Ashkelon franchises Friedman, Gradinger and Popeck

Gradinger is expected to be a huge force offensively for Ashkelon.
Gradinger is expected to be a huge force offensively for Ashkelon.
ASHKELON, ISRAEL — The “Fighting Alephs” will have a punishing defense in 2017, following the naming of defensemen Chris Friedman and Matthew Popeck as franchise players, along with midfielder Lucas Gradinger.

Tom Goldman takes over as head coach for Ashkelon. The Baltimore native currently serves as Head Coach at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.

Friedman makes the shift to his adopted hometown club of Ashkelon, where he has served as program director since September. At 6-2, 225 pounds, Friedman has been an athletic and physical force in the IPLL and for Team Israel. He helped anchor a Haifa defense that allowed just 26 goals (3.71 goals per game) in 2016, before doing the same for the National Team at the 2016 European Championships in Budapest. The Briarcliffe graduate helped the blue-and-white in allowing just 26 goals at Euros (3.25 goals per game).

Popeck (left), who previously competed as a loaner for Barak Netanya, returns to Israel with Ashkelon LC.
Popeck (left), who previously competed as a loaner for Barak Netanya, returns to Israel with Ashkelon LC.
Popeck enters the league as a versatile player who can help Ashkelon on both defense and midfied. A native of Olney, Maryland, the 18-year-old was a two-year captain at Sherwood High School, where he led his team in ground balls in his Junior and Senior seasons. The St. Joe’s commit, who has been to Israel before on the program’s Winter Service Trip, is a two-time First Team All-County and All-Division and a US Lacrosse All-American.

Gradinger, a highly-celebrated midfielder who has played three seasons in the NCAA for Maryland, is expected to be a huge force offensively for Ashkelon. As a redshirt Sophomore, Gradinger appeared in 20 games for Maryland in 2016, before taking the 2017 season off; he still has two years of NCAA eligibility remaining. Prior to his time at Maryland, Gradinger was a two-time US Lacrosse High School All-American at Torrey Pines High School, where he totaled 291 points on 144 goals and 147 assists. He is the younger brother of Max Gradinger, who played defense for the Israel Men’s National Team and Ashdod LC in 2016.

Ashkelon opens their 2017 season against Herzliya LC on July 20th.