By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 7/28/13
Matt Dellacroce and Zach Drake had slightly different goals as they competed Wednesday through Friday at the Lehigh Valley Showcase camp at Lehigh University.
Dellacroce, a highly-touted 2016 face-off specialist from Spring-Ford who was was named a camp All-Star, was happy to get exposure and training from college coaches.
Drake, a rising junior midfielder who was named the 2015 All-Star MVP after scoring three goals, had committed to Lehigh in the fall of 2012. His focus was on improving his game and connecting more with his future coaches.
In all, the Showcase drew 280 elite players from the classes of 2015 and 2016. The All-Star Games (rosters to be officially released in coming days) were held Thursday night and the players were split into six teams per age class with a college coach, a Philly-area high school and a Lehigh player assigned to each team.
“The camp went really well,” said Dellacroce, a First Team Al-PAC-10 pick this year. “I learned about leadership and taking part of that role, like always encouraging teammates and keeping their heads up. If something is wrong, you figure it out; you never hang your head.
“The competition was great and I got a lot of exposure.”
Dellacroce – who has competed at Nike Blue Chip as well as Champ Camp, Best of the Best, Tri-States and Crabfeast – enjoyed playing against fellow Duke’s Lacrosse Club face-off specialist Conor Gaffney (Lenape High) in the All-Star Game.
“I learned a lot,” he said. “Sometimes you have days or matchups that aren’t always your best, so you try different things. You always have a different move to counter someone else’s and you keep your head up.”
Dellacroce sees many other members of his class committing at this ripe age, but is not feeling much pressure in the recruiting scene.
“I am not feeling a lot of pressure,” he said. “It’s exciting and a fun process. I do think we are starting a little early, but a lot of colleges are jumping on that and don’t want to miss out on opportunities.
“Personally, it’s a blast. I am having a good time with it.”
Drake, a member of La Salle’s state championship team this year, got time to work with Lehigh coaches while working on key skills. Drake also got to hang out with his future Lehigh teammate, Mickey Fitzpatrick of Duxbury, Mass.
“It was nice because I already committed and I got to go out and have the coaches see me play,” Drake said. “I can definitely use that. The Lehigh coaches are the biggest reason I committed. They are very motivational and that helps to instill it in me.
“The coaches gave me advice throughout camp about driving hard when I dodge. La Salle (assistant) coach Rob Forster says that a lot. I also really enjoyed the All-Star Game because no one playing selfishly.”
Drake’s college coach, Binghamton assistant Matt Francis (North Penn grad and former Marist standout) stressed teamwork.
“The big thing he worked on was helping us work as a team, and we latched onto that,” Drake said. “The kids on our team took heart on moving the ball and being unselfish.”
Kevin Cassese, head coach of the two-time defending Patriot champions, started the Showcase four years ago just for players from the Lehigh Valley. It has since grown at a swift rate to include players from around the country.
“It’s a Showcase camp and also a prospect camp so we get the chance to evaluate future potential prospects,” he said. “We are able to get college coaches to work with kids and coach them on college-type offenses and defenses.
“We also had some coaches (from Villanova, Penn State and Duke, among others) come down just for the All-Star Games. It shows that the level of talent is growing.”
Cassese said the recruiting landscape has changed drastically in his six years at Lehigh.
“When I took the head job here six years ago I never thought I would be running a rising sophomore showcase, but here we are and it’s essentially sold out,” he said. “The kids find it important to get in front of college coaches.
“The process is speeding up and there is a need for us to get kids on campus early in their careers. It works both ways; if don’t know about some of these kids, you don’t have the opportunity to recruit them.”