FOR EARL OLD SCHOOL IS NEW SCHOOL
7/15/11 10:05 AM
By Craig Rybczynski - July 15, 2011
In his three decades of lacrosse, Hamilton Nationals’ Assistant Coach Brian Hobart has seen some of the greatest two-way midfielders of his era in Jay Jalbert, Tim Soudan and Roy Colsey. Nats rookie midfielder David Earl obviously has a way to go to be mentioned in the same breath as those three legendary middies, but he has the skills to one day make a name for himself.
“Jay Jalbert is the benchmark because he did a little bit of everything,” said Hobart, who has coached at Penn Yan Academy since 1992. “He is one of the few midfielders that’s equally adept at playing both ends of the field. The more confidence he gets the more he will elevate his game.”
The dodging, two-way middie has put his skills on display in Major League Lacrosse over the past five games. In his last game he showed his offensive skill, taking a feed on the fly and ripping a shot past Drew Adams of Long Island. The goal helped Hamilton regain the lead and take an 8-7 third-quarter lead. It sparked the Nats’ offense to an impressive 15-9 win and a share of third place. It also extended Hamilton’s winning streak to three games and signaled the maturation of the youngest team in the MLL.
“We have some new additions and a lot of rookies. They all have different backgrounds and it takes a game or two to play well together,” said the 23-year-old Earl. “We are getting more comfortable with the sets and getting more chances. We understand each other on and off the field. That has allowed us to share the ball and be more patient.”
Earl has also shown more poise after his first professional game on June 10th. It was a frenetic pace that the youngster raced into at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester. The Notre Dame and First Team All-American was held without a point in a win over the Rattlers.
“My first game was a bit of an adjustment. It was more fast-paced and a different style of play. Transition is important and I learned after the first game how the game was played and how the offense worked,” said Earl, who has proved that in his last four games.
Earl used those lessons eight days later as he struck for his first professional goal late in the fourth quarter against the Denver Outlaws. The two-pointer has rekindled the offense that he displayed at Notre Dame in a 25-point senior season. He has notched 10 goals, one two-pointer, and two assists for 13 points in his last four contests. He ranks fifth on the team in points and has added seven ground balls. The 6-1, 180-pound midfielder prides himself on more than stats.
“I am an explosive athlete that thrives in scramble situations. I am a balanced player that can play offense and defense,” he said. “The MLL is a fast-paced transition game that fits my style well. I have been able to put some points up the last couple of games.”
Earl was the Nationals’ third-round selection (13th overall) in the 2011 MLL Collegiate Draft. He finished his college career with the University of Notre Dame with 73 points and 157 ground balls. He was named the BIG EAST Midfielder of the Year in addition to being named to the USILA Scholar All-American Team. It was the second All-American citation for Earl, who received honorable mention accolades in 2010. He also played in the 2010 NCAA National Championship and was one win away from a second Final Four this May.
“As an athlete you spend the offseason training, playing fall ball to get to the highest level. To get there was a dream come true. The Final Four and making the championship was unforgettable,” said Earl of his 2010 run to the NCAA Finals against Duke.
With the Nationals he has been reunited with teammates Kevin Ridgway and Scott Rodgers. Ridgway was selected in the 2011 draft, while Rodgers is in his second season after leading the Fighting Irish to within one goal of its first lacrosse national title in 2010.
“Scott and I are really good friends and it’s funny we ended up on the same team,” said Earl. “He is a great guy and is the hardest worker in the weight room. He gets excited and plays with a lot of emotion…people are drawn to him because of that.”
Rodgers, Earl and Ridgway are among a young core of players that includes a roster with only one player over 30 and an average age of 24 years old. It was a situation and a locker room that benefitted a player like Earl.
“We have a young team and it was a much easier transition playing with people your same age. I was able to get comfortable right away. We are coming together as a team and will be together for years to come,” he said.
Earl has made a statement thus far in his first two months as a professional. In an age of specialization, he wants kids to take notice that midfielders can in fact play both ends of the field. He is passing on the advice he received at the Westminster School in Simsbury, Conn., under coaches Peter Newman and Dennis Daly.
“I want to influence more kids to become two-way players. I want the new trend to be back to the old school two-way midfielders,” said Earl. “To be called one of the best two-way players makes me proud of the hard work I have done to play both ways. To see it paying off is exciting.”