By Adam C. Warner
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 6/28/09
After missing the final six weeks of his senior season at La Salle due to recurring knee problems stemming from surgery he had on his anterior cruciate ligament last year, Tyler Knarr made it a goal for himself to get back on the field at the 2009 Under Armour All-American Classic Boys’ Senior All-Star Game.
And not only did Knarr make good on his aspirations but he also played a key role for the star-studded North Team.
In a back and forth contest that witnessed five lead changes on Saturday, it was the South Team, headlined by Haverford’s Dan Wigrizer, that ultimately pulled out a 19-16 victory at Johnny Unitas Stadium on the campus of Towson University. It was the first victory by the South in the four years the event has been played.
“Everyone is so good out there,” Knarr said. “An event like this really brings out the creativity of the sport. The pace was unbelievable and was at a whole new level – from dodges to ground balls to shots and every phase of the game.”
But even at less than 100 percent, Knarr’s presence was felt all game long as he played as a face-off specialist. Knarr was integral in grabbing possession for his unit at the X, despite going up against some of the nation’s elite in Jack Doyle (Gilman) and Chris LaPierre (Shawnee). The La Salle grad led the way as the North took 11-of-16 face-offs in the first half.
Although he admitted to not being fully recovered yet, Knarr was pleased with his first action in several months and thrilled to be playing with the top players in the country.
“It was an honor to play in this event and I was so excited when I heard that I’d be on the team,” said Knarr, who will take his game to Georgetown next season. “I think my knee held up good. I’m still a little slow and I need to get that lateral ability back, but I’m definitely improving. It will probably take a full year to get back.”
Meanwhile, Malvern Prep’s Billy Conners, La Salle’s Tucker Durkin and Niko Amato all saw plenty of playing time for the North and made the most of their opportunities.
Conners (five groundballs) and Durkin got the start on the backline for the North and then rotated with the rest of their teammates for the remainder of the contest. Amato played the entire first half for the North and finished with seven saves.
In an All-Star contest like Saturday’s game that often sees lots of offensive fireworks, Durkin believed as a defender that it’s key to play at the top of your game, but also have a particular strategy.
“We played man-to-man defense, so there wasn’t too much time for set plays,” said Durkin, who will play for Johns Hopkins next year. “You don’t want to pressure guys like you normally do in season because one false move and they’re gone. So you want to play conservative at first and then go from there. I pressured more as the game went along and got a little bit more comfortable.”
The contest was a seesaw affair for the first half as the teams ended up in a 7-7 tie at intermission. The score remained tied at 13-13 with 11:28 remaining before the South made its move and embarked on a 3-goal run in just a minute’s time and swooped up the game’s momentum.
LaPierre, a Virginia recruit, was named MVP after tying the Under Armour series record with six points on two goals and four assists.
“Our team was good, but we didn’t capitalize on our chances,” Durkin said. “It’s tough when you aren’t playing team defense, but the game could have gone either way. They had a few runs of three or four goals, and that was the difference.”
As for Knarr, playing in the Under Armour Classic and making a difference was especially meaningful.
“I’ve been following this event for all four years it’s been around, so it’s always been a goal for me to play in it,” Knarr said. “I really wanted to play, compete at this level, make a difference and be an asset for the team.”
Based on Saturday’s performance, Knarr certainly following through on his goals.