After a strong junior season concluding in a first-team Mission League selection, varsity lacrosse midfielder Phillip Thompson ’16 racked up another impressive honor on Tuesday morning, being one of 24 west coast players to be chosen to compete in the 2015 Under Armour Underclass Lacrosse Tournament.
“It’s an incredible honor to make the team,” Thompson said. “It truly is a collection of the best players from the west, and I’m very grateful to be included in the same category as those guys. I’m very excited to be able to compete at the highest level with the best players in the country, and this event will allow me to do exactly that.”
After being primarily known as a face-off specialist during his first two years on Harvard-Westlake’s varsity team, Thompson made major strides as an all-around player during the 2015 season, helping the team overcome the losses of midfielders Jack Temko ’14 and Noah Pompan ’14 with his play on both sides of the ball. Thompson’s 2015 totals of 49 goals (second on the team behind Roman Holthouse ’15) and 23 assists (second behind Aaron Drooks ’15) were both career-highs, while he also maintained an impressive face-off conversion rate of 69 percent. The Wolverines reached the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section Northern Division quarterfinals before finishing with an 11-8 overall record.
Thompson was also chosen as a U.S. Lacrosse High School All-American for 2015, being one of 10 Los Angeles County players and four Mission League players to receive the honor. Defender Andrew Park ’15, who was second on the 2015 Harvard-Westlake team behind Thompson with 81 ground balls, was named a 2015 U.S. Lacrosse High School Academic All-American, being one of six L.A. County players and the only Mission League player to do so. The complete rosters for both teams can be seen here: http://www.uslacrosse.org/multimedia-center/press-releases-news/postid/998/high-school-boys-lacrosse-all-americans-named.aspx
“I truly give a lot of credit to my teammates and my coaches for my progression as an offensive weapon,” Thompson said. “They believed in me and pushed me every single day in practice to refine my technique, and they stoked my competitive fire to be the best.”
While Thompson was complimentary to his fellow Wolverines, he also cited his own work ethic for his increased statistics, and strived to be even better in 2016.
“I believe that my improvement was also due in large part to studying the game and watching tape of myself, as well as college ball, in order to improve my I.Q. on the field,” he said. “In the future, I will continue to work to improve both physically and mentally. The hard work you do in the offseason is so important because it allows you to step on the field and know that you own your matchup and that no one can stop you from getting your team a W.”
Thompson, who committed to Princeton University in the offseason before his junior year, is one of nine players from the CIF Southern Section on the Under Armour roster, which only consists of players from the Classes of 2016, 2017 and 2018. Of the four Los Angeles county players on the team, Thompson is the only one who doesn’t play for defending division champion Palos Verdes, which defeated Harvard-Westlake 13-2 in the regular season and is sending rising seniors Jarrett Jones ’16, Peter Henkhaus ’16 and Shane Sharp ’16 to join Thompson in the summer tournament.
Thompson said that he will relish the chance to play with his usual rivals, expressing admiration for their skill and relief at not having to face them as competitors.
“I’m very excited to play with them this time, as I know how hard it is to prepare to stop them,” he said. “I know many of them from various club teams and showcases, and I love the intensity and skill they bring to the table. Every single play, they push me to bring my “A” game, and I’m very excited to get after it and hopefully win a championship with them.”
10 teams will be playing in the tournament, with the majority of participants representing the East Coast. Overall, there will be squads competing from Baltimore, Long Island, the Midwest, New England, New Jersey, Philadelphia, the South, Upstate New York, Washington, D.C., and Thompson’s West Coast team. The tournament will take place from July 3-5 at Towson University in Baltimore.
While the East Coast has certainly been perceived as the strongest lacrosse region in the nation — all of the top 29 teams in LaxPower’s high school computer rankings at the end of the 2015 season were from east of the Mississippi River — Thompson only uses this discrepancy as more motivation for his team to stun the public.
“There is no doubt in my mind that our team can not only compete with the Eastern regions, but even beat them,” he said. “Our team features some real blue-chip talent, and I think that we have a chip on our shoulder from constantly being told that we cannot compete with the Eastern powers.
“This tournament is incredibly competitive because we are representing our region and our home. Everyone wants to say that their region is the best, and that is especially true for the West, because people often consider us to be worse,” Thompson added. “One thing that I can promise about the Western team is that we will fight, hustle and grind harder than anyone else, because we feel that we need to earn respect.”
The lone downside to Thompson’s selection is that he will miss a significant portion of summer practice for the football team, which he decided to re-join after not having played since his freshman season. Thompson is expected to start at nose tackle following the graduation of all three starting defensive linemen from the 2014 team, including nose tackle and first-team CIF-SS Southeast Division selection Zeph Williams ’15. Thompson cited the sport’s brotherhood and the ability to improve as an athlete as primary reasons to return to the program.
“I wanted to re-join the football team because of the team camaraderie, as well as the fact that I simply enjoy playing the game,” he said. “It will help my diversify my athletic skill set and eventually make me a better lacrosse player. I’m very excited to represent the school on the gridiron and hopefully bring something different to the table that can help this team win games.”
After the football season concludes, Thompson will headline a lacrosse squad returning five of 10 starters for the 2016 season. Second-team Mission League selections Shane Houska ’17 and Niko Econn ’17 will be returning on the defensive side of the ball along with goalie Troy Hattler ’17, while attackman Tommy Park ’18 (18 goals in 12 games as a freshman) will help anchor the offense with Thompson. The athletic department has yet to announce a new head coach for the team after Alex Weber resigned from the position in May 2015.
“I don’t know who the new coach will be, but Pete Swander (who went 3-0 in 2015 as an interim coach) would be a great fit in my opinion. He may know the most about the game of anyone I’ve ever met and he brings an unrivaled passion day in and day out,” Thompson said. “At the end of the day, I’m more worried about my own game, because no matter who the coach is next year, if our players haven’t improved, our results won’t either.
“A second round playoff loss is unacceptable,” he concluded. “This team is capable of winning a championship, and we all have to get better to achieve that.”
The full UA roster, chosen by coaches at Under Armour Inc., can be seen here: