The opportunity to play in a grand all-star tournament featuring some of the top underclassmen across the country would appear to be an ideal spot for a player to showcase their skills for college coaches. The Under Armour All-America Underclass Tournament features teams from regions that include all the hotbeds for lacrosse like Long Island, Baltimore and even California.
In lacrosse, though, coaches and players have historically sought each other out so early, that by the time they’re playing in tournaments like the Under Armour, their college selections have already been cemented.
Mackenzie Hoeg of Mattituck, an incoming senior for the two-time defending Class D state champions, earned a spot on the Long Island Highlight Division team. It was her fourth trip to the Under Armour tournament. She played for the first time during the summer heading into ninth grade. It was the last time she played in the tournament while showcasing for coaches. After that, she had committed to the University of Virginia, where she plans to play lacrosse next year.
“My coaches were there, so they get a chance to watch me play, which is nice,” Hoeg said.
For Riverhead’s Katie Goodale, this year was her second playing in the tournament. She also played two years ago on the eve of her sophomore year. At that time, she had also already committed to Syracuse, where she will attend next year.
The trend, though, of those early commitments will now begin to change after new rules were adopted in April by the NCAA Division I Council. The changes are aimed to curb early recruiting. Communication from a coach can begin June 15 after a student’s sophomore year and visits could begin Aug. 1 before the junior year of high school. The intention would be to limit players as young as high school freshmen from verbally committing to a college.
For players like Hoeg and Goodale, the four-day Under Armour tournament in late June was a chance to compete against some players they’ll likely see at the collegiate level. Both were recognized for their efforts in a recap posted on Inside Lacrosse.
Speaking of Hoeg, the magazine wrote: “Throughout the weekend she constantly worked with teammates off ball which opened up herself and others.”
Goodale, a defender, earned all-tournament honors. The magazine noted of her efforts: “Goodale has the ability to create plays on the defensive end, while then using her speed to blow by her opponents in transition.”
Goodale said she was surprised to learn about the all-tournament honors. The Long Island Highlight team lost in the semifinals of the tournament and the final honors were given at the end of the championship game. Goodale said she headed home once her team lost and her mom actually texted her that she had received all-tournament.
“I think, personally, I played as hard as I could,” she said. “I think you can always play better, but looking back I think I put my 100 percent out there.”
Goodale was the only Long Island player from the Highlight division to earn all-tournament honors. Alexa Constant and Catherine Erb of Shoreham-Wading River played for the other Long Island team, the Command. Both players will be sophomores in the fall.
The Highlight team was seeded first after going undefeated in pool play. They earned a bye into the semifinals, where they lost against a Connecticut/Eastern New York team.
“This tournament is really special because you are playing against the best girls in the nation,” Goodale said.
Hoeg, who’s typically a midfielder, played some attack in the tournament.
“That’s something that I’m not used to,” she said. “I definitely had a little bit more of a rest than playing middie.”
To earn a spot on the team, the players had to attend a tryout in early June, where coaches had them mostly scrimmage against each other. For players like Hoeg and Goodale, the tournament was mostly a chance to have fun leading into the busy summer season for their travel teams.
Still, they had their sights set on winning.
“Everyone is at this tournament to win,” Goodale said. “Every region is going to put out their best players and work 100 percent of the way to win.”
Hoeg added: “It’s definitely very competitive. I would describe it as very fast. The [players] are very quick and smart. But it’s definitely a fun atmosphere to be playing in.”
Next year both girls will have a chance to earn a spot in the Senior All-America game. Unlike the underclassmen tournament, that game features just two teams made up of the top players in the country. Only three girls from Suffolk County made it onto the North team’s roster this year.
Photo caption: Mackenzie Hoeg pictured in the Class D state championship game for Mattituck in June. (Credit: Rich Barnes/file)