Check out Episode 2 of the NLF Insider podcast, featuring NLF No. 7 ’23 Tomas Delgado (Brunswick, Conn. / Prime Time / Duke) and NLF No. 39 Shawn Lyght (Seton Hall Prep, N.J. / Leading Edge / Notre Dame) at the banner above.
The NLF team rankings are back!
Rankings are never a perfect science. Teams play at different events, players miss some tournaments due to a long list of reasons, etc. The NLF rankings are compiled by a computer with the use of scores loaded to Tourney Machine. There is a heavy emphasis on playing high-quality opponents, something that separates our rankings from everyone else’s.
The event that carries the most weight in the rankings is the NLF National Championships. Considered to be the top event in the country by a healthy margin, the National Championships are THE toughest event to win. When you win this event, you know you’ve made it through an absolute gauntlet littered with the very best teams in the country. Couple that with more than 300 college coaches attending, and there’s no doubt that it’s the top event in the land.
That, combined with a handful of other elite events, helped formulate these rankings. Without further ado, here’s a breakdown of the top 10 teams, with rankings 1-20 included in this story. Younger graduation years will be featured in the coming weeks.
BY GEOFF SHANNON
Win the titles, earn the rewards, and win was all that Team 91 Long Island Wolfpack did this summer.
A modified high school spring season meant the Wolfpack hit the summer late, but remained unphased despite the delay. They participated in Crab Feast, Summer Showdown and NLF Summer Championship, where they won the 2024 title in a 4-2 victory.
Part of a storied Long Island club program, Team 91 Wolfpack’s roots go back to elementary school.
“Our team has always been a special group,” said Team 91 Wolfpack coach Jeff Aiello. “The vast majority of the team has been together since the second grade. After winning the World Series of Youth Lacrosse a few years ago, it took some work to bring the boys back down to Earth, but with COVID restrictions in the rearview mirror, we are focused and ready to compete and showcase our talents once again.”
The Wolfpack starts with defense and builds out from there. That was apparent in the ‘24 championship game, where they held a talented Eclipse team to just two goals in a game that saw only six goals total. It was a story that repeated itself all summer in big matchups against programs like Laxachusetts, Prime Time, Crabs, Crabs Old Bay and True Illinois.
“We are the true definition of a team. We pride ourselves in sharing the ball and playing selfless lacrosse. With that said, our defense is without a doubt the highlight of our team,” Aiello said. “Big, fast and flat out nasty is how they play.”
The unit starts with defenseman Dante Vardaro (St. Anthony’s, N.Y.). He has great footwork for his size and wields a big stick, and any conversation about the best defenseman in the country includes him. Ben Fox (Chaminade, N.Y.) and Vincent Bolognino (Harborfields, N.Y.) worked the left and right wings, while Quinn Reynolds (Northport, N.Y.) and Rowan Collins (Manhasset, N.Y.) are a dynamic duo at LSM. Mikey Luce (Bayport-Blue Point, N.Y.) continues to improve and adds depth to the unit.
The Wolfpack is looking forward to the return of Aidan McMinn (Ward Melville, N.Y.) who suffered an injury and could not play last season. Goalies Brady Smith (Bayport-Blue Point, N.Y.) and Sal Caputo (Chaminade, N.Y.) held the fort in net, and that goalie duo was instrumental in the NLF championship win.
The offense starts at midfield with Liam Gregorek (Shoreham-Wading River, N.Y.). He takes faceoffs, plays offense and can run back on short-stick defensive midfield. His speed, intensity and ability to finish in a variety of ways make him a huge asset.
On attack, Lucas LaForge (Mount Sinai, N.Y.) is one of the team’s top prospects expected to draw big attention. He’s a fast and super smooth lefty who can finish on the inside and shoot it from range. Ben Morris (Bayport-Blue Point, N.Y.) and Luke Breslin (St. Anthony’s, N.Y.) round out the unit. Their unselfish play and uncanny ability to find each other on offense drives the Wolfpack’s scoring efforts.
Michael Moon (St. Anthony’s, N.Y.), Michael Mondiello (Manhasset, N.Y.), Maclin Keyser (Bayport-Blue Point, N.Y.) and Danny Aiello (Bayport-Blue Point, N.Y.) also all play huge roles for the Wolfpack in the team’s midfield. Mondiello, Aiello and Brett Oppenheim (Mount Sinai, N.Y.) in particular are lockdown defensive midfielders ready to play the invert, but can also contribute on offense when given the opportunity.
No. 2 Eclipse Black
After watching this squad play this past summer, Eclipse program director Jamie Hanford can’t wait to work with the Eclipse 2024s as they prepare for what is considered the most important recruiting period for this class.
“This has been a strong group since third grade,” Hanford said. “They’ve changed a little bit but it’s basically stayed the same core group for a bunch of years now.”
Eclipse brought their best to this year’s NLF Summer Championships, fighting their way to the bracket title game. The team fell to Team 91 Wolfpack in a 4-2 defensive effort. That defense starts with Luke Hublitz (Brunswick, Conn.) and Dillon Stephens (New Canaan, Conn.), two lockdown poles who impose their will on opposing offenses.
