it had Chris Iuliano on the back end. Iuliano, who helped Prime Time win the NLF national championship at Lehigh this summer, was terrific all weekend long and headlined the defense. Few, if any, programs have done a better job of producing high-level college defensemen and Iuliano’s the next in line.
At 6-2, 175 pounds, the Rye (N.Y.) defender passes the eye test right away. Iuliano was terrific at moving his feet and denying dodgers access to scoring areas. His wingspan allows him to take chances because he can still use his length to help him recover if he gets beat. Prime Time’s No. 1 defenseman backed up the hype with a dominant performance at IMG.
“The experience was awesome,” Iuliano said. “The All-Star Game was great. It was a different speed of lacrosse. This whole experience was great. Lot of coaches, ton of learning. I definitely have to improve my stickwork and get in the weight room to get stronger. These coaches and showcases help me out a lot with a lot of learning.”
NLF at IMG 2025 Standouts
Chouinard and Preston Evans (Belmont Hill, Mass.) have chemistry together from playing together forever, and that chemistry was evident when they were on Team 7 at IMG. Evans is the quarterback of the offense, but Chouinard was the one doing damage in front of the cage. Absolutely fearless about going to the middle, Chouinard showed very soft hands and a good IQ when operating inside. He went off for four goals and two assists in the second game on Sunday and was consistently productive throughout. Chouinard plays with a lot of sandpaper to his game and rides extremely hard, as evidenced by some of the caused turnovers that he racked up.
Crann doesn’t run so much as he glides all over the field. While it often doesn’t look like he’s trying, you realize pretty quickly that he’s just effortlessly running by guys. He and Laxachusetts running mate Colin Kenney both had hat tricks in the All-Star Game. Crann had the goal of the weekend, too. He dodged by the LSM, took a huge check to the helmet, fell to the ground into a double team, popped up out of traffic and finished for the second of his three goals.
Crann’s excellent on the clear and hoovers up ground balls. The 5-10, 165-pounder tallied 41 points as a freshman, the most for a freshman in Middlesex history, and it’ll be surprising if he doesn’t obliterate that number as a sophomore.
Evans is very much at home with the ball in his stick and ran the offensive show for Team 7. He tallied 33 assists – good enough for sixth in the ISL – and 41 points as a freshman, and he showed off that kind of vision and passing ability at IMG. Evans always keeps his head up when dodging and does an excellent job of diagnosing where slides are coming from.
He can sling it, too, as he had a wing rip in the All-Star Game that showed that he’s learned a thing or two from his dad, Brown All-American and MLL All-Star Dave Evans, who once held the record for the world’s fastest shot at 109 miles per hour. Evans is a super high IQ player who can slot into a number of roles, but he’s at his best when he can turn the corner and find open guys on the back side.
Any conversation about the best LSM in the class has to include Giannetti. He’s 6-1, 170, but looks even bigger than that. Giannetti covers so much ground with his long strides and knows when and how to go for checks. Giannetti’s not shy about throwing them – any of them, for that matter – but he lands a good amount of them. He did a great job of harassing ballcarriers in the middle of the field, including this gorgeous over-the-head check.
Giannetti’s a dynamic threat between the lines and excelled off the ground. It wasn’t long before he had college coaches asking, “who is that animal over there?”.
Physically, Kenney looks ready to play in college tomorrow. At 6-2, 200 pounds, he’s an absolute house, but showed the hands and body control to make plays in tight. The big righty used his size well to create separation. Kenney netted a hat trick in the All-Star Game, including a gorgeous take to the rack where he overpowered the defender and stuffed it home while diving to the ground. Kenney knows that he can get downhill almost at will, and when he does, he’s excellent at freeing up his hands and letting a hard shot go. He added a nasty twister in front of the cage in the All-Star Game.
“When you’re a good-sized attackman, contact isn’t the worst thing,” Kenney said. “Sometimes checks aren’t the worst thing, so if you can use contact to your advantage, that’s a good thing.”
“The All-Star Game was awesome,” Kenney added. “Everyone was hyped up. It was an awesome game going back and forth.”
Connor Kuttin, attack, Chaminade (N.Y.) / Long Island Express
The number of 2025s with a higher lacrosse IQ than Kuttin can’t be very high, if it’s higher than zero at all. He plays with vision, patience and a brain that sees plays happen before they unfold. Kuttin understands where slides are coming from, what matchups to attack and the exact spot where his teammates like the ball. For a smaller attackman, he can absolutely sling the rock, too, with both power and accuracy.
