Every team in the lacrosse final four has a Tewaaraton Trophy finalists. So to name Danny Glading or Max Seibald or Matt Abbott or Ned Crotty the crucial player to their respective teams’ title hopes would be … well, obvious.
But there are other guys who have the goods to make things substantially better for their respective teams. They don’t necessarily have to be full-time players, but they can be regular starters. The common thread is when they’re playing well, they give their teams something significant they’d otherwise be missing.
Here’s a rundown of the guys who could lend just the right element to help push their teammates to the top:
RHAMEL BRATTON, Virginia
Bratton dealt with injuries in the middle of the season, and after a dozen games was stuck on four goals and two assists.
But he’s managed a point in the five games since then, and scored twice in Sunday’s rout of Johns Hopkins. He’s playing some on the faceoff wings, and his talent is just the same as it was when he and his twin brother Shamel arrived last year.
Virginia ran slightly tweaked midfield lines on Sunday, putting the twins and John Haldy on the field at the same time. When Hopkins didn’t double pole, the Cavaliers quickly found Rhamel and … well, he scored their first and third goals while mauling a short stick.
Rhamel Bratton makes Virginia’s second midfield line especially dangerous. If the Cavaliers receive production when that group is on the field, they’ll be tough to stop.
JAKE MYERS, Cornell
The Big Red can score, and that’s a very good thing since their goalie play throughout the season was (at best) average. But Myers made five saves while yielding four goals in the quarterfinals against Princeton, so there has to be some hope heading forward.
Myers, a senior, did not play in the first game against Virginia. Instead, Kyle Harer was shredded for 14 goals while stopping four shots in a 14-10 loss in Charlottesville.
Myers has saved only 49.1 percent of the shots he’s faced, though the Cornell defense is adept at blocking attempts from the outside. That said, he’ll need more than five saves on Saturday for the Big Red to move on to its first title game since 1988.
CODY JAMIESON, Syracuse
The lefty attackman (and JUCO transfer) carried some substantial buzz with him entering the season. But transcript problems and a protracted waiver process didn’t permit him to become eligible until the penultimate week of the regular season.
He has five goals and an assist in four games since then, rotating in as a fourth attackman for the Orange. In some ways, it’s a little like a team with baseball’s strongest rotation adding a likely Cy Young Award winner on Aug. 31.
Jamieson only adds to the wealth of offensive talent Syracuse possesses as it tries to chase down back-to-back titles for the first time since the Gait era. It didn’t take long for him to score against Maryland on Saturday, and it was easy to see glimmers of the immense talent Jamieson possesses. If he’s unleashed, it could be a long weekend for everyone else.
(Honorable mention here is long pole Joel White, who was an absolute treat to watch against Maryland and will play a large role in attempting to contain Duke’s offense).
MIKE MANLEY, Duke
The sophomore defenseman shut down North Carolina’s Billy Bitter on Sunday, an impressive feat considering Bitter was coming off an eight-goal outing against UMBC.
Manley’s a workmanlike player, but is well on his way to an impressive career after starting his first team seasons. If he can repeat his star turn from last weekend against Syracuse (and then either Virginia or Cornell), he’ll vastly improve the Blue Devils’ chances of finally collecting that elusive national title.