Luke Blanc pictured a flood of interest headed his way on Sept. 1, the first day that college coaches could reach back out to prospects from the Class of 2020. Blanc wasn't sure who he'd hear from, but he expected to get a sizeable amount of contact from schools.
It didn't quite work out that way.
"I didn't get a ton of interest initially on Sept. 1," Blanc said. "It's always been my dream to play Division I lacrosse and I've been working toward that throughout my life. It was tough to not get attention right away since you're looking forward to that day, but I just had to be honest with myself and work at the things that I needed to get better at."
There aren't many players in the 2020 class who can finish around the net quite like Blanc can, but he realized that he needed to work on his speed, change of direction and off-hand with the goal of having a lights-out fall. He laid out a goal of having a dominant fall to establish himself on the radar of the schools that initially didn't look at him, and it didn't take long for the Seton Hall Prep sniper to assert himself as an offensive threat for Leading Edge 2020.
"I prepared so much for the fall, and I played really well on the first day of the first tournament, which got me excited for the rest of the fall," Blanc said. "I mapped out everything ahead of time, and I knew that the fall would happen, I'd get interest and set up visits from there."
Sure enough, he caught the eye of more than a few schools. A crafty finisher with great hands around the cage and a Canadian style, Blanc stood out with his ability to catch and bury in tight. If teams packed in defenses against him, he could extend his range and beat them from further out. He had a strong final weekend, standing out at the NLF 2020 Uncommitted Showcase, and his time had finally come.
UMass certainly took notice. The Minutemen, fresh off of a 2018 CAA championship and appearance in the NCAA tournament, were a good match for Blanc with their playing style, and the school appealed to him in a couple of different ways. Once he visited, he came away from campus knowing that he'd found his collegiate home. He made the call for UMass, becoming the eighth member of the Leading Edge 2020s to commit, all to Division I schools.
"I want to study business, and they have a really strong business program up there," said Blanc, who netted 26 goals to go with 10 assists as a sophomore last spring. "I like that while the campus itself is big, all of the lacrosse dorms, dining hall, locker room and Garber Field are all very close, so the campus actually feels smaller when you're doing your normal routine. I also thought that the style of play fit me perfectly. I don't like when the ball dies in someone's stick, so I love the way they move the ball really fast. Plus, I'm a big hockey fan, so I'm excited to go to a school that really supports its hockey program, and they're No. 1 in the country right now."
Blanc was in a unique position, too, because he had taken some visits early in the recruiting process before the rules changed. When he got a second crack at it, he found himself seeing things from a different, more mature perspective, and it helped him come to his final decision.
"When you're in eighth grade, it's cool to be visiting colleges, but when you're that young, you don't realize how early it is," Blanc said. "I'm a junior now and I still think it's early, but the age difference definitely played a difference for me. I think I'm more informed and smarter about it, and while some factors stayed the same, it made me think about the things that I wanted in a school. Playing for Leading Edge definitely helped, too. When I surrounded myself with better players, it made me pick up the speed and play at a higher level, and you actually make less mistakes while moving faster, especially when everyone around you is just as good as you."
Blanc's skill level was always on par for a Division I attackman, but it was his dedication and commitment after initially being passed over that really impressed Leading Edge director Chris Roy.
"Luke has always been a very productive and dynamic player, but he got even more dangerous once he really committed to working hard to transform his body," Roy said. "He changed up his diet and worked his butt off to get faster and address his areas for improvement. UMass got itself a super skilled finisher, but also a great kid and someone who's going to make a huge difference for that program. I'm proud of him for his hard work and I can't wait to see what he does up there."
Unsurprisingly, patience paid off in spades.
LEADING EDGE 2020 COLLEGE COMMITMENTS
Jack Aimone, midfield, Hunterdon Central - Rutgers Evan Barr, goalie, Somerville - Duke (Commitment story) Luke Blanc, attack, Seton Hall Prep - UMass Jack Cooleen, defense, Lawrenceville - Dartmouth (Commitment story) Colin Freer, defense, Westfield - Princeton Connell Kumar, midfield, Seton Hall Prep - Virginia (Commitment story) Cole Krauss, LSM/D, Delbarton - Duke (Commitment story) Kyle Stephenson, midfield, Seton Hall Prep - Rutgers