With the college lacrosse season just months away, Lacrosse Bucket is looking forward and examining this upcoming season’s breakout players.
Some have seen glimpses of the spotlight. Some are coming off of injuries. And a few have yet to play a single minute of college lacrosse. Whichever road they have been traveling, are well positioned to shine when given the opportunity this spring.
Connor Shellenberger, A, Virginia
There hasn’t been more chatter around a player who has yet to play a minute of college lacrosse this offseason than Shellenberger. An Under Armour All-American and the top-ranked recruit in the nation, per Inside Lacrosse, Shellenberger arrived on campus last fall with as much praise as anyone. But the St. Anne’s Belfield, Va., product elected to take a redshirt year. Shellenberger is very well positioned to step in where needed on this loaded Virginia offense and make an impact. One of the more versatile players on this Cavaliers’ roster, the redshirt freshman could find himself playing attack or midfield this spring and thriving. Although, he will most likely find himself playing primarily midfield this season.
We’ve seen this same exact move at Virginia in recent history, as Payton Cormier redshirted in 2019 before emerging as the Cavaliers third-leading point-getter last season, scoring 12 goals and dishing out seven assist. Shellenberger could very well see that same level of production this season, and he will have a full year to do it, as well.
Canyon Birch, A, Penn State
New Jersey’s all-time high school leader in points (558) and goals (392), Birch had a prolific high school career at Massaquan, N.J., where he won three state titles before arriving at Penn State as the nation’s No. 15 recruit, per Inside Lacrosse. With the elite talent the Nittany Lions possessed at the attack position last season, Birch only saw very action limited action. He played in the Nittany Lions’ opener against Lafayette and recorded one caused turnover. The graduation of Grant Ament opens up a perfect opportunity for Birch to step into a bigger role at attack, and possibly even get the starting nod, this spring as a redshirt freshman. A goal scoring machine in high school, we could very well see that skillset from Birch come out at the college level this season.
Thomas Bragg, A, Yale
Yale looses 35 points off of the most productive attack unit in the nation with the losses of Matt Gaudet and Jackson Morrill. Expect Bragg to be the guy that steps up and grabs one of those starting sports. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound attackman tallied ten points (8G/2A) as the Bulldogs’ primary reserve at the attack position last season as a sophomore. With his skillset and size, Bragg easily fits into that Jackson Morrill role as an all-around playmaker who can attack and quarterback an offense from multiple spots on the field.
Wayne White, M, Stony Brook
White is a known commodity amongst America East circles. Starting a few games per year during his first two seasons, he was, essentially, one of the Seawolves’ top reserve midfielders as a freshman and sophomore. Looking to be a full-time starter for the first time in his career in 2019, White fractured his right foot in practice following their season opener and missed the remainder of the year. He came back pretty strong last season, tallying seven goals and six assists in seven games. He started all seven contests. We should see it all come together for White this season, as the redshirt freshman will be one of the Seawolves’ top offensive threats and, for the first time in his career, be a full-time starter for a full season.
Grant Mitchell, M, Ohio State
The Ohio State Buckeyes return one heck of an offense, which looks to be very attack heavy for the second season in a row. Griffin Hughes was the only Buckeye midfielder to record double-digit points last year. In 2021, this Ohio State midfield unit should see more production, and Mitchell will surely be part of that uptick and could very well have himself a breakout season. Mitchell saw action in all seven games last season and churned out eight points (4G/4A) as a freshman. After showing much promise in 2020, he can certainly take a step and be a serous offensive threat this spring.
Malik Sparrow, LSM, Denver
Sparrow isn’t exactly an unknown following his freshman season. The Aurora, Colo., native was, at least, partially tasked with guarding the best attackman in Denver’s contests against both Duke and North Carolina during the shortened 2020 season. He recorded a total of six ground balls and seven caused turnovers last season. With a year under his belt, Sparrow could explode and truly become what many feel like he can, one of the best LSM’s in the Big East and college lacrosse, in general.
BJ Burlace D/LSM, Maryland
After spending his freshman season at Yale, where he didn’t see any action, Burlace shipped back down to his home state to play for the Maryland Terrapins. The St. Mary’s, Md., product and former Under Armour All-American recorded 12 goals, eight assists, 24 caused turnovers, and 69 ground balls as a senior in high school. A caused turnover machine and transition junkie, Burlace’s skillset should translate well on the field at Maryland at either LSM or close defense. Alongside another talented LSM in Michael Ubriaco, who is coming off an injury, we could see Burlace’s game flourish this season with the Terps.
Grant Murphy, D, Syracuse
Recruited as a close defenseman, Murphy played primarily as a SSDM during his first two seasons at Syracuse before switching back last season and starting at close in four of the Orange’s five games. He recorded 10 ground balls and four caused turnovers last season. A Lone Star State native, Murphy should step right into a starting spot day one this spring and should be a pretty impactful piece on the back end for an extremely loaded Orange squad.
Ryan Schreiber, D, Michigan
While Schreiber saw six starts as a freshman for the Wolverines last season, he wasn’t necessarily as productive as he probably would’ve liked to. The former Under Armour All-American recorded seven ground balls and three caused turnovers through the Wolverines’ seven contests. With a year as a primary starter under his belt, Schreiber looks perfectly positioned to take a step forward this spring within a young-ish defense and be one of the Wolverines’ most impactful players on the back end.
Logan McNaney, G, Maryland
McNaney is far from an unknown. The Corning, N.Y., native took over as the Terrapins’ starter in cage for the final two games as a freshman last season. He posted a .488 save percentage in those two contests and helped lead Maryland to wins over Notre Dame and Albany. Coming into his sophomore season, McNaney could very well earn the starting nod right out of the gate. Based on what he showed last season, he is more than capable of being next in a long line of successful goalies in College Park.
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