Breakout Players From 2022: Defense

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics)

The 2022 college lacrosse season is in the books. And just like always, there were freshmen who stood out amongst the rest and shined during their first season of college lacrosse.

Over the next week, Lacrosse Bucket will be highlighting some of the players who broke out at each position during the 2022 season.

Here is a look at some breakout players on the offensive end of the field from this past season.

*Note: This list does not include first-year players.*

Ajax Zappitello, D, Maryland: If there were an award for the biggest breakout player of the year Zappitello would be this year’s recipient. After seeing limited action a season ago as a freshman, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound defenseman emerged as a starter for the Terrapins and was a crucial part of the defensive core that helped lead the undefeated national champs. Zappitello had a team-high 27 caused turnovers while also grabbing 26 ground balls.

Gavin Adler, D, Cornell: Adler started all five games at close during 2020, so he certainly didn’t appear out of nowhere. However, the extent at which he impressed this past season was surprising to many, and especially considering Adler was nowhere to be seen in preseason discussions of All-Americans. Helping to lead Cornell to the national title game, Adler caused 34 turnovers and grabbed 75 ground balls as the Big Red’s top defender.

Tanner Hay, D, UAlbany: Hay wasn’t an unknown. He had seen multiple starts at close and been in the LSM rotation over the previous three seasons. But as a senior in 2022 he really stepped up, starting all 15 games at close while proving to be one of the Danes’ best poles. He caused 27 turnovers and 77 ground balls.

Mitchell Dunham, D, Mount St. Mary’s: After not seeing any game action as a freshman in 2021, Dunham stepped into the fold as a starter at close for the Mountaineers this past spring and proved to be one of their most consistent poles. Dunham ended the season first on the team in caused turnovers (27) and third in ground balls (43).

Brody LaPorte, D, Villanova: Heading into this season, LaPorte had mostly played at the LSM position and had only started one game at close. This season, LaPorte started 14 of 15 games at close and was the Wildcats’ most productive pole, causing 22 turnovers and grabbing 40 ground balls.

Scott Smith, D/LSM, Johns Hopkins: After seeing limited action in 2021, Smith had a breakout season as a sophomore in 2022 as he caused 16 turnovers and grabbed 29 ground balls.

Saam Olexo, LSM, Syracuse: After playing nine games as a short-stick defensive midfielder, Olexo was handed a long pole ahead of the 2022 spring and ultimately thrived as an LSM. He grabbed 46 ground balls, caused 16 turnovers, and tallied five points (4G/1A).

Trevor Yeboah-Kodie, SSDM, Brown: TYK played all five games in 2020 and the Bears’ lone game in 2021. So while he wasn’t exactly an unknown, it was a surprise just how productive of a player he ended up being as a two-way threat for the Bears in 2022. He grabbed 27 ground balls and caused five turnovers while also tallying 13 points (7G/6A).

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