Garden State Lacrosse Challenge Games still provide summer thrills

 By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

MONTCLAIR– Even if there wasn’t a possibility of college scouts watching him play on the field, Kobi Frankel would still make sure to be a part of the Garden State Lacrosse Challenge Games. The Kinnelon attackman just wouldn’t have it any other way.

“There’s a lot of kids that you play during the season and you wonder if you knew them or not,’’ Frankel said. “Once you get here you talk about games and its fun to meet up with old friends.’’

The Garden State Games have been going on most of this past week with tryouts, last week, seeding games this past Thursday and another round of games on Monday to set up Tuesday’s championship contests. The showcase competition starts with games at 4 p.m. and wraps up with the title game at 7 p.m. at Montclair’s Woodman Field Complex.

Mountain Lakes’ Dylan Muti looks for a teammate during Garden State action on Monday.

About 230 athletes from throughout the Garden State have been busy with the competition. There are 10 teams in all, five from the North and five from the South. Morris Countycompetitors are split in half between two north teams. The North III team includes athletes from Morris County West and Sussexwhich is coached by West Morris’ Rob Goodwin and Morris County East which has components of Delbarton, Chatham and Madison among other teams and is coached by Mountain Lakes’ Tim Flynn.

The players are competitive and they want to win but they also want to show off their skills to some of the collegiate head and assistant coaches in attendance. More than 40 coaches ranging from Division I to Division III schools have come to watch players they already have an interest in or have their eyes opened by someone new.

It’s the type of thing that might worry some of the athletes if they weren’t having so much fun doing what they love.

“Playing for the Garden State is just a good opportunity to get some exposure to college coaches,’’ West Morris defenseman Chris Cafaro said. “Most people that want to play college lacrosse, have to get exposure. It’s just another place to do it and get your name out there.’’

Chatham’s Corey Fritts prepares to stop everything that is fired at him for his Morris County East team.

Cafaro doesn’t think the Garden State Games are any more or less nerve wracking than the other competitions that will be going on this summer. His schedule, like many athletes who will be going into their senior year of school is filled with elite team lacrosse tournaments and more individualized lacrosse showcases.

“A lot of guys that play here also play for summer (elite) teams,’’ Cafaro said. “We understand about playing in front of college coaches. Its so nerve wracking when you are being evaluated but it is also a lighter atmosphere in the summer.’’

The toughest part for some of them might have been the tryouts. Of all the summer showcases, the Garden State Games is by far among the least expensive. It’s only $40 to register but you have to make the team in order to play.

 “Our region is a really competitive,’’ Frankel said. “We have a lot of top teams in the state so you are definitely competing with some of the best out there. Making it through tryouts is an accomplishment.

“The competition is good but I think we have what it takes to take it home this year.’’

Madison’s Billy Battaglia, left, is ready to take it to the cage in Garden State play on Monday.

The lacrosse showcase has changed over the years. It originally started when the Garden State Games itself was an Olympic style tournament in the 80’s and was just one of the featured events that ranged from archery to weightlifting. When government funding for the games was cut a decade later, the sports were told to fend for themselves. Instead of fading away, the GSG evolved into a college showcase which put the spotlight on New Jersey’s best players and also brought out some of the most noteworthy Division I coaches.

The growth and changes in the sport may have diminished the impact of the games somewhat. Lacrosse has expanded dramatically on the national level and elite team tournaments of all kinds, as well as numerous high school showcases have had an effect on where college coaches select to watch potential recruits and where the athletes select to play.

The growth of the sport has expanded the games as well. At one time there were just four teams, than six and finally up to 10 teams. Over the years, the Northwest team, which included most of the Morris County athletes, dominated the tournament. Keeping up that tradition may not be as easy, but it is a standard to strive for.

“Playing up to the reputation of past teams is something you want to look at,’’ Frankel said. “You definitely take pride in where you are from and your name.’’

For many of the kids like Frankel, their junior season is important in recruiting. A strong student, he is hoping to play for an Ivy League school. He has visits set up with several East Coast lacrosse camps. The Garden State Games is the beginning of it all. Frankel made the team last year as a sophomore and he enjoyed the experience so much, that he’s been looking forward to returning this year.

North Warren defenseman Mason Ryzoff, right, is in a race to pick up a ground ball on Monday.

“Even if I had already committed to a school I would definitely do it,’’ Frankel said. “It’s so close by. It’s a lot easier traveling to Montclair and playing five games than traveling all the way to Maryland.

