LAKEWOOD RANCH — Matt McDonnell isn’t one to take the game-winning shot.
Or really any shot, for that matter.
The Monsters Lacrosse Academy U15 defender is more comfortable defending the goal and passing the ball to his teammates so they can revel in the limelight.
But seven months ago, the Lakewood Ranch High School freshman didn’t have a choice but to fire a shot from the wing area, just beyond midfield.
McDonnell didn’t think much of it. He started to retreat to the defensive area when he heard the whistle signaling a goal. He realized he had scored his first and only goal when his teammates came rushing toward him.
“I walked away because I didn’t think I scored,” McDonnell says. “I was really happy, though, when I realized I did. It was so much fun.”
McDonnell hasn’t scored since, but he’s been integral to his team’s recent success, including at the U15 team’s Rippin’ at the Ranch tournament championship.
Recently, McDonnell was recognized for his efforts by being named to the LB3 Lacrosse 2018 National Team.
The LB3 Lacrosse National teams comprise the best players from the full LB3 family of club teams across the nation, of which the Monsters Lacrosse Academy is a part. Team members range in age from U11 to high school.
“I was surprised and really happy because there are so many LB3 teams and players,” McDonnell says. “I wanted to be able to work with the best coaches and face some of the top teams. It sounded like fun to me, and I thought if I made it, then I could use it as an (opportunity) to get better.”
McDonnell was one of 19 Monsters Lacrosse Academy players and one of three U15 players selected for the national team. Selected players were placed onto teams based on their graduation year.
“I was excited because not many people were chosen to go to Maryland,” 11-year-old Connor Rice says. “It just means that I work hard enough to (compete) for different elite teams.”
Children competed against 2,500 other players at each level for one of 17 spots. About four Monsters Lacrosse Academy players were chosen at each level.
“It’s very exciting knowing that from all over the nation only a few kids were chosen,” 11-year-old Stephen Markowski says.
“As far as level of play is concerned, we most certainly have kids who have put in the work that will allow them to excel playing against kids from the traditional hotbeds in the country,” Monsters Lacrosse Academy Vice President and Director of Coaching Chris Markowski says. “Our teams and many of our players have done very well over the past couple years in proving they belong. These kids deserve this fantastic opportunity because of their work, time and effort.”
McDonnell, along with U15 teammates Jack Koscho and Juan Gonzalez, will compete in the FLG in 3D Summer Shootout July 18 through July 20, in Bel Air, Md. The U11 and U13 teams (2017 through 2021) also will compete the same weekend. The 2016 team will compete in the UA Shootout July 13 through July 16, in Baltimore.
National players will spend a day practicing with their new teams before competing in a series of tournament games. All teams are guaranteed a minimum of five games over the course of the tournament with the top teams advancing to championship rounds.
The players have been practicing three days a week since the selections were announced.
In addition to competing in the tournament, the players plan to use the experience to gain exposure and improve their skills on the field.
“I’m looking forward to learning new things from the other players by watching and learning from them,” 11-year-old Hayden Coakley says.
Teammate Ryan Sforzo, 10, agrees.
“I’m looking forward to playing with great players, awesome games versus great teams from around the country and being with some of my friends on the team,” Sforzo says.
For more information on LB3 Lacrosse and its national teams, visit lb3lacrosse.com.
+ LB3 National Team Selections
Zachary Berendes, midfield, 2016
Christian Berendes, midfield, 2016
George Prince, midfield, 2017
Jack Koscho, attack, 2018
Matthew McDonnell, defense, 2018
Juan Gonzalez, midfield, 2018
Colin Prince, midfield, 2018
Ryan Katchen, attack, 2019
Alec Frank, attack, 2019
Ethan Ingham, midfield, 2019
Hunter Coakley, midfield, 2019
Cody Gross, defense, 2020
Luca Dominguez, midfield, 2020
Owen Ingham, midfield, 2020
Nate Ashley, midfield, 2020
Ryan Sforzo, attack, 2021
Stephen Markowski, attack, 2021
Hayden Coakley, attack, 2021
Connor Rice, midfield, 2021
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].