Some of the top box clubs in America competed for gold at the 2018 Midwest Classic. (Photo: Mark Donahue)
With clubs regularly travelling from as far north as Minnesota and as south as Texas, the Midwest Classic routinely attracts some of the top box lacrosse talent currently playing the sport in the US (and Canada).
2018 was no different.
“Early on, we used to get teams competing at this event that were amazing field programs, but maybe didn’t have the experience or training to play what most would consider real box lacrosse,” said Resolute Founder and Team USBOXLA Coach Greg Bice. “Today, every team that enters the Midwest Classic can play legit box lacrosse, and it’s absolutely amazing to see.
“To continuously see the competition and skill level grow year after year is really a testament to how much Americans have bought into playing box lacrosse the right way. American box lacrosse talent just keeps getting better and better, and we've seen that firsthand here in Columbus during the Midwest Classic.”
With 40 teams spread over four stacked divisions (Grade 5/6, Grade 7/8, High School A and High School B), this year’s sold-out Classic was arguably the most talent rich to date.
This week and next, USBOXLA.com will announce the Midwest Classic All Stars, as well as provide scouting reports on those elite players. The Grade 5/6 and 7/8 all-star selections will be announced today, while the High School A & B selections and scouting reports will be released this coming Tuesday.
Who are some of America’s top youth box lacrosse players? Keep reading to find out.
Resolute Founder Greg Bice is blown away by the continuous spike in talent at the Midwest Classic. (Photo: Mark Donahue)
Alex Bentley, Project Missouri
Brave, fearless and formidable, Bentley was a key shut-down defender for the Project Missouri squad, adding big-time value to their backend. His wheels and athleticism also sparked some strong transitional play by PROMO.
Peyton Booth, Capital North Stars
His coaches call him a “box veteran” and it’s pretty clear why. Booth is a very polished offensive leader whose ability to finish was equaled by his fancy feeding. He was easily one of the most skilled offensive players at this level.
Preston Corin, Bucktown
Cool, calm, collected and consistent, Corin was a huge difference maker between the pipes for the silver-medal winning Bucktown team. A legit American box backstop that has a really bright future.
Tyler Coryea, Resolute
A very strong defensive presence for the host Resolute side, Corvea was one of the age group’s top defenders. He was tenacious on loose balls and surely one of the most effective peewee scoopers all weekend.
Reid Doolittle, Junior Knighthawks
Doolittle looked really composed and confident hustling the ball up and down the floor, and played big no matter where coaches put him. He scored a bunch of goals utilizing a deceptive and deadly toe drag that made for some of the filthiest finishes at the Classic.
Ryan Duenkel, Capital North Stars
Duenkel is the total package. He was dynamite at the dot, generating instant offensive chances seconds after his face-off wins, where his silky-smooth passing also provided huge offensive upside. Defensively Duenkel was a difference maker in the bronze medal match, a big reason why the high-scoring Lax Factory side were held to just five goals in that game.
Santino Giachetti, Junior Knighthawks
A lethal lefty finisher, Giachetti has some serious speed, a dynamite first step and darting footwork, allowing him to find good goal-scoring spots behind the opposition’s defenders. Once he found those sweet spots, he rarely missed.
Cam Kelly, Bucktown
An impact player at both ends of the floor. Kelly is a dynamic, high-flying lefty playmaker that can light up the scoreboard, but also has the athleticism and hustle to get back and dominate on D too.
Jayden Kittelberger, FCA
His coaches tell us Kittelberger’s “skill development from last year to this year has been amazing”. A cardio gas tank that never seems to empty, the FCA two-way worker has an awesome combination of skill and work ethic, easily one of the top players at this age group.
Presley King, Bucktown
Probably the smallest kid on the floor in every match Bucktown played, King’s overall game was significantly bigger than his still-growing stature. Fearless, physical and extremely aggressive, King was a turn-over machine all weekend and no doubt on of the top pure defenders in the division.
Rocco Laperna, Resolute
An all-star selection at last year’s USBOXLA Nationals, Laperna continued his impressive play at the Midwest Classic. Leading the team in goal scoring, Laperna also possesses solid play-making skills and was dominate at the dot, easily one of the division’s top drawmen.
Niky Lowe, FCA
An outstanding goalie, and as FCA coaches tell us, an equally outstanding teammate too. His gold medal-winning performance was highlighted by his second period heroics in the final when he stopped a slew of shots while FCA were short handed. The kid was clutch.
Jake McDaniel, Texas Box Lacrosse
Although he didn’t dominate the scoresheet, what McDaniel did off ball was truly impressive. He excelled when under pressure, constantly pushed the pace, created time and space for himself and his teammates, and really has a solid understanding of the box game at such a young age.
