Photo by Pete Guion – Ultiphotos.com
Four talented young players have re-signed with the Washington D.C. Current for the upcoming 2016 season and beyond.
In addition to the organization adding the core of three-year veterans to the squad announced last week, the D.C. Current have signed Lloyd Blake, Zach Norrbom, Tim Jackson, and Joe Freund. All players who stepped into strong roles for the Current last season and expected to have even more of a presence on the field this upcoming spring.
“Us wanting to bring these guys back and giving them larger roles say a lot about our depth and how we are starting to see the rewards of making an effort to develop guys through our system. We believe in ‘next man up'” said General Manager Matt Dewhurst. “We’re really looking forward to seeing these guys blossom next season.”
Out of these four players, Blake is not by any means new to the team or to producing on the field. A graduate of James Madison University, Blake joined the roster back in 2014 and instantly made an impact on an O-line that was stacked with talent. He played on 91 points in his rookie campaign, 77 of those coming when the Current were receiving the pull.
After an impressive rookie campaign, Blake’s numbers improved in 2015:
2014: 6 goals, 10 assists, 3 blocks, .944 TPOP (Touches Per Offensive Possesion), 91 points
2015: 12 goals, 8 assists, 5 blocks, 1.005 TPOP, 133 points
His numbers increased during the 2015 season, continuing to see action in a hybrid role. Crowds at Cardinal Stadium began to take note of his towering presence and skill on the field. Before long, Blake was becoming a superstar to D.C. Current fans.
“I would be lying if I said being a ‘popular’ player doesn’t appeal to me, but you know, it all starts with on-field performance and I will be focused on that, anything else is a bonus” said the two-year veteran. “I signed again with the Current for a number of reasons, mainly the respect for and trust I have in both [Matt Dewhurst] and Will [Smolinski] to build a strong team and foster a good environment for growth.”
Norrbom will return to the team with some huge shoes to fill. Playing in only five games last season, Norrbom saw action primarily on the defensive side, as a rookie normally would. In the final game of the season, Norrbom saw increased action playing on the O-line with numerous stars seeing less playing time. Playing 11 total points, six on the O-line, (both career highs for Norrbom) he was able to record three goals, two assists, and went 25/26 on his throws.
Norrbom has experience playing under Smolinski’s system. In high school he played at Yorktown, including some of the most successful years for the team. In 2013, Norrbom was a member of the Breeze and currently plays with Mary Washington at the collegiate level. After his rookie season in the MLU, Norrbom has agreed to a two-year deal with team.
In 2016, expect to see Norrbom back in a handler position with the promise that he showed at the end of last season. While it is still unclear if he will be primarily on offense or defense, and it will probably not be determined until the roster shapes out, Norrbom will be a player that the D.C. Current will like to see the disc in his hands.
Also stepping on the field for his sophomore year in the MLU is Virginia Commonwealth star Jackson. In 2015, Jackson showed promise to the Current coaches and his fellow teammates. As a rookie, Jackson appeared in nine of the team’s 10 games seeing time on D.C. primary and secondary D-lines. In fact 96% of the points Jackson played last season were on the defensive side of the disc, where he was able to generate 3 blocks.
“The biggest reason [I decided to sign] was Coach [Smolinski]. He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. What really sets him apart is that he genuinely cares about individual player development. When I talk with [Smolinski] I know he has my best interests at heart and he just wants to see me succeed as opposed to some coaches who are all about the wins” said Jackson. “Another big reason is just the fact that the Current took a chance on me in the first place. I love the organization and it really feels like a family.”
While Jackson will still be a young player on the squad, it is expected that he will be put in similar situations as he was last season. However, as with all returning players, he will have a much larger role on the team and there will be slightly more expected out of his play.
“We might be a little less experienced this year but we aren’t going to be afraid or back down from anyone. We have a lot of young hungry guys ready to step out from some of the older guys’ shadows and make names for themselves” said Jackson.
The final roster addition in this round of signings was current Virginia Tech freshman, Joe Freund. To many Current fans, Freund might not sound like a familiar name on the roster, but he spent 2015 in the Current organization as a practice player. His practice squad status was not because due to lack of talent, but rather age; during the 2015 season he was 17 and ineligible to participate in MLU league play.
“When Joe showed up to tryouts last winter we were excited to see a kid from the area, who was a D.C. Current fan take that next step and try out for the big club. We were blown away by his ability right away” said Dewhurst. “In the year since he has only grown that much more as a player and got great experience playing against elite competition with Truck Stop during the club season. I think MLU fans will quickly learn the name Joe Freund, and we are thrilled to have him back with the team, this time as a full rostered player.”
Freund is another young talent that played under Smolinksi. For three years he was a member of the Yorktown High School ultimate team, further developing his talent under the eye of the Current coach. This past summer he played on the elite D.C. club team, Truck Stop along with many fellow D.C. Current players. At tryouts last season, the team management was disappointed about Freund’s age and made it clear that he would have been on the roster last season and given playing time had he had been eligible.
“It means so much to be one of the first players signed this year. I’ve worked incredibly hard in the offseason to stay at a high level of performance, and it really means a lot for that to be acknowledged. Essentially this means that I’m going to have to push myself even harder now to prove that I deserve this spot and can be a great player and teammate” said Freund.
The addition of these four players now brings the Current’s roster to nine. There are now also three players that have committed to the team for next year as well, with the two year deals of Norrbom, Keven Moldenhauer, and Delrico Johnson.