“We have a great foundation in our defense,” says Hanford. “We have 1A and 1AB down there with two super physical, super big guys.”
Goalie Carter Hagen (Darien, Conn.) emerged as a strong netminder prospect this past summer, using his wide frame and quick hands to make doorstep stops. He was a standout in the NLF 2024 title game and could be the next great goalie out of Darien, a place that’s routinely pumped out top goalies. Goalie Alexander Rolfe (Deerfield, Mass.) split time with Hagen.
On offense, attackman Kyle Colsey (Ridgefield, Conn.) is the team’s top offensive player. The son of Hall of Famer Roy Colsey and younger brother of Virginia ’22 commit Ryan Colsey, he’s tremendous at directing traffic but can also attack the cage aggressively from behind or from the left wing. Midfielders Hudson Hausmann (Brunswick, Conn.) and Matt Jeffery (Cheshire, Conn.) are explosive players who drive the offense from up top. Hausmann pocketed both Eclipse goals in the national title game. Jack Balzi (New Milford, Conn.) is a quality transition player, able to move the ball quickly from defense to offense.
No. 3 Crabs
Crabs Lacrosse has long believed in the concept of a team of rivals, assembling groups capable of putting aside their differences so they can compete together. This year’s 2024 squad was no different, dropping pretenses in order to go toe-to-toe against the summer’s top programs.
“What made this team special was watching the boys come together and become a unit,” says Crabs 2024 coach Spencer Ford. “They all became good friends and it was clear as we progressed through events. They play unselfishly and have great chemistry.”
The ‘21 summer highlights include playing the No. 1-ranked squad Team 91 Wolfpack squad to within a goal in an NLF semifinal matchup, a game that Ford says brought the competitive toughness out of his team.
The Crabs’ offense starts at midfield with Reid Gills (Severn, Md.), considered one of the top faceoff midfielders in the country. He racked up big possessions all summer against top programs. On attack, Spencer Ford (Boys’ Latin, Md.) is the team’s best communicator. He can control the flow of the game while also directing his guys to the right spots. Attackmen Connor Sydnor (Boys’ Latin, Md.) and Mason Cook (Loyola Blakefield, Md.) work off Ford and attack from the wings. Midfielder Charlie Hall (Severn, Md.) anchors a deep midfield.
Defenseman Peter Laake (Loyola Blakefield, Md.) leads the defense; he uses his strong frame to create space and communicates effectively with his unit. He started at Loyola Blakefield as a freshman. George Guyton (Gilman, Md.), Liam Powell (Loyola Blakefield, Md.) and Ron Sires (Gilman, Md.) anchor the starting rotation. Connor Schoenwetter (Boys’ Latin, Md.), Cam Konradi (Episcopal School of Dallas, Texas), Dougie Kolb (John Carroll, Md.) and Nick Chan (Boys’ Latin, Md.) play big roles in midfield.
Rounding Out The Top 10
No. 4 Long Island Express Schwalje
Express Schwalje’s calling card is a mean, nasty defense that can slow down even the most explosive offenses in the country. The team recorded a pair of shutouts in pool play at NAL, where it reached the semifinals. They got their summer started with a bang, edging out Eclipse, 5-4, for the CrabFeast championship. Express also won its pool at NLF before bowing out in the quarterfinals.
Matthew Kephart (Garden City, N.Y.) and Tommy Snyder (St. Anthony’s, N.Y.) are the headliners on that back end. Both project to be high-level recruits next fall, as both are big, strong and mean. Kephart started at Garden City as a freshman, no small feat, and Snyder will be one of the next great ones out of St. Anthony’s. They’re joined by Jack Mulholland (Manhasset) on the back end.
Owen Tunney (Choate, Conn.), who gives defenses fits as both a midfielder and attackman, is a threat from the wing with great vision and terrific hands. Owen West (South Side, N.Y.) is a powerful, hard-charging dodger who also doubles as the quarterback of the football team. Quinn Langton (St. Anthony’s, N.Y.) is a slick dodger who sees the field well and always drives hard to the cage.
In the middle of the field, the Express boasts LSM Matthew Marchetta (Chaminade, N.Y.), a ground ball machine with great speed, while Kyle Bilello (St. Anthony’s, N.Y.) oozes athleticism and doesn’t shy away from taking his chances offensively.
MadLax saved the best for last this summer, knocking off a pair of top teams in the semifinals and championship game to take home the NAL title. There might not be a better player in the class than Anthony Panetti (Landon, Md.), who was Landon’s most productive freshman midfielder since 2003. He has elite speed, can shoot with either hand and is a cut above just about everyone else athletically.
Brayden Ferguson is one of the top goalies in the country and is on track to start at Bullis (Md.) as a sophomore. Kevin Miller started as a freshman at Landon and put up the second-most points ever for a Bears freshman after Johns Hopkins standout Joey Epstein. Davis Owens is another member of that stacked Landon ’24 class. He’s an LSM with elite stick skills and the ability to push transition and score goals.
No. 6 Laxachusetts
Laxachusetts was a force at NLF, winning all three of its pool play games by at least four goals, including a win over No. 10 Prime Time. The group fell by a goal to No. 2 Eclipse in the quarterfinals, then followed it up with a pair of pool-play wins at NAL and just missed the playoffs after a one-goal loss to Prime Time.
Jimmy Kenney (Needham, Mass.) is next in line as the prototypical incredibly disruptive Laxachusetts pole. The lefty is a 6-2, 180-pounder who creates a ton of havoc and can play both LSM or defense. He will be one of the most sought-after defenders in the class. Peyton Fox (Belmont Hill, Mass.) is an excellent cover man with his outstanding footwork and a great stick.
Offensively, John Paul Guinee (Holderness, N.H.), Evan O’Neil (Tabor, Mass.) and Nate Austin-Johnstone (Thayer, Mass.) kept goalies busy. Guinee is a slasher of an X attackman who’s a threat with either hand. O’Neil, the younger brother of NLF No. 41 ’22 Aidan O’Neil (Richmond), is a smooth, dynamic lefty who routinely gets top side. He sees the field very well, too. Austin-Johnstone is an athletic specimen who’s now operating out of the midfield. A well-built lefty, he causes problems when he gets going downhill to go along with his heavy shot.
No. 7 Team 91 Maryland
Team 91 Maryland won its pool at NLF with a 3-0 mark before bowing out to Eclipse in the quarterfinals. There might not be a player that takes the ball away more in the entire class than LSM Paul McLucas (McDonogh, Md.). A lefty freight train with an uncanny knack for causing turnovers, McLucas dominates the middle of the field and makes opponents think twice about dodging him.
Ben Firlie (McDonogh, Md.) is one of the class’ elite midfield shooters. He’s not overly big, but he packs a ton of power into his shot, both on the run and with time and room. Aidan Olazabal (Phillips Exeter, Md.) is one of the best goalies in the class, a claim he more than backed up this summer. A pair of Culver (Ind.) standouts in Luke Macaluso and Luke Warrington bolster a strong lineup. Macaluso is a versatile attackman who played lefty attack as a righty as a freshman for the Eagles, while Warrington is one of the foremost two-way guys in the class.
No. 8 Brotherly Love
Brotherly Love was a consistent force throughout the summer, routinely making its way into playoff brackets at major events. They reached the semifinals at CrabFeast before bowing out to eventual champion LI Express, won their pool at NLF before losing to Eclipse in the quarterfinals and reached the quarterfinals at NAL before losing to Express again.
Dylan Jaszcz led Episcopal Academy (Pa.) in scoring as a freshman. The slick lefty is very cerebral and can beat defenses as both a scorer and feeder. Nick Wehmeyer (Malvern Prep, Pa.) is one of the best ’24 faceoff middies in Philly, while Friars running mate John Majka is one of the best midfielders in the area.
Attackman Rowyn Nurry, defenseman Chase Cellucci and midfielder Ryan Metz all helped Salesianum to a Delaware state title and were driving forces behind BL’s success.
No. 9 Legacy Taz
Legacy capped its summer by making it to the NAL championship game before falling to MadLax. Taz features one of the top attackmen in the class in Liam Kershis (Shoreham-Wading River, N.Y.), who popped 35 goals to go with 20 assists as a freshman for the Wildcats. Lefty LSM Tyler Eye (St. Anthony’s, N.Y.) rivals Paul McLucas for the title of the class’ LSM takeaway king, while Madden Murphy (Ward Melville, N.Y.) is outstanding at the faceoff stripe. Danny Odell (Eastport-South Manor, N.Y.) is a slick, dynamic midfielder.
No. 10 Prime Time
Prime Time capped its summer with an impressive performance at NAL, reaching the semifinals before dropping a close game to MadLax. It also cobbled together a 3-1 mark at NLF, losing only to No. 6 Laxachusetts.
Isaac Cruz (Pine Bush, N.Y.) has emerged as one of the top midfielders in the class. His explosiveness and versatility help him create separation, and he can dodge to feed or dodge to score. Payton Anderson (Brunswick, Conn.) is an incredibly-gifted lefty attackman with the potential to take over any game that he plays in. An explosive dodger, he’s a load for defenders to slow down.
As is the custom at Prime Time, the defense is stocked with plenty of talent. Robert Plath (Brunswick, Conn.) is big, physical and good at taking the ball away and moving it up the field in transition. Michael Dowd (Ridgefield, Conn.) is a quietly effective cover guy who does a great job of erasing his man without much fanfare. Chris Constantine (Yorktown, N.Y.), nicknamed “The Predator” because he’s always on the prowl to make a big play, is the opposite of Dowd in that he’ll go for the big checks to get the ball out. Palmer Firmender (Fairfield Prep, Conn.) is an outstanding aggressive LSM.