By Chris Goldberg
LILacrosseNews.com, Posted 11/26/13
DOWNINGTOWN, Pa. – Garden City (N.Y.) defenseman Leif Johnson shook off being named the MVP of the Morning Session Saturday at the Philly Freshman Showcase at United Sports.
“I learned today that I need to improve on everything,” said Johnson, who also helped Team Volt defeat Team Black, 8-6, in the Fab 40 Game. “There is no stopping on improving. I’m excited to win (the MVP), but it’s no big deal. I just feel I play my heart out and I always will.”
Johnson (of Team 91) was one of more than 230 freshmen that competed before a group of more than 70 coaches that attended the Freshman and Senior edition of the showcase. The previous week, juniors and sophomores competed at Episcopal Academy. NXTsports hosts the Philly Showcase.
This past weekend’s event was a look at the changing landscape of high school lacrosse. On one field, 50 seniors took their last chance at getting seen (see story on players that fared well) by many Division III coaches and on four other fields there was a group of many of the top high school 2017s getting scouted by some of the top Division I teams. Several of the 2017s have already committed and many more may commit before the 2014 season.
Cold Spring Harbor (N.Y.) attackman Ian Laviano, named the TopLaxRecruits.com MVP for Team Volt, said the players are adjusting to the early recruiting scene.
“Everyone is getting better, bigger, stronger and faster,” said Laviano (a teammate of Johnson on Team 91). “Everyone is constantly working on their game you have to constantly work on your game and get better.
“But I put them (the coaches) out of my head. You just have to get better.”
Laviano said his morning team jelled after the first game.
“Playing in this all-star game was the goal since I signed up,” he said. “I kept working on it and it happened.
“We developed as a team in the morning. We jelled a lot and that felt good. It was pretty difficult in the beginning, but as the day went on we got to know each other.”
Johnson also wanted to make sure the coaches saw him at his best.
“Coming in, I wanted to make a statement like any other player,” he said. “I think I talked really well on defense and I made my best checks. I maintained top side on everyone I could. I thought overall I really had a good day.”
The TopLaxRecruits.com MVP for the Black Team was Conestoga (PA) attackmanTommy Sopko (NXT L.C.), who had two goals and helped his team rally from a 5-0 halftime deficit and pull within 6-5 at one point.
“It was a lot of fun; there were a lot of good players!” said Sopko. “We only had five or six PA players in the (Fab 40) game and I got to meet a lot of new guys. It was cool coming back from the 5-0 deficit and closing the gap like we did.
“My morning team had only three PA players so again it was cool to meet new people.”
Sopko said the recruiting pressures are there, but players have opportunities to get seen.
“It’s pretty scary,” he said. “It’s starting early and I feel like you have to show it all early. So, this was a good event.
“I think I need to improve off ball and I need to cut more and look for openings and clear out from guys who are dodging.”
One of the other PA players that made the Fab 40 team was Strath Haven’s Hunter Mazur (NXT L.C.), the King of the X champion. Mazur toppled James Avanzato of Sachem North (N.Y.) in the King of the X finals.
“I just wanted to play mad and win every face-off,” said Mazur. “I didn’t really have much of a strategy. I did my usual faceoff pitch and pop. As you start winning you get more and more confidence; that’s a big thing.”
Mazur had plenty of motivation.
“Just some people said I wasn’t going to win,” he said. “You know what I wanted? To prove them wrong. It makes me happy.
“The morning also went pretty well. We went 2-1 and did pretty well. I think I lost probably only around five face-offs.”