Kevin Miller, Lax Factory
Miller has a very high box lacrosse IQ. He’s patient, smart and calculated, an impressive skill set for a player so young. Coach Funk tells us, “I wish I had ten Kevins on every team!”
Connor Molyneaux, Texas Box Lacrosse
A fourth grader playing up in the Grade 5/6 Division, it was clear not only could Molyneaux hang with the older crowd, he could shine too. Extremely confident with and without the ball, he led Texas in scoring with six goals in their four games, and no doubt has an extremely bright box future ahead of him.
Jesse Morrison, FCA
Although his age makes him a Peewee (Grade 5/6), Morrison’s solid backstopping skills have him playing up with FCA’s Bantams too. He excels in high-pressure situations, making the stops he should, and often the ones he shouldn’t. A real game changer.
Anthony Panneti, Lax Factory
Lax Factory coach and former National Lacrosse League player Josh Funk describes Panneti as a “special player”. Yup! A big-time goal scorer that plays at a wicked pace, Panneti’s ability to push his teammates and make others around him better are what truly sets him apart.
Connor Pinto, Capital North Stars
Pinto was battling the flu all weekend, but you never would have guessed it based on his play. The impressive goalie was described by Capital coaches as, “perhaps the most significant player for the Peewee North Stars.” He made highlight reel-worthy stops all weekend, but saved maybe his best effort in the bronze medal game, holding the opposition to just two goals while stopping 25.
Luke Ponciroli, Project Missouri
A dynamic offensive player, Ponciroli led PROMO in scoring with seven goals over the weekend, including a hattrick versus Resolute. The exciting point producer was also named the team’s Midwest Classic MVP, a well earned accolade.
Resolute hosted clubs from not only Ohio, but Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas and many other states. (Photo: Mark Donahue)
William Aiken, North Stars AA
He battled hard at both ends of the box, Aiken was an all-around stud that stood out offensively and defensively. The North Stars’ two-way threat had speed, vision and made good decisions in transition, sparking a ton of chances and goals on the O press.
Chris Anderson, Project Missouri
Probably the most complete player on PROMO, Anderson showed real versatility by dominating play at both ends of the floor, also chipping in at the face-off circle.
Carson Billig, Juiced Cherries
A very versatile forward, Billig was as good ripping from downtown as he was muscling his way inside and finishing on the doorstep. Getting box-specific guidance from Cherries Box Lacrosse Director and 14-year NLL vet, John Rosa, Billig’s play keeps the opposition guessing, forcing them into mistakes that lead to finishes.
Jaxson Bodonyi, Cleveland Demons
There wasn’t a spot of turf Bodonyi’s kicks didn’t touch, the versatile rightly playing effective two-way box lacrosse for the Demons. He did a good job finding space and releasing the ball under pressure, skills that will benefit him once he’s back on grass.
Denver Bush, Texas Box Lacrosse
A big impact player for Texas, Bush played a critical role on the team’s offense. He was a bit of a spark plug on the bench too, coaches saying he was “instrumental in keeping the overall energy up”.
Jackson Campisano, Louisville Kings
Campisano is strong, explosive, athletic, smart and owns a tireless work rate. The Kings’ leader also played a role on both the powerplay and penalty kill. Campisano’s shutdown skills are top notch, while his ability to maneuver on the press and pop some goals are another positive plus for the big guy.
Jackson Carawan, Resolute
Resolute coaches spoke very highly of Carawan, who continues to be a big offensive contributor for the Columbus-based program. His ability to create his own scoring chances and offensive looks is at an elevated level you usually only see from older players. A very smart and creative player.
Patrick Carpenter, FCA
A legit two-way player, Carpenter has the skills to impact either side of the centerline. Defensively his pace and pressure were spot on, while offensively his decision making and determination created some significant scoring chances.
Ethan Crowe, Louisville Kings
While some teams still just throw their biggest body in net and hope for the best, Crowe was clearly selected to play in Louisville’s crease for other reasons. He may not be the biggest tendy, but his quickness, anticipation, vision and confidence were on display all weekend in Columbus. He made some huge stops in 1 v 1 situations, and also bailed the Kings’ D out when things broke down.
Jackson Curtis, Lax Factory
The Lax Factory goalie saw a ton of shots from start to finish, playing some of the top-scoring sides in the division. With that said, Curtis was seemingly never overwhelmed, playing his angles really well and stopping some big scoring chances from in tight and outside. The backstop showed a ton of leadership too.
