A pair of CUFLA student-athletes were selected in the recent National Lacrosse League draft, both in the second round. University of Toronto attack AJ Masson was taken 12th overall by the Philadelphia Wings. Queens University midfielder Nick Weiss was then drafted 17th overall by the Vancouver Stealth.
Masson, a graduate of the Orangeville Northmen Junior A program and the University of Vermont, is pursuing a Masters degree in Biology, focusing on Ecology and Evolution. He's hit the ground running in CUFLA, leading the Blues with 6 goals in the team's first three games and having a good time doing so. “I am loving it, to be honest,” Masson said. “I think it's a lot more fun than the US league, playing with and against a lot of guys I grew up with. The style of game is something I'm more used to. It's been a blast.”
That style, Masson says, is more similar to the box game he has spent so much time playing than the American version is. “It seems like the Canadian game has a lot more picks and play in tight to the net, whereas in the US it's a lot more dodging from high up top and shots on the run. I've just found it's a different type of game. Probably the best way to describe it, is box on a bigger scale. I like this version of the game. More exciting, I think, because it's faster paced.”
The different style demanded a bit of an adjustment, but Masson says he feels right at home now. “It took a bit to get used to, the first game, just getting into the groove of things. I'd been at practice, but it's a lot different when you get on the field against another team, how it'll play out. I feel like I'm definitely getting pretty much adjusted to it now and know what to expect.”
Masson will be at U of T for 18 months for his Masters, meaning he'll have a chance to play two seasons of CUFLA lacrosse. His schedule is working out pretty well despite the demands of graduate school, he says, because his degree is primarily research-based. “For right now, I only have one class, a lot of the work I'm doing is research. So for now I can work my schedule around lacrosse. As I get towards the end of the program it will probably get more difficult because I'll be getting ready to prepare my thesis. But UVM definitely prepared me for it, because it's a little more time consuming for what it is in the US than what it is here, in terms of a time commitment.”
In the meantime, Masson will be balancing his schoolwork and field lacrosse with preparing for Wings' training camp, which will start in late November or early December. “They basically said that if I come in in shape, there's a chance for me to step in right away. That was their big thing, just be ready for training camp,” Masson said. The Wings are looking to Masson to help bolster their offence on the left side. If he makes the team, the forward will have a chance to play with NLL stars like Kevin Crowley, Paul Rabil and Brodie Merrill, all of whom are also star players on the field.
Weiss, meanwhile, is studying economics at Queens after taking a few years to play Junior A hockey in Saskatchewan and Alberta. He's a graduate of the Peterborough Lakers Junior A lacrosse program and is expected to bring a strong defensive game coupled with some transition prowess to the Stealth. Weiss considered going to Queens when he was finishing high school and it was the first place he thought of when he was ready to enrol in university.
“I was recruited to play football here when I was 18. I came down and visited the school and thought it was amazing,” Weiss said. “So when I was thinking about what school to go to when I was coming back, I just immediately thought of Queens. The fact that they had a lacrosse program made it even better.”
Weiss also had a successful on-field start to his career in CUFLA, scoring a hat trick in his first game to help the Golden Gaels down the Carleton Ravens 8-5. It's been a while since he's had a chance to play field lacrosse since neither of the high schools he attended had lacrosse teams. “I'm really enjoying it,” he said. “I haven't gotten to play field for a while so it's nice to be back out on the big field. The last time I played field would have been my minor days, back in Peterborough.”
“I'm very much enjoying it and feeling very comfortable, especially with the more time you have in field,” Weiss adds. “In box, when you get the ball in your stick, there's really not a lot of room and there's someone on you exactly right away. In field, you can have a little more time to see guys and see your options and work the ball around.”
He'll still be spending plenty of time playing box lacrosse, though, if he is able to crack Vancouver's roster. Weiss cemented his standing as a top prospect for the draft with his performance at the NLL Draft Combine, held the Saturday and Sunday before the draft itself at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre. “It was a really cool experience,” Weiss said of the combine, which included fitness and agility testing and a scrimmage. “It was very lacrosse-focused. Almost all the tests you had your stick in your hands and you were doing something directly related to lacrosse so I really enjoyed that part of it.”
Because there were far more defenders and transition players than offensive players, Weiss even got to spend some time playing in the offensive zone and on the power play. “That was kind of a shock, too. Throughout my years of junior I think I only got to go on the power play once or twice and that was only after we were really far up on a team. That was definitely a shock to be going out there on the power play. Right after, I texted [my junior coach] Mat Giles, cause I always faked trying to go on the power play in practice, and I texted him that he really should have let me go on,” Weiss said with a laugh.
Because he's in school, Weiss won't be able to move to Vancouver to play with the Stealth, but he said he's been assured that won't be a problem. “No, relocating isn't really an option for me right now. [Stealth GM] Doug Locker told me they're very supportive of guys that want to go to school and they can absolutely make it work with me just flying out on the weekends.”
While he's excited about the chance to play in the pro indoor league, Weiss is also enjoying his time at Queens and is stoked about the field season. “Well, it looks like we have a very strong team this year, which is very exciting,” he says. “The guys are saying it's the strongest team the program has had, ever. So expectations are really high for the team to do well. So I'm putting really high expectations on myself. I really want to help out on the offensive side as well as the defensive side.”
Both players are back on the field this weekend. Queens visits Carleton on Saturday while Toronto travels north to face Laurentian on Sunday. ?