(Photo: Jodi Vosika/ASU Lacrosse)
A year ago, it would have seemed that the loss of Ben Martynec would’ve substantially limited the effectiveness of Arizona State’s midfield. Now, it’s a small footnote compared to the larger picture, thanks to 2013 break-throughs from Kyle Denis and Cooper Pickell.
Returners: Logan Quinn is the superstar of this ASU midfield. He was a finalist for the MCLA Preseason Player of the Year, and brings a deep skill set to the Sun Devils’ offense. The senior has been to three MCLA Final Fours, and will be one of four captains to head the team’s leadership in 2014.
Kyle Denis and Cooper Pickell aren’t second-tier guys, though: they’re physical specimens with ball-carrying ability that’s unmatched in the MCLA. Not only are they excellent at withstanding the ride and protecting the ball, but they’re also offensively talented enough to contribute in a big way on the offensive half of the field, combining for 67 points in 2013 (32 goals, 35 assists).
“Our top midfield line is going to be able to hang with anybody in the country,” ASU head coach Chris Malone said. “I’m excited to see these guys in action again.”
And who could forget Nick Hillier, the walk-on (now a senior) that fought his way into a starting midfield spot and cemented himself as one of the most reliable figures on the team, as well as one of its leaders. He too will be serving as a captain in 2014.
Losses: The loss of Ben Martynec is the most notable, but Zach Scarano’s graduation will also have an impact.
Martynec ran the top of the ASU offense during his time as the starter, before his 2013 campaign was cut short in early March by a rib injury. The primary offensive figure calling the shots, Martynec was a key factor in the offense. However, the Sun Devils still pieced together an excellent season, filling in the starting midfield spot by committee (shared between Adam Beauchamp, Connor Ebner, and LSM Jenson Cruse).
“We had a lot of young guys step up last year,” Malone said. “I expect it to be the same this year, if not better.”
Scarano, always a consistent role player in the ASU offense, put together back-to-back years at captain after his leadership and unquestioned toughness earned him that spot.
“It’s always hard to replace leadership,” Malone said. “You do what you can, though, and I think we’ve got plenty of leaders on this year’s midfield unit.”
Replacements: While replacing a guy like Martynec isn’t going to be easy, ASU went through a good portion of 2013 without him. This team has already filled that hole before, so it shouldn’t be extremely difficult to imagine filling it again. However, now that the loss of Scarano is also in the mix, it’s clear some guys are going to need to step up.
Adam Beauchamp was able to snag 10 total points last year (8 goals, 2 assists), all of which came after the Martynec injury. Beauchamp should definitely see the field more this year. His extreme quickness makes him dangerous in the offense at any point.
Connor Ebner and Finn Wells were both raw-talent freshmen last year, but after a full offseason under their belts, expect vast improvements for each of them.
Weakness: Defensively the midfield could use some work. The two rostered defensive midfielders, Carson Ewanich and Case Donahue, are still young and developing. Jenson Cruse is the only of three long-stick midfielders that made a consistent impact in 2013.
Cooper Pickell and Kyle Denis are big bodies, and when using a long-pole during man-down situations Pickell is dangerous both defensively and offensively. However, across the board this midfield unit could use work on forcing turnovers and creating defensive pressure.
Strength: The depth of the midfield is, without question, its best quality. Most teams are happy to have one player with the body and skill set of Logan Quinn; ASU has three superstars and several role players that come in off the bench.
Being able to swap midfielders in and out throughout the game gives a competitive edge to the Sun Devils in physically overwhelming their opponents.
Underrated Characteristic: The most underrated part of this midfield squad is its versatility. It’s almost impossible to strategize against a team that has a potential Player of the Year in Logan Quinn, two large-bodied ball-carriers with defensive and scoring capabilities, not to mention a scoring speedster like Adam Beauchamp. No defensive unit in the MCLA can properly shut down a midfield this versatile.
You can reach Trey Lanthier on Twitter @TreyLanthier or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org