“I’ve been playing with most of the kids in the region since I was small. It’s fun playing with kids that you haven’t played with in a couple of years. Knowing the kids is a lot more fun.’’

Chatham goalkeeper Corey Fritts doesn’t mind a little pressure. He received plenty of it during the spring including the crazy five overtime loss toSummit in the Group II final. The scouting grind is probably not going to bother him.

“You just have to go out and have fun since its summer ball,’’ Fritts said. “You have to play your game but you are still trying to get recruited so you have to play your best.’’

The toughest part for him so far has been getting to know his defensive teammates.

“I’m still getting used to all the names and sorting out who’s who,’’ Fritts said. “It’s still lacrosse. Everyone knows how to play and everything just goes.’’

In past year’s Fritts has played on elite travel teams. This year he has stuck to playing with his high school team. It has become a recent trend for underclassmen on high school teams to stick together after the scholastic season to compete in college hosted camps and tournaments as a team.    

“We were at Lehigh last week and we won everything,’’ Fritts said. “It wasn’t just our travel team, we were playing against other select groups.’’

Like many players, Fritts has sent e-mails to coaches of schools he would like to attend, in order to let them know where they can find him.

He’s also enjoyed the opportunity of meeting some of the different coaches in the county like Kinnelon’s Kevin Kelly, Montville assistant Dave Osborne and of course, the winningest coach in the state, MountainLakes’  Tim Flynn, who has been involved in the summer event for decades.

“I’ve always wanted to play for him,’’ Fritts said. “Everyone says how good of a coach he is. We get to experience it first hand so that has always been fun.’’

And regardless of how the recruiting turns out, playing your favorite sport and having fun can’t be a bad way to start the summer.

“It’s very positive,’’ Frankel said. “The whole tournament is a good thing. It’s easy, it’s close by. It’s a lot of games, a lot of fun. You get to see a lot of people you know.’’

Morris County East

North II roster

Goalie – Tyler Avallone – Mendham

Defense – Dan Badolato –Mountain Lakes

Attack – William Battaglia –Madison

Defense – Evan Bernstein –Mountain Lakes

Midfield – Gregory Budd – Kinnelon

Midfield – Michael Clemente –Madison

Midfield – Stephen DeLargy Jr. –Morristown

Midfield – Conor Dolan –Morristown

Defense – Eamon Epstein –Madison

Defense – Alec Fernandes –Mountain Lakes

Defense – Scott Flynn –Mountain Lakes

Attack – Kobi Frankel – Kinnelon

Goalie – Corey Fritts –Chatham

Midfield – Kyle Howard Johnson –Chatham

Defense – Stephen Graziano – Mendham

Midfield – Paul Hackett –Chatham

Defense – Michael Herbert – Seton Hall Prep

Attack – Spencer Herman –Mountain Lakes

Defense – Jack Margiotta – Trinity Pawling

Attack – Doran McManus – Morristown-Beard

Midfield – Dylan Muti –Mountain Lakes

Attack – Robert Orazetti –Mountain Lakes

Midfield – Matt Proto –Chatham

Midfield – Mike Sammarro –Mountain Lakes

Attack – Collin Scarpello –Madison

North III Roster

Morris County West –Sussex

Attack – Shawn Barnes – West Morris

Attack – Michael Campmann – Morris Knolls

Defense – Chris Carfaro – West Morris

Attack – Matt Carfaro – West Morris

Defense – Daniel Curran –Jefferson

Midfield – Steven Dallicardillo –Jefferson

Midfield – Joey DeBiasse – West Morris

Midfield – Jordan Dowiak – Delbarton

Attack – Brad Fisher –Jefferson

Attack – Devin Gendron –Sparta

Midfield – Ryan Hanright – Morris Knolls

Defense – Shane Henderson –Vernon

Defense – Lucas Kiernan –North Warren

Midfield – Jack Livecchi –Sparta

Midfield – Jason Mackiewicz – West Morris

Goalie – Nicholas McKaba – West Morris

Midfield – Dimitri Paleocostas – Morris Knolls

Midfield – Kevin Reidinger – West Morris

Midfield – Nolan Robertson –North Warren

Defense – Mason Ryzoff –North Warren

Goalie – John Schisler – Delbarton

Midfield – Colin Sullivan -Sparta

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About mcvbb

Mark Kitchin is a boys varsity basketball writer for the Morris County New Jersey area

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