Monday Notebook: NCAA Division II
Although it changes next spring, the makeup of the East Coast Conference mandates every team has a couple of lengthy bus trips every year, and that can cause some disastrous results for favored teams. Dowling, ranked No. 5, made the nine-hour trek to No. 7 Seton Hill and managed to notch a critical, 11-8 victory. But it wasn't easy.
The Griffins raced to a 5-1 lead to start the game and still led Dowling, 6-2, midway through the second quarter before the Lions woke up. Dowling head coach Tim Boyle thought the "bus legs" might have played a role, but a bigger factor was only having one and a half days to prepare for the game after playing Molloy on Wednesday.
"I was actually very nervous about that, not having enough preparation for the type of team that they are," said Boyle. "We started out a little flat, but then we finally relaxed and started to play our style and brought it back to 7-6 at half. We played a very strong third quarter, which showed a lot of character. We went 5-for-5 on faceoffs and kept them to one or two possessions for the entire quarter."
Winning on the road became a priority for Dowling after all three of the Lions' losses came on the road last year, including a devastating, late-season setback to Chestnut Hill that ended any distant hopes of a playoff berth.
"These bus trips, you never know how the kids are going to handle them," Boyle said. "Last year, we lost our road games, so we've been putting an emphasis on not only winning our home games, but turning these into business trips and making sure we're doing the little things and not looking at it as adversity."
Even though the Lions have pocketed this victory, they have plenty of adversity in front of them. The league schedule, which was generated by the ECC office, mandates that Dowling play No. 6 NYIT, No. 9 C.W. Post and No. 1 Mercyhurst on consecutive weekends. While this is the last year that this stretch will happen – the slate will be reshuffled when the conference loses some teams next spring – it's still daunting.
"It's hard to have to battle all of those teams right in the row," admitted Boyle. "But it's exciting. The kids love being a part of it. There is no easy team in the ECC, that's the bottom line. You have to just worry about the next game, because they are playoff games. And then the next one after that is a playoff game. If you're fortunate, you can continue to talk about it that way. I know how good Tech is and they have a very dangerous team. We're just hoping that we can put together a game plan that will allow us to have success."
Boyle and the Lions have five weeks before they have to worry about their next lengthy bus ride – the trip to Wheeling Jesuit on April 11. The coach will continue his plan of selling these road trips as not only business ventures, but something to be enjoyed.
"You won't have these opportunities once you're done with college – to be together with 40 of your brothers and have dinner and talk about game plans and try to be successful and fight through adversity," Boyle said.
- Lake Erie's 1-1 start, which features a win over a formerly-ranked Pfieffer team and a narrow, 8-5 loss to NYIT on Saturday, may surprise some people. Not Boyle, however.
"They are three or four years old, and when [head coach Greg Stocks] brought them all in, they were all freshman," Boyle said. "It's not that they weren't good lacrosse players, they were just babies. Now they are all men and they have been playing three or four years together. I don't know too many teams who have 15 guys who have been playing significant time together for three or four years. That will mean success if you have that many guys playing significant minutes for three straight years."
- I'm a little surprised that Adelphi only beat St. Rose, a first-year program, 14-9. I see why they only scored 14 goals – Golden Knights goalie Nick Longo made 17 saves – but allowing nine markers to a team that only managed a pair against Le Moyne gives me pause.
It's not necessary to get breathless about the first game of the season and, admittedly, five of the St. Rose goals came in the fourth quarter with starting goalie Eric Janssen on the bench. Still, Adelphi took six penalties, turned the ball over 21 times and needed a 10-point day from Joe Vitale. The Panthers will need to tighten things up on their spring break trip to Missouri – where they'll play Notre Dame de Namur, Dominican (Calif.) and Lindenwood – because the showdown with Le Moyne is only two weeks away.
- Mercyhurst's 17-5 win over No. 11 Chestnut Hill may seem like a laugher, but the Lakers had some unfinished business with the Griffins. The Lakers had two losses on their way to the national championship, and Chestnut Hill was one of them. You can bet Chris Ryan made sure his troops remembered that...Tampa came the closest to toppling the Limestone juggernaut. The Spartans only lost by six on Sunday, 13-7. The previous closest competitor for the Saints was Lenoir-Rhyne (15-4). Merrimack will take a crack next weekend...Le Moyne is heading to the Mountain West this week. We'll see if Colorado Mesa or Adams State can make the Dolphins sweat.