MCLA Division II Notebook
The Grove City players all knew it, and the coaching staff certainly did, as well. That's why there wasn't much need to talk about the reality that the Wolverines had never defeated Dayton when the two teams met last weekend.
It was something talked about last year, the first year of Andrew Stimmel's tenure as head coach, but this time he took a different tack.
"Last year, in the first meeting, we felt like we had them and let them off the hook a bit," Stimmel said. "Going into this year's game, we went with the mentality that the past doesn't matter at this point. Whether we won every game or they won every game, it didn't really matter. We went in with a clean slate. We felt like we had a good game plan going in and we had some good matchups that we wanted to go with. We kind of went from there.
"The kids really bought in and realized that at the end of the day, once you lose to a team so many times, there is a bigger mental block than anything. The guys bought into what we wanted to do and executed really well."
Grove City used four goals and an assist from rookie Daniel Casselli and a 10-save effort from junior netminder Chris Dymski to post an 11-5 victory over Dayton. It was a win that not only made the Wolverines one of the favorites to win the CCLA along with Indiana Tech, but it also put the Flyers on very dangerous ground.
Regardless, transforming from the underdog to a favorite has been one of the agendas that Stimmel has been pushing with his team, as well.
"We've approached every game we've played this year as if we're a relatively unknown program," he said. "It's not like Grove City is carrying a lot of national clout like the University of Dayton or some of those other schools. We approach every game with a chip on our shoulder. It's who we are and we carry that pride of being a small school that can win games on the national stage. Beating Dayton was the beginning of that."
The underdog role is somewhat of an overreach as the Wolverines qualified for the 2010 national tournament, advancing to the second round, but in relation to the hyper-competitive CCLA, Grove City has certainly been in the second tier.
A good parallel for Grove City might be the 2008 Ohio State team that advanced to the brink of the final four, beating Denver and Cornell before falling to Duke. Stimmel was on that Buckeye team and understands there is definitely such a thing as momentum from a big win.
"There are definitely some similarities," Stimmel admitted. "When you get that big win against a program that is well-recognized or a top program, it really just builds your confidence. It's an obvious thing, and when you really get down to it, things are pretty close. St. John's played St. Thomas tight and it seems like there are eight to 10 teams that are really close and on given day, any team can win. From that perspective, it has us really confident and should really go a long way for us."
Stimmel has always been fully invested in the program, but now that the Wolverines are closing in on one of its season goals — making the MCLA tournament — he finds that his program is consuming more and more of his thoughts.
"I think I kind of surprised myself a little bit," Stimmel said. "Obviously, being a young coach and learning on the fly in a lot of scenarios, it is something that is enjoyable. You look forward to every week and being in a position to take down Dayton and coaching against a guy like Charlie Mark. Those are exciting things for a kid who is only 25. It's been a great experience."
- One of the key ingredients for Grove City's success this year has been the play of Dymski. He's played every minute of the season for the Wolverines while posting a 66.2 save percentage.
"Chris is one of those guys who is not only a leader, but loves playing the game," Stimmel said. "That is something that is contagious, not just defensively, but all over the field. He gets excited about anything you could possibly get excited about if we need energy. He's also communicating in those tough spots. For instance, we were up 9-2 and Dayton scored a couple of quick goals on broken plays and he's the guy in the huddle who is even-keeled and telling guys to calm down. He brought us back to what we needed to do to win the game. You run into some characters who play goalie, and he has some unique quirks, but he's a great leader who is a great lacrosse player, as well."
- When it comes to projecting the national tournament, MCLA-II is a complete mess. There are still several pivotal games on the regular season slate that could swing bids and there are numerous conference tournaments that could produce even more chaos.
We'll give it a shot, however. Here's what I'm projecting right now:
No. 16 Lindenwood-Belleville (GRLC AQ) vs. No. 1 St. Thomas
Teams that could still insert themselves in the discussion: Cal State Fullerton, Briarcliffe, Florida Gulf Coast.
- The changing of the (Coast) Guard in the PCLL happened with a thump on Sunday when the Bears rocked the conference's usual standard-bearer, Briarcliffe, 17-7. The Bulldogs have been hit hard by injuries this spring, but it's a good bet that Coast Guard would have ascended to the top of the league regardless. In further good news for the Bears, they have been cleared to participate at nationals if they get a bid, according to selection committee chair Gary Podesta...it won't count in the selection process, but Sam Houston State posted an impressive overtime victory against D-I Texas State...Florida Gulf Coast's loss to SCAD means that Thursday's game against Palm Beach Atlantic will eliminate one of the teams from the SELC tourney...Lindenwood-Belleville is officially the team to beat in the GRLC...former MCLA Division II Player of the Year Joe Costello, who used to play for St. Thomas, scored four goals and set up two others for No. 5 LIU Post in the Pioneers 14-13 loss to NCAA D-II No. 1 Mercyhurst. Costello is a grad student at Post, and repping the association well.