Kuttin tallied twice and also set up Kimo Kouletsis (The Woodlands, Texas / Team 91 Long Island) for a goal. His second goal came when he spied a hole in the coverage in transition, sliding into an open spot and wiring home a superb skip pass from Miguel Iglesias (Somers, N.Y. / Prime Time). He’s as proven a commodity as there is on the 2025 club circuit and it’ll be interesting if he can carry that over into a potential starting spot at perennial Long Island powerhouse Chaminade this spring.
Marcus came into the weekend with a reputation as possibly the best goalie in the class. You can take the word, “possibly,” out of that equation now. He’ll be the top-ranked goalie in the first class of 2025 rankings after another lights-out performance. Marcus took over Staples’ starting job midway through his freshman campaign. All he did was help them to a state championship. Pretty good start to your career.
The son of Johns Hopkins All-American Jon Marcus exudes poise and calm and is so efficient in his movements. He’s always in the right position because he understands offenses so well and is rarely out of position. Marcus was outstanding throughout the weekend, including six saves in he All-Star Game. He topped that with seven saves against just one goal allowed in the first half of the championship game. Marcus is almost spotless in his clears and he communicates so well with his defenders. There’s not a whole lot to not like about his game.
Tabbed as the tournament MVP, McDonald made a heck of a final impression in the final with a trio of caused turnovers and impactful defense all over the field. On the heels of a fantastic fall for the Shock, McDonald continued his upward ascent by showcasing his versatility and ability to disrupt offenses at either close defense or LSM. He throws accurate checks while always playing under control, has an exceptional stick on ground balls and plays a patient game. McDonald will need to continue to fill out as he’s tall and skinny, but his overall game has him as one of the top prospects in the class.
At 6-4, 195 pounds, McNamara has prototypical Division I size. He’s not a lumbering stiff, though. He runs exceptionally well for a big man, has a terrific stick and made smart decisions on the clear. McNamara made the Darien varsity as a freshman and has a good chance to start as a sophomore. Sophomore starter at Darien? Must be pretty good.
McNamara showed an active stick and got in passing lanes with his long reach. Defenders who tried to overpower him… struggled, to say the least. For a taller defender, he did a solid job of staying low to the ground, too.
Merrill’s sterling reputation precedes him at every event that he plays in. As a result, it doesn’t take long for defenses to start calling for early slides when the tall, gangly middie gets going downhill. He continues to improve in his decision-making when the shot isn’t there, but when the shot is there, your goalie should be ready to turn and rake. A springy athlete, Merrill had some impressive ground balls in traffic to complement his offensive game. He’s a fluid runner who covers a lot of ground with every stride. If he continues his strong play, he will be one of the most in-demand midfielders on Sept. 1.
Griff Meyer, faceoff midfield, Haverford School (Pa.) / Team 91 Maryland
Meyer was electric throughout the weekend, using his powerful physique, quick hands and explosive burst to keep opponents off-balance. Meyer is so incredibly strong – he looks like he lives in the weight room – that he can overpower almost anyone, especially with his shorter frame and wrestling background giving him excellent leverage. He pounces out of his stance so quickly that he constantly created fast breaks off of clean wins.
Meyer showed an advanced knowledge of where to put the ball, and he was dominant in the All-Star Game with an 8-for-10 performance. He figures to be the second faceoff man at Haverford this spring behind NLF No. 2 ’24 Ben McCarthy (Duke), and there should be plenty of opportunities for Meyer to get reps as McCarthy continues to expand his game.
“Our coach was setting up some different wing play stuff, moving our shorties, moving our LSM, so I feel like those positions definitely varied my exits,” Meyer said after the All-Star Game. “What was put in by our coaches worked and I feel like those exits were complementary off of those plays.
Michael Ortlieb, attack, Malvern Prep (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH
Ortlieb didn’t play in Monday’s playoffs because he had to leave early, but he definitely made a major impact in the Sunday games and All-Star Game. He got the scoring started in style in the All-Star Game by creating a ton of separation with a split at X and dunking home a lefty shot with a slide converging on him. Ortlieb is a terrific finisher who not only pulled off the rare feat of earning varsity playing time as a freshman at Malvern – that’s really rare – but he racked up an impressive 36 points as a freshman. That NEVER happens at Malvern. It speaks volumes to the righty’s productivity and ability to finish around the cage. Ortlieb is extremely confident with the ball in his stick and scored some very impressive goals throughout.
“The talent’s off the charts,” Ortlieb said. “The coaches preach that it’s one of the best events in the country and it is. It’s a great event and worthwhile coming down here. Going into it, I knew that I had to be confident and that you have to think you’re one of the best if you want to be one of the best. Having that mindset’s important.”
