MCLA Division II Notebook
Coast Guard's start was as good as Gary Weller could have hoped for. Weller, the head coach for the Bears, watched his team turn seven days of outdoor practice into back-to-back wins over ranked SCAD and Kennesaw State in less than 24 hours to start the season. They were wins that vaulted Coast Guard into the Top 10 and will keep them in the tournament discussion for the remainder of the spring.
As soon as the whistle sounded on the Kennesaw win, Weller let his mind wander to his obsession: beating PCLL sheriff Briarcliffe.
"It's like a Holy Grail of mine for this year," said Weller of knocking the Bulldogs off their perch. "I want to take these guys, I'll be honest with you. No ifs, ands or buts."
The ninth-ranked Bears and No. 7 Briarcliffe are very familiar with each other. They've met seven times over the last four seasons — including the last two conference championship games — and the Bulldogs have won every time. Last year was particularly painful.
Coast Guard lost in the regular season 13-12 when Briarcliffe struck with less than 10 seconds to play. In the PCLL title game, the Bears rallied from a five-goal deficit to send the contest into overtime, only to see the Dawgs score right off the faceoff on a shot that was deflected twice before ending up in the cage.
Weller has the ultimate respect for the Briarcliffe program, but he definitely wants to take them down a peg.
"We're all friendly off the field, but on the field, we have a job and they have a job," Weller said. "It's like two rams butting heads. Something has to give, and I hope it's them this year."
Weller enters this season with more players than last year — his roster is up to 50 — and he is proud that his team is more a sum of its parts as opposed to some MCLA-II teams that are driven by a couple of standouts.
"I'll tell you right now, I couldn't choose between my starting three attackman, between my three starting middies or my starting defense and goalie," he said. "They are all tremendous. If you had a gun to my head and said choose one of the 10, I couldn't. I really couldn't. It's a pleasant problem."
With that said, Weller, who played at Hofstra, started the program at Ledyard (Conn.) High School and coached at Mitchell College (D-III) for two years, believes he has three players who could play at any level of lacrosse. Senior middie Steve Desenglio, senior pole Tim Wyderko and senior attackman Austin English are all captains and draw rave reviews from their coach.
That trio leads the pack, but all of the cadets in the program have worked tirelessly, according to Weller. Part of Coast Guard's strategy is to wear down opponents in the second half with their conditioning, undoubtedly helped by their cadet requirements, and none of them have complained about the tactic.
"The commitment is there," Weller said. "They work out, they lift, they run, and during the season they give you 110 percent. I'm probably the happiest guy in the world with these kids."
The Bears knocked off conference foe Central Connecticut, 13-8, on Friday, and they have four more games before the showdown with Briarcliffe on April 14 at home. Weller knows it's not always a great idea to pull on the tiger's tail, but he's on a mission and he's not backing down.
"I'll either get roasted or toasted," he said with a laugh.
- You can bet that Western Oregon was keeping a close eye on No. 10 Indiana Tech's Upper Midwest adventure this weekend, as the Wolves will be undertaking a slightly more grueling trek to the Heartland in a couple of weeks. What they saw was Tech dealing with two different styles in a 24-hour period. Against No. 6 North Dakota State, the Warriors got caught up in a shootout, eventually succumbing, 16-12, although they were in it late. The next day, they got ground up in the St. Thomas grinder, managing just 10 shots in a 7-1 loss.
As if those two teams weren't tough enough, WOU will also be playing No. 4 St. John's in a grisly, three-games-in-four-days commitment (the Wolves were supposed to play St. Olaf, as well, but that game has been canceled). The Wolves will receive extra credit for making the trip and not shying away from the big dogs, but they better prepare themselves for all different styles of play when they get there.
- If there were a couple of bright spots for Indiana Tech, it was the play of senior attackman Craig Schaepkens and the resilience of junior goalie Justin Famiglietti. Schaepkens amassed four goals and two assists over the weekend while Famiglietti shook off a rough outing against NDSU to record 20 saves against St. Thomas...I wasn't sure if No. 11 Elon would be able to sustain its success of recent years, but the Phoenix appears to be just fine. Last week they doubled up No. 22 Florida Gulf Coast and this Saturday they handled No. 23 Grove City, 9-6. Senior Andy Fargnoli has been impressive with 13 goals and five dimes in three games (6.0 ppg).
It was a rough trip to Tennessee for Missouri Baptist. The Spartans, who were ranked earlier this season, lost to Tennessee Wesleyan, 15-5, before getting blanked, 7-0, by Emory...speaking of rough times, No. 14 SCAD has lost three straight games after bowing to Liberty, 14-8. The skid isn't the most concerning thing — the Bees played some good teams — but giving up 14 goals to each of them is very unusual for a defensive-minded program...Nevada is off to a 5-0 start against D-II competition. Too bad they're not eligible for Greenville...in what seems like an annual tradition, Trinity (Texas) forfeited its first game this weekend...with each passing week, Liberty is looking more and more like the real deal.