BALTIMORE — Former St. Anne’s-Belfield lacrosse stars Connor Shellenberger and Emmett Barger put the finishing touches on their high school careers Saturday in the Under Armour All-American Game at John’s Hopkins’ Homewood Field.
The lifelong friends also took the field as teammates for the final time. They played for the South team, which watched a five-goal lead evaporate in the third quarter as the North stole a 24-22 win.
This fall, they become ACC rivals.
Shellenberger — a Charlottesville native and the No. 1 2019 recruit in the country — committed to Virginia as a sophomore at STAB. He is already making regular trips to Grounds for workouts.
Last November, Barger signed with Notre Dame, and despite more than one attempt to get him to flip, he stuck with the Fighting Irish.
“I love playing with Connor. He’s a great player, and I think we each elevate the other’s game. It was fun to have this last one with him,” said Barger, who admits it will be a little weird next spring to see Shellenberger on the opposing sideline. “During the game, it will be intense, but after it will be all love and smiles and friendship.”
The duo grew up playing together on many of the same clubs teams. Shellenberger spent his junior year at The Bullis School, but they spent three years as high school teammates and three summers together on the same Under Armour All-American team.
“When we heard the [Under Armour] rosters came out and saw we got to play together again, we were both excited,” said Shellenberger, a four-time All-American. “It’s fun to play with kids you played with your whole life. You have those connections that go deeper than lacrosse, and you have the on and off the field bonds. We’re just having fun with it and enjoying these last couple days.”
They would have liked to go out with a win, but despite the blown lead, one thing was clear Saturday in Baltimore, Barger and Shellenberger were two of the best players on the field.
Shellenberger tied for the South team lead with three goals and added an assist. Barger led the South with three assists. They shared the spotlight with North scoring leaders Canyon Birch (Penn State) and JJ Sillstrop (Denver) — both of whom scored four goals — and North faceoff man Alex Stathakis (Denver), who went 25-for-41 on the X.
“Playing in this game is a blessing. There are a lot of great guys and the competition level is great,” said Barger, a three-time Under Armour All-American. “We fought to the end. We came up short, but it was a surreal experience.”
After spending his final two high school seasons at attack, Barger moved back to midfield for Saturday’s game, and his speed and shiftiness left more than one defender on skates. He’s not sure yet which position he’ll play at Notre Dame.
“It was nice getting back to my roots in the midfield and getting more up and down the field,” he said. “[At Notre Dame] I’ll play wherever they put me.”
Shellenberger also showed off his shiftiness in man-to-man situations, and when he wound up for his first goal from about 25 yards out, there weren’t many defenders lining up to get in its way. His third of the day sparked a three-goal run, which gave the South a 17-12 lead with a little more than eight minutes left in the third quarter.
He is as equally unsure as Barger about his position at the next level.
“I like attack more because you can get in the rhythm of the game with fast breaks and transition. You can play a little faster,” Shellenberger said. “But I definitely don’t mind the midfield. You can come out of the box, get a short stick. There’s more freedom.”
Shellenberger called watching the Wahoos win a national championship the year before he officially arrives “a bit daunting.” But he also was in Klöckner Stadium this spring to watch Virginia beat Notre Dame in the ACC Tournament championship game and said the vibe took him back to what many see as the golden age of UVa lacrosse.
“It took me back to 2009 when Steele Stanwick was there and there was just that energy and buzz around Charlottesville and Klöckner,” Shellenberger said. “It made me so excited, just sitting there and watching. I was ready to jump on the field and play. I’m so excited for next year, and hopefully that buzz will be back even more after the championship.”