Monday Notebook: NCAA Division III
The program had its first seven-game losing streak since 1951, a year when it went 0-7. For the first time since the advent of the NESCAC tournament, it won't qualify for the top eight. For the first time in a long time, it's likely to go without an All-American on the roster.
"This is a season unlike any other that I've been a part of as a player or coach," said Middlebury head coach Dave Campbell, who has a national championship ring as a goalie with the Panthers.
How does one of the most recognizable programs in Division III stumble to a 3-9 record after being as high as No. 4 in the country earlier this spring?
"It's not one thing and it's not one person," Campbell said. "It's a lot of different factors that came together. We just weren't ready for our NESCAC and out of league schedule this year. We weren't quite ready to take that on for whatever reason. It taught us a harsh lesson, and maybe we need to prepare a little bit more in the offseason or start a little bit earlier. But again, there is really nothing we can do about it now. It wasn't because we didn't have good senior leadership, or the captains, or this guy or that guy. It's just a lot of different factors and we never got it going early."
Early wasn't the problem. The Panthers started with a 2-1 record, but a stunning, 14-5 loss to Springfield exposed Middlebury to what was waiting. A 15-5 loss to Cortland set in motion the seven-game skein that included setbacks to six consecutive conference teams.
Middlebury was undoubtedly hurt by the absence of All-American close defender Matt Rayner for the majority of the year. Suffering an ankle injury during the football season, Rayner has played in just a quarter of the games this season. In addition, the Panthers didn't have the services of John McGoldrick, who posted a 28-point campaign (17g, 11a) last spring but did not return for his sophomore season.
Campbell isn't interested in those factors.
"Would we have been better with those guys? Absolutely," he said. "But we're not going to make excuses. We had the team that we had and the group of guys we had. I don't think anyone was saying, 'Oh, we don't have those guys and we're not going to be successful.' We just missed some opportunities and it's as simple of that. We would have better with those guys, but we were fully capable of doing better than we did. I don't know what we would have done differently, but it's not an excuse for how we've done."
Campbell has been blessed to this point. He had won 73 percent (65-24) of the games he coached at Middlebury heading into this season. Like many coaches who have tough seasons, he has taken solace in the little things.
"The biggest thing I've learned is you get up the next morning," Campbell said. "As much as it hurts walking off the field, we all learn that you move on. You're persistent and keep working hard. I've just been so impressed with the guys buying into our program and caring about each other and not letting anything slide. I haven't questioned one guy about their heart or whether they are into it when they show up for practice after a loss. You don't want go through something like this, but it has taught me how resilient people can be and how resilient our team has been."
The Panthers managed to pick up an impressive 18-4 win over Skidmore midweek, but an 11-10 loss to Colby on Saturday knocked Middlebury out of NESCAC tourney, and there is just a meaningless game against Williams – another team that will not make the postseason – remaining.
Teams in the NESCAC should enjoy this Panther-less spring, because with a program like Middlebury, things are likely to return to normal next year.
- Kenyon made Denison sweat for 30 minutes. The Lords held a 5-4 lead at halftime against the Big Red before succumbing in the second half, 11-6, but Kenyon has likely already won the game they needed to get into the NCAA tournament. With the 11-9 victory over Ohio Wesleyan on April 14, the Lords gave themselves the victory they needed to jump clear of Whittier for the final Pool B bid.
If Kenyon does get into the tourney, they'll be a miserable match-up for someone (probably either Denison or Ohio Wesleyan in the first round). Will Lowe (13g, 23a), Chris Pappalardo (13g, 20a) and Geoff Akie (20g, 12a) give the Lords a trio of playmakers and the defense, with the exception of the Roanoke game, has been solid.
- St. Vincent's Will DeLanoy became the school's all-time scoring leader in the Bearcats victory over Thiel last week. With a five-point afternoon, he surpassed Ian Poole's previous record of 223 points...with a 10-point midweek performance against Thiel, Washington & Jefferson's Andrew Wallick became the school's all-time leading points man. Wallick passed Zach Devilbiss '09, who had the previous record of 170...Goucher continues to cruise right along. The Gophers are now 14-1 after beating Scranton...if McDaniel can beat Swarthmore next weekend, the Green Terror will grab the final spot in the Centennial over both F&M and Haverford...if Clarkson can beat Vassar next weekend, the Knights will get the final spot in the Liberty over RPI. Clarkson is not going to be a fun match-up, as they showed when No. 2 Cortland barely escaped the North Country with an 8-6 win.
They've been flying under the radar after an 0-3 start to the season, but the Camels of Conn. College are now 8-5 and 5-4 in the NESCAC...Plattsburgh punched its ticket to the four-team SUNYAC tourney with an overtime victory against Brockport...Utica's Ben Winkler broke the single-season goal mark after pouring in seven against Elmira. Winkler now has 52 on the season...Lycoming snapped Albright's seven-game winning streak. The Lions are still 13-2 and atop the MAC however...the players on both Cabrini and Neumann teams wore a sticker with the letters "RM" on the back of their helmets in remembrance of Randy Mills, who started both programs...nice midweek win for Wheaton over Babson...the War on the Shore isn't quite back yet. Salisbury hammered WAC, 17-5.