Lindenwood is hosting Arkansas State in a friendly 7pm Saturday in St. Charles, Mo. The Red Wolves, between some hard-hitting DI-A matches and the playoffs on the horizon, will leave the usual starters at home and bring up a young squad.
“We want to get an evaluation for some guys who have been on the fringe but haven’t been included in any of the first-15 match day 23s yet,” said ASU coach Alex Houser, “and get a quality game against Lindenwood and develop a little bit, see who can put their hand up for some postseason play potentially.”
Some of the Red Wolves making the trip have been coming off the bench regularly in ASU’s league matches, like back rowers Alex Goff and Connor Cook.
“Goff, in particular, and Connor Cook have been pretty good impact subs for us so far this season,” said Houser, “and now we’re just going to get some more minutes under their feet and let them get their match fitness up a little bit as we roll towards this Life match next weekend and hopefully a good run in the postseason.”
Two true freshmen who weren’t highly touted coming out of high school will also be looking to turn some heads in suburban St. Louis – Michael Baska and Paxton VanBaber. Baska is from suburban Kansas City and played for the heralded St. Thomas Aquinas Saints in high school. VanBaber is from ASU All American Pat Sullivan’s hometown in suburban Chicago.
Both wound up at ASU not because of heavy recruiting from the Red Wolves, but because of their connections to the university. VanBaber because of a few guys like Sullivan who have come from Illinois and made a name for themselves in Jonesboro, Ark. and Baska because is older sister plays volleyball for the Red Wolves.
“He’s been a really good surprise for us. He’s a freakishly, kind of, athletic kid,” said Houser of Baska.
“Last weekend in the second side match against Davenport he jumped up for a ball with his back to a defender who was jumping up for it too and he shielded the defender with his back and just snagged the ball out of the air one handed. Yesterday in practice somebody threw a pass that was way over his ehad and way behind him and he just jumped up with one hand and snagged it out of the air. So he makes some pretty amazingly athletic plays.”
Baska made the roster for the 7s National Championship team in the fall, while VanBaber was the last man nixed from the traveling squad. But VanBaber has impressed Houser this season, too.
“He’s come and put on 15 pounds of muscle and he’s in really good shape and he’s really improved his skills,” said the coach. “He’s proved to be really coachable, so he’s another kid who will be really good for us going forward in the future.”
The atmosphere at the game should be pretty exciting, as the 65th Annual Ruggerfest has pulled a tournament field of 65 teams together for the weekend, and several teams and players are likely to make their way to St. Charles after Saturday’s festivities.