Will Pedicano, LSM, Delbarton (N.J.) / Leading Edge
There’s really no other way to describe Pedicano than an absolute predator in the middle of the field. You’re never safe if he’s around. Nobody throws a wealth of checks more than Pedicano. They don’t always land, but when they do, hoooo boy. Tailor-made for the LSM position, Pedicano thrives when he gets to get out on hands and apply pressure. He’s such a dynamic presence in the middle of the field because he can quickly take the ball away and push the ball the other way.
He scored 23 goals in his first summer for Leading Edge – that’s not a typo – but it’s not just the scoring that sets him apart. Pedicano has a fabulous stick and snags any ground ball in sight. He has terrific size to go with high-level athleticism that he flashed as Delbarton soccer’s second-leading scorer this fall. At 6-3, 185 pounds, he towers over most players, but he gets out and runs by everyone, too. For all of his offensive skill and transition work, Pedicano is a plus defender, particularly for an LSM.
Bo Popham, defense, Delbarton (N.J.) / Team 91 Maryland
One of the most impressive defensemen in the class, Popham backed up his reputation with another stalwart performance. He certainly isn’t afraid of getting run by as he got way out on hands and made life uncomfortable for attackmen all over the field. Another good one out of perennially the best high school program in New Jersey, Popham carries himself with the confidence of a shutdown defenseman. He talked well with his teammates, showed the footwork to carry attackmen into bad shooting spots, and he shined on ground balls.
Nolan Sabel, midfield, Seton Hall Prep (N.J.) / Leading Edge
Sabel’s first fall with Leading Edge was a smashing success. He might have been the best player on a stacked team that continues to get better. He kept that momentum rolling with another strong performance and showed that he’s one of the class’ best two-way midfielders. The 6-foot, 170-pounder can score, pass, defend and get transition going. His game has been on an upward ascent for the better part of the past two years, and was part of an outstanding midfield duo with Gary Merrill on Team 4. Sabel’s comfortable dodging from just about anywhere and often gets to the middle of the field, where he can do damage with his shot.
Oli Skeean, LSM, Walton (Ga.) / Thunder
Skeean’s such a fun player to watch because something good’s about to happen anytime he’s around the ball. The lefty brings so much energy and is a pitbull when the opposing team has the ball. He did a great job of timing up double teams at 6v6 and the ball’s his when it’s on the ground. Skeean has phenomenal offensive skills, as evidenced by him scoring 30 goals as a short-stick last spring for Walton. He’s a gamechanger in the middle of the field.
Asher Ziv, midfield, Pingry (N.J.) / Leading Edge
Like Sabel, Ziv is a player whose stock has gone way up in the past year or so. He’s a very creative player with the ability to score a lot of goals in tight. He’s got good body control in traffic and excellent hands and plays like someone with a box background. Ziv’s passing ability continues to get better, too. Ziv, who racked up 28 assists and 37 points for Pingry, made a number of deft feeds to pull defenses out of position. He had an impressive lefty rollback in the final.
Quinn Ball, faceoff, Chaminade (N.Y.) / Long Island Express
Jack Cappadona, defense, Tabor (Mass.) / Laxachusetts
Brendan Beatty, midfield, Princeton (N.J.) / Leading Edge
Michael Breschia, attack, Greenwich (Conn.) / Prime Time
Will Chiasson, midfield, Noble & Greenough (Mass.) / Laxachusetts
Luke Danna, midfield, The Woodlands (Texas) / Florida Crabs
Louis D’Agostino, defense, Chaminade (N.Y.) / Long Island Express
Tucker Growney, goalie, Salisbury (Conn.) / Express North
Patrick Hiebert, defense, Brunswick (Conn.) / Team 91 Long Island
Miguel Iglesias, midfield, Somers (N.Y.) / Prime Time
Quinn Kelly, defense, Christian Brothers (N.Y.) / Leading Edge
Daniel Kolin, midfield, Manhasset (N.Y.) / Long Island Express
Kimo Kouletsis, attack, The Woodlands (Texas) / Team 91 Long Island
Brayden Lahey, attack, Trinity-Pawling (N.Y.)
Phil Minardo, faceoff, Delbarton (N.J.) / Leading Edge
Benjamin Pousak, attack, IMG (Fla.) / SweetLax Florida
Anthony Raio, midfield, Half Hollow Hills West (N.Y.) / Team 91 Long Island
Grady Taylor, midfield, Holderness (N.H.) / 4Leaf
Rand Shepard, defense, Phillips Exeter (N.H.) / West Coast Starz
Caden Southworth, midfield, Landon (Md.) / MadLax
John Stenberg, midfield, St. Sebastian’s (Mass.) / Laxachusetts
Ethan Train, goalie, Noble & Greenough (Mass.) / Laxachusetts
John Torpy, goalie, Lake Norman (N.C.) / Team 91 Charlotte