Heading into Championship Weekend this season, the state of Oregon has been front and center in the D1 college lacrosse world. Even with the elimination of Penn and Tewaaraton Finalist Sam Handley, three of the remaining Final Four teams this year have a key player from the Beaver State.
Throw in the high-profile transfer this week of Portland’s Tucker Dordevic from Syracuse to Georgetown and the conclusion becomes pretty inescapable: Oregon has become a reliable source of D1 lacrosse talent.
There were 27 players from Oregon on D1 college lacrosse rosters in 2022.
And Oregonians aren’t just filling out roster spots on marginal D1 programs; they’ve managed to infiltrate the upper reaches of Division 1 lacrosse.
Again, Oregon lacrosse will likely get its largest showcase to date this coming weekend in East Hartford.
The Maryland-Princeton semifinal will feature defensive talent from the state in the form of Ajax Zappitello, an Inside Lacrosse Third-Team All-American selection in 2022; Princeton, on the other hand, will counter with one of the state’s offensive stars, Alex Slusher.
The Cornell-Rutgers game will include yet another marquee talent from Oregon, the Scarlet Knights’ All-American junior attackman Ross Scott.
And this collision of Beaver State talent will take place in 2022, a season that marks the 10th anniversary of Portland’s Peter Baum winning the Tewaaraton Award as the nation’s best college lacrosse player.
That award marked not only the first Tewaaraton won by an Oregonian, but also the first time the honor had been given to a player from west of the Mississippi.
Baum’s Tewaaraton honor that year was also remarkable in that he was one of the rare winners (along with the award’s very first honoree, Doug Shanahan of Hofstra in 2001) whose team didn’t make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
That won’t be the case for Oregon lacrosse in 2022.
Oregon Lacrosse and The 2022 NCAA Tournament
The influx of West Coast talent that Quint Kessenich and Paul Carcaterra have dubbed the Oregon Trail will be directing its path eastward this weekend through East Hartford.
Having dispatched defending national champion Virginia, Maryland is clearly the tournament favorite. One of the keys to the Terp victory over the Cavs was the eye-catching defensive performance of Ajax Zappitello, a sophomore from Portland.
With a total of 6 points, Connor Shellenberger had been the biggest factor in Maryland’s one-goal loss to the Cavs in the 2021 championship game.
In the ’22 quarterfinal game, Zappitello managed to hold him to 5.
But that wasn’t his point total; that number represented his shots on goal.
Shellenberger was held scoreless—something that hadn’t been done against the Virginia attackman in his entire 34-game college career.
Princeton attackman Alex Slusher, also from Portland, enters the semifinal game as the Tigers’ second-leading scorer with 55 points. Though a junior, Slusher is just finishing his first full season of D1 play, and his 45-goal total for ’22 is a mark exceeded only by 5 other players in Princeton programs history. (For the record, those players were: Jesse Hubbard, Gavin McBride, Wick Sollers, Mike MacDonald, and Chris Massey.)
The Cornell-Rutgers match-up will feature attackman Ross Scott, another IL All-American selection, receiving Honorable Mention honors along with Tucker Dordevic. As the team’s leading scorer (49,23), Scott has been instrumental in leading the Scarlet Knights to their first Final Four, including an 8-goal performance in the opening round against Harvard.
The Peter Baum Legacy
But you’d be mistaken if you saw 2012 just in terms of Peter Baum’s Tewaaraton victory, and only in terms of the development and impact of Oregon lacrosse.
The key thing about that 2012 season is that it wasn’t just Baum who was planting the flag for non-hotbed areas; and it wasn’t just Oregon.
In fact, that year saw 5 the Tewaaraton nominees—-a full 20% of the total—-come from non-hotbed areas:
Pierce Bassett, Goalie, Johns Hopkins (Arizona)
Roy Lang, Midfield, Cornell (California)
Jesse Bernhardt, LSM, Maryland (Florida)
Scott Ratliff, LSM, Loyola (Georgia)
Peter Baum, Midfield, Colgate, (Oregon)
You also see that legacy in Maryland’ s roster. Beyond Alex Zappitello, the Terps also feature major contributors from California (Anthony DeMaio), Utah (Bubba Fairman) and Georgia (Eric Malever, one of three Georgians on the roster).
Obviously a number of things have contributed to the sport’s western growth in the past 10 years: the Bill Tierney-led national championship at Denver, a Power Five program taking root west of the Mississippi in Utah, the increasingly national footprint of the women’s game, the exponential increase in televised games, the influx of high-level coaching talent (such as Ryan Powell in Portland)—-just to name a few.
The Oregon Trail is just one of a number that mark lacrosse’s expansion—in all directions.
What About Cornell and Non-Hotbed Talent?
Interestingly, Cornell is the only Final Four team that doesn’t have significant representation from non-hotbed areas.
Yes, the Big Red does have players from far afield (senior Tim Graham, after all, came to Ithaca all the way from Melbourne, Australia), and it also has Jack Parker (Ada, Michigan), Wyatt Kunst (Tampa, Florida), and Caleb Newman (Lebanon, Ohio).
But otherwise it looks pretty much like a roster legendary coach Richie Moran might’ve pulled together in the 80’s or 90’s.
In fact, it looks a lot like Cornell’s 1991 team.
That Big Red team featured 1 player from New Jersey, 1 from Colorado (John Gaensbauer), 1 from Pennsylvania , 2 from Massachusetts, 4 from Maryland, and one of the all-time best lacrosse players from Michigan, Pat Leahy.
And 26 players from New York.
And one of those 26 players came from Corning, New York: Maryland head coach John Tillman.
David Parry is the founder and editor of LaxAcrossAmerica. A New York-based digital marketer and copywriter, he played Division 1 lacrosse as a walk-on at Brown.