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posted 04.29.2013 at 10.01 a.m. by Jac Coyne

NCAA Division III Notebook

Coaching Plattsburgh is not really a job for Ryan Cavanagh. It's more of a quest. He didn't accept his current position because he loves lacrosse. He did it because he loves Plattsburgh lacrosse.

Cavanagh, a 2007 graduate of Plattsburgh, which is located on the shores of Lake Champlain a short drive from the Canadian border, has been consumed with getting the Cardinals into the national discussion. During his final year as a player, he helped Plattsburgh set the program record for wins at the time (9) and, as an assistant coach for three years, Cavanagh helped boost that mark to 11 wins in 2010. The Cardinals also reached the SUNYAC tournament for the first time ever in 2009.

Last year, in his first season as head coach, Cavanagh helped the Cardinals tie the program wins record mark with an 11-7 mark, which has set up this season.

"We're picking up we left off last year," Cavanagh said. "We had one of our most successful years in program history. With not losing much, we knew that we'd come back with a pretty strong team and luckily we got some transfers in and got some good freshmen who are going to help build this program. The guys have been building since they were freshmen, and it's something that I've been building since I was an assistant coach. Pieces are finally falling together. We're excited about this year and excited about the future of Plattsburgh, as well."

So far, the Cardinals have obliterated the school wins record with a 13-3 mark at the end of the regular season, and they have earned the second seed in the SUNYAC tournament for the first time ever. After less than two full seasons, Cavanaugh is two wins away from having the second most victories in school history.

While the season opening victory over RPI was decent at the time, Plattsburgh put itself on the Division III radar when the Cardinals traveled to Homewood Field on the campus of Johns Hopkins and knocked off Conn. College, an NCAA team from last year, 7-5.

"At the end of the game, we knew who we were and we knew who we could be this year," Cavanagh said. "Plattsburgh lacrosse has arrived. Conn. College beat Tufts and [Tufts is] probably one of the best teams in the country when they are on. It just showed what we're able to do when we're playing our best lacrosse."

While it didn't produce a win, Plattsburgh's 15-12 loss to Cortland in late March was also a watershed moment for the Cardinals.

"Being here as a player and now as a head coach, I've been in those Cortland games when it is 21-4 or one of those types of scores," Cavanagh said. "When we went down 5-1, we went, 'Uh, oh. It's going to be one of those games.' But the guys dug themselves out of the hole and battled back. I was real proud of them because they didn't give up. They played to the last second of the clock. They played with a ton of heart and a chip on their shoulder that we have something prove."

Saturday's dispatching of Geneseo, 14-5, was a another big proving point for Plattsburgh. The Knights beat the Cardinals at the end of last year's regular season and then bounced Platts from the SUNYAC tourney a couple of days later. Ending Geneseo's season this spring was certainly satisfying. But it's just part of the journey.

When Cavanagh took over the program, it wasn't about individual games. It was about raising the entire profile of the program, and putting Plattsburgh into the Division III consciousness.

"When I was interviewing here, I told them that they might find somebody who knows a little bit more about the Xs and Os, but you won't find anyone who works harder or cares more about this program than I do," Cavanagh said.

- Let's take a look at Pool B, shall we? In the past, choosing this part of the bracket, which never consisted of more than three bids, was relatively simple. Plug in Denison and Ohio Wesleyan, and then see how the third best team in the NCAC stacked up against the rest of the field of independents. This year is more complicated. Obviously the NCAC's transition to the real world is a driving factor, but the increase in the number of bids to five means there are some relatively fringe characters that are still in play.

Making things more difficult is, unlike Pool C, where the committee tips its hand with the weekly regional rankings, the Pool B teams are so far off the grid that we receive no guidance as to where the committee has them. Like Pool C candidates, however, Pool B candidates have to navigate their way through the Scylla and Charybdis of pretty records and strong scheduling. Here's what I've got so far, in order:

1. Colorado College
2. Eastern
3. Christopher Newport
4. Otterbein
5. Sewanee

- It's the most exciting time of year in lacrosse, but the good vibes are always tempered when a lacrosse player dies. Catholic junior Brian Englert died on Thursday after succumbing to injuries suffered in a car incident on Monday morning. It's a fun time of year with spring arriving and the school year wrapping up, but please make smart decisions when you're having a good time. It breaks my heart having to write about 20-year-olds passing away and I don't want to do it anymore.

- If you want to get an idea of where we are with the conference tourneys, check out my conference tournament clearinghouse for Division III...Kenneth Bogert scored six goals, lifting Montclair State to its fifth-straight Skyline Conference championships, 16-7, over Kean. Bogert was named tourney MVP for his efforts...St. Lawrence made RIT play at their pace, but the Tigers ended up trimming the Saints, 9-8, to take the top spot in the four-team Liberty playoffs. RIT will open with Union while SLU will take on Clarkson...Adrian took down Albion to grab the top seed in the first-ever MIAA tournament. Since it has come into existence, Adrian has yet to lose a conference (Midwest and MIAA) contest...Babson lost to Springfield in its regular season finale, but senior attackman Alex Patinkin broke the Beavers' school record for career points (234).

- Utica earned its first trip to the Empire 8 tournament with a 10-9 double overtime victory over St. John Fisher. Ben Winkler scored the game-winner as the Pioneers also set the mark for most wins in a season (9)...DeSales senior Brennan Gmeiner set a new school single-game record with 21 ground balls while winning 33-of-36 faceoffs against Manhattanville...Washington & Jefferson senior Joseph Eck became the Presidents' all-time leading goal scorer (124) after scoring three in a 15-8 loss to Drew...Nick Hermes set the Hanover program goals record (34) after notching three in a loss to Benedictine...in his first start of the season, Jesse Rabishaw scored six goals and dished out three assists for Salisbury...Norwich will make its first NCAA tournament appearance after defeating Mount Ida in the GNAC title game...UNE's win over Salve Regina in the first round of the Commonwealth Coast tourney was the Nor'Easters' first postseason victory since they joined the conference in 2000.

- Conn. College's John Lyons collected his 100th career point in the Camels' 8-6 win over Hamilton in the NESCAC quarterfinals...Henry Bristol made 27 for UMass-Boston in a midweek victory over Southern Maine...congrats to former Haverford standout goalie Joe Banno for getting the chance to dress for the MLL's Rochester Rattlers this week. D-III guys in the pros is nothing new – there are a bunch – but congrats to a solid small-school rep getting his chance...the NESCAC rookie of the year balloting should be interesting. You've got Middlebury's Jon Broome, coming off a conference-record eight goals against Amherst in the quarterfinals, and Conn. College's Bobby Bleistein, who has posted a 67.3 save percentage this spring for the 12-3 Camels. If I know the NESCAC – and I think I do – we'll see co-rookie of the year platitudes.