A thick Long Island accent, which U.S. Team Coach Bob Shriver labeled 'Farmingdalese,' was not the only unique quality Matt Danowski brought to the men's Under-19 world championships this summer. The tournament's Most Valuable Player did a lot more than speak a language that Shriver had difficulty understanding. The 6-foot, 180-pound Duke recruit exceeded expectations that were already massive. Danowski was just coming off an 84-goal season with the nation's season-long top-ranked high school squad, Farmingdale, which eventually lost a single game, 11-10, to defending champ West Genesee in the New York state Class A title game.
Despite the setback, Danowski showed up at Towson University for the international event with a big rep that was, by all accounts, well deserved. He was the best player on a U.S. team that rolled through all six of its opponents by a combined 106-40 goal differential on the way to its fifth consecutive world crown. Athletic, agile and aggressive with ample after-burners, Danowski was impressive in almost every facet of the game.
The son of longtime Hofstra Coach John Danowski, Matt is well schooled. Playing for Farmingdale's respected Bob Hartranft in high school was another way for the attackman to mix flash and fundamentals with the verve of a mad scientist. "He's the best player we've ever had at our high school," said Hartranft, who's Dalers were 22-1. "He shattered every scoring record and he just sees the field so well. He has that sixth sense you just can't coach. He knows when to shoot and when to pass. He has it all."
Competing with and against some guys who already had a year of college ball under their belts, Danowski took a short time to adjust to the proceedings. "When he first started, I was thinking that his decision-making was spotty sometimes," admitted Shriver, the Boys' Latin Coach with an impressive résumé of his own at the Maryland prep powerhouse. "But when he started to make better decisions, everything else was already there. He rides like a banshee and I don't think he missed one groundball the whole tournament."
Danowski finished the tourney with a team-leading 17 goals and 10 assists, numbers that don't fully portray the impact he had for the Americans. "It was intimidating at first," Danowski said about playing against college veterans. "But after awhile it didn't seem to matter." Danowski pointed to a 22-3 mauling of England in the final round-robin game of the tournament when the U.S. put everything together just in time for the semifinals in which the heavy favorites were pitted against the English again. Both blowouts (the second was by a 21-6 margin) paved the way for the showdown against Canada in the final. The Canadians had given the Americans their sternest test earlier, losing only by a respectable 14-10 score. The U.S. trailed at halftime, 7-6, before pulling out the victory with a second-half spurt in which Danowski scored tying goals twice and assisted on the go-ahead tally.
But Danowski also took care of business in the championship, a 19-10 walkover, scoring the U.S.'s first goal and assisting on its final tally to wrap up the title. The MVP voting was probably a mere formality, given Danowski's peak performance throughout. "I was kind of surprised," he said. "I thought they could have given it to (Hofstra signee) Brett Moyer or Greg Peyser (of Johns Hopkins). Those guys played great."
FELLOW DUKIES: Matt Zash, Glenn Nick and Bret Thompson
Now it's on to Duke and a chance to show his stuff in Durham along with four U.S. U-19 teammates, including middies Matt Zash and Peter Lamade and stellar longstick Glenn Nick. Danowski's decision to play for Coach Mike Pressler was not made without a few sleepless nights. "It's the toughest decision I've ever made," Danowski allowed. "But my dad told me that lacrosse lasts four years and an education lasts a lifetime. I just felt comfortable there."
Danowski backs Pressler and his decision to attend Duke
Matt's heard the snipes at Pressler, who's Blue Devils were beaten by his dad's Hofstra Pride the last two seasons. Key sophomore defections by fellow Long Islanders Matt Rewkowski to Hopkins and Matt Monfett to Brown have increased the rhetoric in the anti-Pressler campaign. Danowski isn't buying any of it. "People are jumping on his back way too quickly," he said. "He's been catching a lot of heat, but he won the ACC a couple of years in a row. With Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia, that's not easy." What the transfers will do, however, is vacate a spot for Danowski at Duke, where he will surely be needed in any Blue Devils' climb back to the top of the ACC.