While the NJCAA lacrosse gods will come out with their own official All-American teams, my list of Junior College All-Americans, which I’m dubbing the “NJCAA Lacrosse All Stars”, can be seen below. It just makes sense, doesn’t it?
Ok, so right away I should say that I don’t do these new school AA lists where 15 kids make the first team and then 634 guys make the 2nd, 3rd, and HM teams.
It’s overkill and it undervalues the award.
Instead, I go blue collar old school and give out TEN spots to the TEN best players in the country. If 4 attackmen or two goalies get the nod, it means another position suffers. There are no LSMs, SSDMs, FoGos, man up attackmen, man down defenders, or awards for best socks. If you’re a stud FoGo or SSDM, you can make the list, but you’d better be the best ever! Otherwise you need to have another aspect or two to your game.
Being GREAT at one thing is simply not enough. This isn’t D1, D2, D3 or the MCLA, where everyone and their best friend gets a trophy. It’s JuCo, and you work for what you eat.
Maybe you disagree (and that’s fair), but these are my top 10 players for JuCo men’s lacrosse in 2017!
Top 10 2017 NJCAA Lacrosse All Stars
Attack – Ian Decker – Howard
Over 110 points, tons of goals, a really impressive shooting percentage, and a big time player on a big time team that made the finals. Decker had a season to remember, as did Howard, and he’s a shoe in for my 10-man AA team.
Attack – Austin Staats – Onondaga
Over 80 points this year, and that’s with Staats banged up and not even close to 100%. When he did play, was somewhat healthy, and decided to score, there were few who could stop him. Not mentioning Russ Oakes would be a crime, as he had a tremendous year, but I went with Staats. An argument can be made for either, or even both, but I could only choose one.
Attack – Davis Prince – Genesee
42 goals and 49 assists is balanced, and Prince rarely turned over the ball. In fact, he scooped up 14 more GBs than he had turnovers, and even caused a couple TOs himself. 6.5 points per game is no laughing matter! Prince is the real deal.
Midfield – Reid Merlow – Howard
Merlow is one of those “I do it all” guys, but unlike some, he does everything really well! He scored man up and man down goals. He scooped up GBs. He dished the rock. He’s an old school two way middie with tons of talent, passion, and a high “team first” IQ. I love this kid’s game.
Midfield – Larson Sundown – Onondaga
Sundown only scored 8 goals, but he had a staggering 49 assists this season and was dishing out apples and making teammates better. Stick skills and IQ are off the charts, making up for a lack of size. It doesn’t seem to matter as Sundown is often involved, always a threat, and one heck of a cerebral lacrosse player.
Midfield – Justin Messersmith – Anne Arundel
37 points, 149 ground balls, just under 400 face offs taken, and a 68% win rate on draws make Messersmith a true throwback to a bygone era, and an AA in my book. None of his numbers alone stand out, but like Merlow he can do a lot of different things really well, and scoring almost 40 points while winning almost 70 percent of your draw attempts is beyond impressive in this day and age of specialization.
Defense – Clayton Messmer – Onondaga
Messmer is a monster, a physical shut down guy, and a key cog in jamming up the middle and laying the hammer for OCC’s impressive D. The OCC O gets a lot of love, but their defense is also stellar, and loaded up with talent. Messmer is not fancy, but he gets the job done, plays good team defense, and crushes people when they get to close.
Defense – Matt Leone – Howard – Leone caused turnovers, scooped up GBs, pushed transition and even notched a 10 point season, while helping to lead Howard to their first title game ever. He helped lead a tough, aggressive, and athletic group of poles where a couple of guys could have made this list.
Defense – Conor Byrnes – Nassau – Caused turnovers, GBs, and hard nosed play put Byrnes on my first team. Nassau has a history of great defenders and a superb group right now, and Conor is definitely one of them! I also really liked Deceglia’s non-stop motor on face off wings, and his orange soccer cleats.
Goalie – Brody Bartell – CCBC Essex – There are quite a few talented keepers in JuCo, so picking just one was really hard. CCBC Essex didn’t make the final four, but they had a great season, and Bartell was a HUGE part of their success. He stopped over 60% of the shots he saw all season, and held his GAA below 10. Against top teams he gave up some goals, but made them work for every one they scored and made his team better.
2017 Coach of the Year
Erik Foust – Howard – The Dragons have been building something serious for a number of years now, and Foust has been at the helm since 2014. Howard had an unreal regular season, and went on to make their first national championship game appearance in program history this year. Foust is doing a great job selling the school to recruits (it’s a fantastic campus), and he’s building a year-by-year team culture that is one of the keys to long-term success at this level.
The players under him buy in to the system he preaches and have created a culture of “team first” over everything. This may rub some fans of opposing teams the wrong way, but that often means you’re doing something right! Successful NJCAA teams often have a “swagger” to them, and Howard is no exception.
While Coach Foust obviously aims to win games, getting kids off to 4 year schools with a good academic fit is at the top of his priority list. He’s a coach that is coaching for his players’ future as well as his program, and it’s great to see.
Congrats to coach Foust, but also to his players, the school, their athletic department, video department, and his staff, as this is really a program-wide award. Impressive stuff all around on the field this year.
For more JuCo love, check out the JuCo Report!