posted 03.25.2013 at 10.01 a.m. by Jac Coyne

NCAA Division III Notebook

As Middlebury head coach Dave Campbell prepared for a game against Wesleyan on Saturday, he was pleased with how his team had started the season, posting a 4-0 record and winning three games on the road. Re-entering the weekly poll at No. 14 was a nice reward for the players.

But Campbell wasn't about to start patting himself, or his team, on the back. Not after last year's debacle that saw the Panthers finish 4-9 and miss the NESCAC tourney.

"This is the point last season where it all started to go downhill," Campbell said prior to the Wesleyan game, which Middlebury won, 7-6. "We had the same league record going into Wesleyan last year and played — and I just watched it yesterday — one of the worst games I've ever seen us play. Then we went on the string of one-goal losses in the league. We know we haven't accomplished anything yet. It'll be nice to get some home games, and I'm just interested to see how the guys approach practice and go into these games."

Middlebury's resurgence has been due to a combination of factors and players, but Campbell points to three guys in particular — goalie Nate Gaudio, LSM Darric White and attackman Jon Broome.

Gaudio, who started all last year in net, was decent with a 8.63 goals against average and a 53.0 save percentage, but this year he has stepped it up a notch. After five games he has a 6.80 GAA and 62.2 save percentage, the latter of which is the most impressive to Campbell.

"His save percentage is about as high as I can remember it here at Middlebury with the way we play defense," Campbell said. "We're not a pack-it-in team, so we typically give up higher percentage shots than other teams do. I think the save percentage always suffers, but he has done an outstanding job of directing the defense."

Campbell, a goalie with a national championship to his name for the Panthers, thinks Gaudio, just a junior, has the potential to expand his game.

"He's a dynamic player out of the cage and I thought that would be his strength coming in over his save percentage and making stops," Campbell said. "It's actually been the opposite and I think he can improve his game out of the cage in outletting the ball. He can be the best goalie in the league in terms of all that. He has such a good stick and good vision he should be able to create breaks for us."

Gaudio has undoubtedly been helped by a trio of senior close defenders in front of him — John Duvnjak, Zach Driscoll and Billy Chapman — along with White. Campbell awarded White, also a junior, the game ball after the win over St. Lawrence last Wednesday after he dominated all levels of the field.

"He didn't play hockey this year, so we've had him right at Feb. 15 and that's made a big difference, having him right in the mix right from the start," Campbell said of White. "He's been coming off nagging injuries the last couple of years from hockey, but he has been healthy all year and that has been a big boost for us. He's just so good off the ground. He plays with a high motor and goes after kids. He's a difference maker for us, for sure."

Broome, a rookie, has stepped into the starting lineup alongside senior Mike Giordano and Stew Kerr, and currently leads the Panthers in goals (16) and points (19). Campbell said that Broome won't take your breath away with his speed or stick work, but he's a master of the lacrosse essentials.

"He can do everything well," Campbell said. "He's feeds well, he's good off-ball, he can dodge. He doesn't have a blast from the outside, but he can put something on it. He puts it to good spots. Nothing is going to blow you away. If you watch him warm up, he's not going to stand out from anybody else, but he does the little things so well."

The Panthers will need all hands on deck heading into the meat of the conference schedule, especially considering what happened last year. Hamilton and Bowdoin travel to Vermont this week. They are a pair of teams that will certainly test Middlebury's resolve to avoid a repeat of 2012.

- Just a couple of weeks ago, it seemed like the Empire 8 was going to be a one-horse race with Stevens having the look of a team head and shoulders above the rest of the conference. Today, the quest for the E8 crown appears to have four legitimate contenders. The Ducks are obviously still the favorite, and their ability to take Cortland to overtime can't be ignored, but Stevens also needed extra time to beat Muhlenberg and just edged Montclair State by a single goal.

Meanwhile, Ithaca took Cortland to double overtime — a game in which a Red Dragons athletic administrator remarked to me that the Bombers are "legit" — and is now 5-1. Nazareth looks like they are getting their footing after improving to 5-3 with a victory over Amherst and St. John Fisher was tied with No. 4 RIT with five minutes to go in the game before falling, 9-7 (Fisher is also Stevens' kryptonite). While there is some dead weight at the bottom of the E8, the top four will all have a legitimate shot at winning the league's auto qualifier.

- Congrats to Dickinson senior Matt Cherry, who became the program's all-time leader in assists with 82. Cherry dished out four helpers on Friday against Colorado College, with his final dime being the most important, as it set up the winning goal in the No. 3 Red Devils' 11-10 victory over the Tigers with just 40 seconds left. Dickinson's victory also gave this year's senior class the most total victories. The Devils are 54-9 over the past four seasons.

- The tenor of Colorado College's East Coast swing changed drastically on Sunday afternoon. Even though the Tigers started their three-game trip with a pair of losses, there was some positive vibes for CC, especially considering the competition. The Tigers lost to Salisbury, 9-4, in the first game and then, as mentioned above, they spooked Dickinson in a one-goal loss. It's always a good sign when you're running with a couple of Top 10 programs. However, the 9-8 loss to Marymount in the trip finale curbed some of the enthusiasm. To be fair, the Saints are much improved this year (5-2), but it was a win we should expect CC to grab if they are going to be a player in the tournament out of Pool B.

- Congrats to Hiram and head coach Brian Jenkins after the Terriers picked up the first win in program history, a 14-9 triumph over NCAC rival DePauw...Keene State has quietly improved to 5-0 with a 9-5 win over Roger Williams. Next test comes on Tuesday against a promising Bates squad...Hanover sophomore Nick Hermes dished out a school-record seven assists in the Panthers 19-8 win over MSOE...Lebanon Valley junior Malik Pedroso set a school record with 11 points (5g, 6a) against La Roche...just when I'm about to hop on the Ursinus bandwagon and its undefeated start, they get ground up by Swarthmore in the Centennial opener, 13-9...congrats to Randolph, which picked up its first-ever ODAC victory with a 10-9 triumph over Shenandoah. This is the Wildcats fourth year in the league...York has quietly improved to 7-2.

- King's is now 5-1. They can't be ignored in the Pool B chase...Eastern Conn. dropped to 1-5 with a surprising setback to Wheaton...Springfield also dropped to 1-5 with a loss to Endicott...fortunately, both EConn and Springfield just need to get hot for one week in May...congrats to Ferrum for setting the school record for wins with their seventh triumph, a 15-7 victory over St. Vincent...Marywood's Dylan Swope tied the school record for goals in a game with five against Neumann...the most likely team to stop Cabrini's CSAC regular season win streak might be Centenary (N.J.). The Cyclones are 6-0...Hope suffered its first loss, a 20-12 defeat to Carthage.

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