Why We Chose Sam Handley as Our January 2023 Cover Star


Sam Handley, a 6-5 freight train for Penn, is throwing it back to the 2000s midfielder.

THIRTEEN YEARS AGO, writer Joel Censer penned an article for USA Lacrosse Magazine, “The Death of the Dodging Attackman,” that detailed the obsolescence of players who went to the rack with reckless abandon.

Midfielders, Censer opined, were the initiators in college lacrosse. Attackmen had become mere facilitators, occupiers of what had become a read-and-react position.

That article came out in September 2010 — the start of a decade ultimately dominated by precisely the kind of players Censer had declared dead.

Whereas midfielders like Kyle Harrison and Paul Rabil defined 2000s, the 2010s gave rise to a wave of unstoppable attackmen like Rob Pannell, Jordan Wolf, the Thompson brothers, Dylan Molloy, Matt Rambo, Pat Spencer, Ben Reeves and Jared Bernhardt, among others.

The dodging attackman was very much alive.

This is no knock on Censer, one of the smartest writers I’ve ever worked with. He retired his pen and now does some incredible work as the chief pathing officer for Harlem Lacrosse.

But rather it’s a reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Lacrosse is cyclical. And I couldn’t help but think of this article when our magazine staff spoke highly of Sam Handley in preseason award discussions.

You have to go all the way back to Max Seibald in 2009 to find the last time a true midfielder won the Tewaaraton Award. Tom Schreiber and Myles Jones came close, but these have been lean times for the position.

In fact, before Handley won the McLaughlin Award last spring, the previous four winners of the USILA Midfielder of the Year honor were specialists in faceoff man Trevor Baptiste (2017-18), short-stick d-middie Zach Goodrich (2019) and long pole Jared Conners (2021).

Is this the death of the dodging midfielder? I’m not as brazen as my friend Joel. But it does seem like Handley is the outlier — a throwback to the aughts.

A 6-foot-5, 230-pound specimen from Portland, Handley came into college as an attackman. Penn converted him to a midfielder and no one has figured out how to counter his unique blend of size, speed and savvy.

Handley was the only current college midfielder still in the running for the 2023 U.S. men’s national team at the IMLCA Players’ Summit. He ultimately didn’t make the team, but the Premier Lacrosse League is licking its chops.

This isn’t the last we’ve heard from Handley.

— Matt DaSilva, editor-in-chief


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