By the time Austin Henningsen was in the seventh grade he was already an established midfielder, a quick-twitch, athletic specimen who could score on a breakaway; find teammates in transition; and play solid defense too. But around the age of 13 the Northport, N.Y., native attended a local Long Island, N.Y., clinic run by faceoff guru Matt Schomburg. Suddenly, Henningsen’s lacrosse future had taken a new turn. Instead of running up and down the field, he’d now be primarily patrolling the “X.”
“I honestly didn’t take the faceoff aspect of lacrosse all that seriously until I went to Matt Schomburg’s clinic [the Fogolax Academy],” said Henningsen, a Maryland class of 2015 signee who just completed his senior year at Northport High (Northport, N.Y.). “My dad and my coaches were telling me about Coach Schomburg, and I decided to give it a try. And I just absolutely loved it. I went up there a lot of weekends and he made me feel like I could dominate and change the game from the ‘X.’ I still played middie, but from then on, I was all about faceoffs too.”
So much so that Henningsen developed into arguably the best faceoff specialist in his class. He ended up earning multiple Division I scholarships from programs throughout the ACC and Big Ten, including Duke, Virginia, Maryland, Rutgers and others before ultimately choosing the Terps in 2013.
“Basically Coach Schomburg showed me all these examples of faceoff specialists who played at Division I, who won national championships, and who dominated at the top levels of lacrosse. And me being in seventh grade, I was like, ‘Whoa, I want to be like those guys,’” said Henningsen, who began playing lacrosse in the third grade at the behest of his father, a star high school player himself. “I wanted to be as good as some of the best out there, and I felt like if I worked at it, I’d get a chance to go DI.
"So Coach Schomburg really opened my eyes, and he taught me things that were so important like different hand drills, getting proper balance at the ‘X’, strength training tips, how to take a ball on a fastbreak and score, shooting tips – everything.”
After a couple years at the Fogolax Academy, Henningsen, who also played for a nearby travel program, Team Tiger, had basically sapped everything he could out of Schomburg. He excelled to the point where, in the eighth grade, he was called up to his high school’s junior varsity squad. Then, when Henningsen arrived at Northport, he was immediately promoted to varsity, starting all four years on campus. Henningsen eventually earned Under Armour All-American honors and was deemed one of the best at his craft, according to laxpower.com.
“There was a point at Schomburg’s clinics when I would go against some of the highest rated faceoff guys in the country, and I would beat them. That’s kind of when I knew that, ‘OK, I can do this at the top levels of lacrosse,’” Henningsen said. “I’d say my quickness and my hands are two strengths of mine, but, definitely, the best feeling ever is when you get a fastbreak and score. When you beat your man and get a clean run downfield, you’re either going to score or find your teammate [in transition] so he can score on the next possession. It can change the whole game.”
Henningsen said he had a dozen fast-break goals his senior year, which he conceded was a little low for him since he split time as a midfielder and ceded way to two other developing “X”-men.
But although he loves to score, Henningsen’s most memorable moment actually came on the assisting end.
“Last year we were playing Smithtown East, and I had this one faceoff where I was just way quicker to the ball than my opponent,” Henningsen said. “I brought the ball forward, popped it up to myself, raced down the field and fed it to our attackman out in front. He ended up scoring on the play, and it helped change the momentum in the game. It was awesome.”
Evidently Northport now has three faceoff specialists, who are kind of like the kickers and punters of the lacrosse world. While the rest of the team is off passing, shooting and running, Henningsen and Co. go at it at the X.
“Like 50 minutes before a game starts, we just have live faceoff situations, just getting ready for the real thing,” said Henningsen, who also plays tight end at Northport. “The rest of the guys will work on their passing and stuff, but we’ll be doing other things to warm up. I’ll drop the ball and catch it real quickly, which gets the blood flowing in your hand. Then I’ll squeeze the ball and drop it, put the ball on the ground; go back and forth; and then up and over it. After that, it’s straight live rotations.”
Granted, Henningsen does still spend a good amount of time at middie, mentioning how he enjoys prowling the pitch, going on offense and running in transition. Just don’t expect him to much of that at Maryland.
“Honestly, Maryland has so many offensive weapons that are a lot better than me,” Henningsen said, chuckling. “I’d gladly play some middie if Coach [John] Tillman needed me too, but I expect I’ll be purely a faceoff guy.”
Speaking of Tillman, Henningsen said UMD’s headman identified him as a freshman, extending the offer shortly after watching him perform at a camp. A year later, following a visit to College Park, Md., Henningsen was on board with the Terps, citing the campus, atmosphere and “the chance to play for Coach Tillman and a great Maryland program.”
“I’m definitely excited to get there. I’ve been waiting so long since I committed in 10th grade. I’ve been waiting two years to get there,” said Henningsen, who will arrive in August. “I definitely can’t wait to show what I can do and help them win a national championship. Unfortunately Maryland’s fallen short recently, but hopefully we can get over the hump all four years I’m there.”
Henningsen Ready To Control The 'X' At UMD
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