Caulley Deringer, North Stars AA
His offensive and scoring skills shined, so it’s no shock that Deringer led the team in goals, but what was most impressive was his effort, heart and ability to rally teammates while keeping the group’s energy high throughout every game. A true leader on the floor and the bench.
Michael Duffy, Capital North Stars A
Co-leading the North Stars in scoring, Duffy finished on some really funky angles, scoring some special goals against stiff competition. A very scrappy player that kept his team buzzing all weekend long.
Landon Gelvin, Project Missouri
Gelvin led PROMO in goal scoring and was a big reason why they were just one of three teams (out of 14 in total) to score 30 or more goals in opening round play. Confident and composed, Gelvin effectively controlled the left side of the floor for Missouri, who impressively finished fourth in the uber-competitive division.
Joe Ginnetti, Resolute
The Resolute defender showed monster hustle and had an outta bounds work rate. Ginnetti was the backbone of the team’s defensive unit, digging for tremendously tough loose balls and making some spectacular outlet feeds that routinely led to good scoring chances. Smart and strong.
Willie Jacobs, Capital North Stars A
Tied with Michael Duffy for the team scoring lead, Jacobs was just as vital at the other end of the floor too. His physical, aggressive style was impressive and also charged up his teammates when they needed a spark.
Matt Kempton. Cleveland Demons
A forward that isn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves and absorb some contact to make things happen. Kempton didn’t shy away from the physical stuff in order to create space, opportunity and scoring chances for himself and teammates. Played well off the pick, a big reason why he buried a hattrick in Cleveland’s second game of the Classic.
Garret Kizer, Junior Knighthawks
What a ridiculous work rate this kid has. His intensity never seemed to dip, going as hard in the final minutes of a game as he did at the opening buzzer. His effort, determination and athleticism was tops in the division.
Bo Lockwood, Juiced Cherries
You could see the progression of Lockwood’s game from the Cherries’ opening match against Bucktown to their bronze medal-clinching finale versus PROMO. It was impressive. The crafty righty finisher has a bright future in box.
Matt Nichols, Lax Factory
Truculent, tenacious and seemingly never tired, Nichols has his work ethic cranked up to 100% every time his sneakers hit the turf. Impacting both the offensive and defensive side of the floor, the Lax Factory work horse plays with serious bite and bravery. Nichols is American that bucks any stereotypes some still may have of a US-born box player.
Trent Orr, Bucktown
If you didn’t notice Orr at the Midwest Classic, it’s probably because you weren’t paying close enough attention. He was fierce on faceoffs, a hound on loose balls, and did all the little things to create time, space and opportunities for his teammates. Plus, the selfless Orr contributed to the power-play and shot-man unit, getting his name on the scoresheet too.
Hampton Pillsbury, Texas Box Lacrosse
Maybe the best last name for a box goal ever, Pillsbury, however, is more skill than size. He faced a ton of rubber all weekend, but routinely made some big stops that kept the winless Texans competitive. His ability to focus, no matter the situation, was extremely impressive and not a skill you always see from even the most seasoned of stoppers.
Ethan Shappee, Junior Knighthawks
A really strong transitional player, Shappee’s fearless approach to all facets of the game was extremely impressive and a big reason why he got to the net so frequently. A standout player at this year’s Warrior Games too, Shappee is definitely a player to look out for in box or field lacrosse.
Marcus Stanley, Juiced Cherries
Stanley was a big reason why the Juiced Cherries were one of just two teams to allow single-digit scoring in opening round action (nine goals against in four games), and then holding a high-scoring PROMO team to just two in their 8-2 bronze medal-winning matchup. Stanley was a stonewall, regularly making the simple and even show-stopping saves in pressure situations. His goalie stats, not surprisingly, led the division.
Connor Waller, FCA
A Jr. NLL champion with the Toronto Rock in 2017, Waller was solid between the pipes all weekend, giving FCA a chance to hang in games against some of the stiffer competition in the division. His coaches described his play as “exceptional”. We agree.
Zach White, Resolute
A strong offensive player that Reso coaches tell use has really blossomed due to hard work and commitment to the box game. The speedster has an explosive first step and is just as deadly finishing solo or dishing to a teammate. White also adds a big secondary bullet to his growing resume as a crafty face-off taker.
Sam Williams, Bucktown
Arguably the best goalie in the division, Williams was both his team’s and championship game’s MVP. He didn’t let a stinker in all weekend, and routinely stood on his head to make stops on chances that seemed like gimmies for the opposition. Those under-pressure saves gave his teammates the confidence and freedom they needed to garner gold. Williams made over 20 saves in the gold medal game alone, a 7-3 win over a very strong Resolute side.