Morning Jac: NYIT Crossing Fingers for Fla. Trip
Three years after getting his trip to Florida canceled because of a freak snowstorm rolling through the East Coast, NYIT head coach Bill Dunn is getting a little anxious. He and the Bears are supposed to fly out of JFK tonight (Wednesday) at around 7:30 p.m., just a couple of hours ahead of 'Winter Storm Pax.' There are numerous flights that have already been canceled out of Gotham.
If, God willing, NYIT finds its way down to the Sunshine State for games against Tampa on Friday and Florida Southern on Sunday, it'll be a stiff test for a program with title aspirations. It will also be the first go-around for a team that looks different than last year's NCAA qualifier.
It starts with the roster and, in particular, the numbers. Unlike last year's 24-man roll, the Bears have a corps of 35 guys.
"We didn't have a lot, but we had the right guys," Dunn said. "Now, midfield-wise, we have a little more depth. I'm pretty happy with it. We are stronger at the midfield than I thought we were going to be. We got big years out of certain guys last year that I didn't think we would, so now it's somebody else's turn to step up. I honestly feel we're stronger at this point, but we haven't played yet so that remains to be seen."
Dunn knows he's going to have his hands full on this trip, especially the opener against Tampa. The Bears beat the Spartans, 13-9, on the Island last spring, but UT has been revamped.
"Tampa is completely different, on the attack especially," Dunn said. "They have three Division I transfers on attack. I saw them play against Queens and they're legit. It looks like they work well together. Our defense is the strong point of our team. It should be a big battle at that end of the field. They moved a couple of their attackmen to midfield who are pretty good shooters, so that's going to present a little problem. Danny McDermott is playing long-pole middie, so that will help us out there."
NYIT lost a pair of defensive starters to attrition, leaving Dunn to start a freshman and a transfer next to junior Ed Torriero, the anchor of the backline. In addition, the Bears will be starting rookie Alex Seltzer in net. These new pieces makes it interesting that Dunn would consider his defense the team's signature unit, especially when you consider that incomparable attackman Luke Miller is still prowling the offensive zone.
Regardless of which level of the field will be the key for NYIT, these games are important for the Bears despite being non-region contests.
"It's big still," Dunn said. "As part of your overall RPI it comes into play as well as strength of schedule. Tampa is going to be one of the stronger teams in the south and Florida Southern is up and coming. As far as getting the bid from the north region, I think we play strong enough team in conference that we'll be in the mix at the end."
NYIT, along with the rest of the ECC, can't afford to take many non-conference or non-region losses because the conference gauntlet is getting considerably more difficult this year. After years of just playing a regular season slate, the ECC is sponosoring a four-team league tourney.
"It'll be similar to what they go through in the NE-10," Dunn said. "It's tough enough to beat LIU Post, Dowling or Molloy once in a season, and now we have to beat them twice. That's difficult."
That's something to be worried about in late April and May. Right now, it's all about getting a flight off the Island.