Monday Notebook: MCLA Division II
- As he was driving back from Las Vegas with his assistant coach Brad Lavoie, Westminster head coach Mason Goodhand was in good spirits. No, he hadn't just hit it big in the casino. He and Lavoie had to break down the fields at the Full House Tournament on Sunday afternoon after the last game of the weekend, but he still felt like he came up aces. Westminster rolled to a 3-0 weekend – beating No. 17 Sam Houston State, No. 10 Western Oregon and UC Santa Cruz – and lived up to the Griffins' No. 6 billing.
"I would say that we had a very good weekend," said Goodhand. "What we accomplished this weekend was a chance to put in motion some of the principles we've changed. The players are just getting to the point where they understand what we're trying to do and they get more and more comfortable every day. We're in a good place."
Westminster was helped by the play of senior Marshall Serzen. The first-team All-American faceoff middie had a dominant performance at the dot, which provided a huge advantage to a young-ish Griffins team.
"He had one of those weekends where he was going 80 to 85 percent," said Lavoie of Serzen's faceoff work. "He even had an opposing player come up to him after one of the games and ask if Marshall could give him some pointers."
The other big gun for Westminster was sophomore Matt Hearn. While the official points totals haven't been tallied for the weekend, the Essex Community College transfer and Baltimore native factored in on numerous goals and has provided everything the coaching staff thought he would.
"He showed up in the fall and wasn't sure what to make of it, but he found his groove and the guys elected him a captain," said Lavoie. "He has jumped our offense leaps and bounds. It's been important having a guy on the field who has seen some things and is not afraid to lead by his actions, but also calm the guys down."
It's guys like Hearn and others who make the Westminster roster look deceptive. At quick glance, there are a lot of freshmen and sophomores, but those sophomores aren't always as they seem.
"We may be young, but we're not short in the tooth," said Goodhand. "We've got guys who might have spent their freshmen year playing NCAA ball. We've got some guys who have bounced around a couple of places and found out that the grass isn't always greener on the NCAA side. Even though they are listed as sophomores, they are really heady kids."
Next up for Westminster is a trip to NorCal to face No. 20 and undefeated St. Mary's on Feb. 8 and then follow that up with a contest against NCAA Division II Dominican – a team that just lost to No. 7 NYIT, 11-8.
- The other two teams who left Vegas with their heads held high were Grand Canyon and Sam Houston State. Grand Canyon dropped down from NCAA Division II last year and managed to post wins over Western Washington and No. 10 Western Oregon. Although Westminster didn't face them, Lavoie got a chance to watched the 'Lopes.
"They look like a top 5 team and they jump out at you because they are very physical, and that comes from their new coach," said Lavoie. "They are a physical team and they are not afraid to show you. Another piece of the pie is you look at their roster and they are all freshmen, but what separates them is their play between the lines is very organized and specialized. They take their time and don't give away a lot possessions and they get a lot of them back on the defensive end. They are only going to get better as those young kids continue on."
Sam Houston went 2-1 on the trip – losing to Westminster while beating UC Santa Cruz and Western Washington – but this was an important excursion for the Bearkats. SHSU has rarely left Texas in the past and has been slotted into very low seeds at the MCLA tournament because of their week schedule. Goodhand thought the 'Kats improved in just the three days they spent in Vegas.
"What I liked about them is they got better every game," he said. "The whole idea of the tournament is to have a little more depth to it in terms of the quality of opponent. In D-II, it's pretty shallow, and it used to be that teams would bolt from D-II after having a little success and not show much respect for it. Now that we are starting to get teams to stay and work with what they have, we're finding that they'll come to a competition like this when the players get to play good teams a couple of days in a row. They quickly mature and they learn those mistakes, whereas those 34-2 games didn't give them those teachable moments. For Sam Houston, being in the LSA doesn't have quite as much competition and tournaments like this really help them. I think we saw that this weekend."
- Vegas was an eye-opener for the PNCLL. No. 10 Western Oregon finshed 0-3 and Western Washington left 1-2, leaving the presumptive two top teams in that conference licking their wounds. Both teams have strong enough schedules where they can remain in the hunt for Greenville even without an AQ berth, but there will be a little soul searching in the Pacific Northwest this week.
- There's always a relatively high attrition rate in Division II. Harding (Ark.) is the first team to fold up shop for the season...Coastal Carolina has pushed their record to 4-0 after the Chanticleers knocked off Davidson, 19-3...after losing to WWU and Cal State Fullerton each by 13 goals over the weekend, it appears that Utah Valley might be in for a rough season.