If geography had anything to do with lacrosse and if Anthony Abbadessa and Cade van Raaphorst were coming up through the ranks about five years ago, the Desert Vista tandem probably would never been invited to Connecticut.

Luckily for them once an athlete takes the field ability takes over and where their practice field is located has little bearing on how they’re going to play.

Abbadessa, a junior attacker, and van Raaphorst, a sophomore defender, proved it once again as they made the most of another trip back East.

There was a time when a lacrosse player from Arizona competing against eastern lacrosse players was akin to the Nigerian men’s basketball team taking on the United States in the Olympics (in case you missed it U.S. 156, Nigeria 76).

Arizona teams and players have closed that gap in recent years, but there is still a stigma until they take the field.

“Some people are skeptical, but once we put on the pads I am in my element and they forget it,” van Raaphorst said. “I trust my play no matter where I am. I put on my helmet and grab my stick and play my game.”

Abbadessa has the same approach whether he is playing for the Arizona Force, the West Coast Stars or competing in a showcase event like the Maverik Showtime Lacrosse, where the tandem were invited to be part of the highly selective recruiting showcase focused on attracting the top 160 rising sophomores and 160 rising juniors in lacrosse to the campus of the Western Connecticut State University.

The players compete in front of just about every Division I scout so it was a pretty intense week when they participated in July.

“There was a time that I might have been intimidated about playing against players from the East, but I’ve done it enough that I don’t treat it any different,” Abbadessa said. “The level of play is better than Arizona but I’m confident enough to know I belong.”

They both proved they belonged while at the Maverik.

The format had one day of practice before being split into teams. After several days of playing highly-competitive games, about 40 players (out of 320) are selected for the all-star game on the final day.

Both players were selected and played well in the match as Abbadessa had two goals and van Raaphorst scored a rare goal for a defensemen.

“I got a ground ball, ran down a lane and found the net,” van Raaphorst said. “To do that in front of all of the scouts was important. I showed them I can do more than play good defense.”

The performance opened the eyes of recruiters and publications as well.

Then van Raaphorst, who was described as having “an excellent handle, range and glaring athleticism,” was singled out by a recruiting roundup story as one of the top 10 players who impressed.

While Abbadessa, who was singled out as a noteworthy performer by laxlessons.com, was called a “complete attackman who showed a strong shot and some spectacular passing ability.”

It was a great closing to the season as their lacrosse careers go on pause for the football season as Abbadessa is a junior on the varsity squad as a running back and safety, and van Raaphorst is following in his father’s footsteps (his dad Jeff was quarterback for Arizona State 1984-86) at quarterback for the junior varsity.

Their career path on the football field is blurry compared to what is in store for the duo in lacrosse as the recruiting process has already started.

As a junior Abbadessa is further along as he already took visits to Delaware, Leigh, Colgate, Hofstra and Michigan.

“I should be making my decision pretty soon,” he said. “All I ever heard was lacrosse was the best in the East and it would be hard to get noticed, but I’m going to get that chance.”

Being only a sophomore, van Raaphorst has a lot more time to figure things out, but it is pretty clear after the Maverik performance he too will get his shot eventually.

“All it takes is for one coach to see you and like the way you play,” he said. “That’s why playing well there was so important. I did what I needed to do to set the stage for the next few years.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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