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posted 04.08.2013 at 10.00 a.m. by Jac Coyne

NCAA Division II Notebook

One of the most satisfying aspects of coaching is when a kid "gets it." Sometimes it happens during a drill. Other times it might take a couple of games for the light bulb to go. In some cases, it can take a couple of seasons for a player to rise to the occasion.

For Merrimack senior goalie Connor Reagan, it was the latter.

Reagan was the guy for the Warriors in 2011, starting every game and helping Merrimack post an 11-6 record and advance all the way to the Northeast-10 championship game. His numbers were just OK — a 7.61 goals against average and a 49.6 save percentage — but there's always a transition period when a player gets his first time in between the pipes.

"Connor was pretty good for a sophomore first-year starter," said Merrimack coach Mike Morgan. "He beat Le Moyne that year when we knocked them out of the semifinals in the NE-10 tournament. That was kind of his first big signature win."

Reagan returned last year as the incumbent, but he had serious competition. Rookie Morgan Green played well during the fall and entered the spring slightly ahead of Reagan in the minds of the Merrimack staff.

"Last year, [Reagan] could have been a little hungrier coming in," Morgan said. "I think when you have a successful sophomore year, it's human nature to take a deep breath and be content with being the starter. Morgan came in last year and was super high energy, very focused and he brought a little bit of that fire that we wanted. He got up on Connor early and never relinquished the job."

Green legitimized the coaches' decision, going 13-3 and bringing the Warriors to cusp of the cutthroat D-II tournament. Reagan played in just four games during mop up time, but he was still invested in the program. He met with the staff at the conclusion of the '12 season and figured out what he needed to do.

He came back this spring and reestablished himself as the top goalie for the Warriors.

"That says a ton about Connor's character," Morgan said. "Some guys sulk and go home and say 'They've got this freshman goalie and he's the next big thing and will be the starter for the next couple of years.' Connor did what he needed to do. He needed to go home and work hard over the summer and lose some weight and bring the attitude that it's my job and I want it back. He's done that."

Reagan played solidly against Limestone in the opening season loss to the Saints, but against then-No. 1 Le Moyne he was spectacular. Reagan turned away 17 shots in the first half alone and finished with 24, allowing the Warriors to post the 5-3 upset.

Merrimack is now sitting as one of a handful of favorites to make the NCAA tournament out of the North.

"You don't go from a backup last year to one of the best goalies in the country with luck," Morgan said. "He worked extremely hard and his confidence is through the roof because he can see how good he can be when he's focused. There's no question he cares and works hard, but until you get pushed or beat out for a job, you don't realize the level at which you have to work.

"And there's something to be said for being a senior, too. [Assistant coach Bryan] Brazill said that after the first half against Le Moyne, Connor looked like a senior who did not want to lose. That's what it was. Every big save we needed, he made. It's pretty good that we told him what he needed to do and he decided he wanted the job back. Morgan is a good goalie, too, and those two keep each other on their toes and they are both competitors. We have some very good options, but Connor is proving right now that it's his job."

It's always good to see a player get it.

- We're getting to that point in the season where it's time to start looking at the field for the NCAA Division II tournament. As you know, the tourney expanded this spring to eight teams and the regions were pared down from three to two. There will be four teams out of the North region and four others out of the South to fill out the bracket.

This will be a fluid process over the next month with various matchups tweaking the projections, but here's what I've got right now:

North

1. Adelphi
2. Merrimack
3. LIU Post
4. Le Moyne
Teams in the mix: NYIT, Molloy, Mercy, Dowling, St. Michael's.

South

1. Mercyhurst
2. Limestone
3. Seton Hill
4. Pfeiffer
Teams in the mix: Lake Erie, Saint Leo, Tampa.

- Tampa dedicated its new facility — the Naimoli Family Athletic and Intramural Complex — last Friday just prior to its Deep South contest against Rollins. The 2,000-seat facility features a press box, luxury boxes and locker rooms and will be used by numerous varsity sports and club activities. During the ceremony, UT was recognized by the Florida Urban Forestry Council for moving a gigantic oak tree prior to the facility's construction.

- Speaking of Tampa, the Spartans will be one of the top seeds in the Deep South Conference tournament, which begins this week...Catawba's John Scheich set a new school record with nine goals in the Indians, 21-12 victory over Wingate on Friday night...it has until around noon on May 26th until it officially has to give up its crown, but Dowling isn't looking good for a repeat at this point...Molloy's Kenny Lutz is four goals away from being the school's all-time leader in that department.

- St. Michael's is 5-0 in Northeast-10 play for the first time in program history...the opening season loss to NYIT sent Seton Hill off the grid, but the Griffins are as much of a contender for the title as anyone. You heard it here first...Keegan Bal scored six goals and set up a seventh in Lake Erie's 14-13 win over Lindenwood...speaking of Lindenwood, it looks like it will come down to the regular season-ending (April 27) clash with Wheeling Jesuit to see who makes it to the ECAC tourney...Belmont Abbey '14. Keep an eye on the Knights...Dominican (Calif.) essentially wrapped up the WILA championship with an 8-7 double overtime victory against Colorado Mesa.