Post Clash Just Another Game for Chestnut Hill
I tried to pump up the last game of the season against LIU Post as I talked to Chestnut Hill coach Brian Dougherty. The Griffins have been on a roll of late, winning their last three, and crushed defending national champion Dowling, 18-8, last weekend. With Chestnut Hill's chances of making the NCAA tournament out of the stacked North nonexistent with a 7-5 record to date, maybe Dougherty would have his players approach Saturday's game against tournament-bound Post like a postseason contest.
Dougherty quashed that notion quickly.
"This is a game that is on our schedule," he said. "That's how we're looking at it. It's against the team that is first in our conference. They give you a 13-game schedule and you play 13 games, and this shouldn't be any different than the other 12 games. It isn't a championship thing. It's a game that I don't think we should play any harder or any less because it's at the end of the year. That's how I'm approaching it."
So much for that.
Still, the contest against the Pioneers is another important one in the slow maturation of the Chestnut Hill program, which is just in its fourth year of existence. In fact, every game has been important for the Griffins. There were high hopes this year for a team that was returning just about everybody from 2012's 8-6 edition, and Chestnut Hill rose as high as No. 9 in the early season weekly polls, but with a schedule that consisted of top teams out of the Northeast-10 (Le Moyne) and ECAC-II (Seton Hill), along with the stringent ECC slate, there were early bumps in the road.
After nine games, the Griffins were 4-5, but the three-game run has guaranteed their second consecutive winning season and a win against Post would almost certainly vault them back into the season-ending poll. Again, this is pretty heady stuff for a fourth-year program.
"We learned a lot about ourselves being such a young program," said Dougherty of the early trials. "There have been a lot of guys who came in here when we had nothing and have gone on the journey of four years of getting better each year, and now dealing with expectations. Winning is not something that just happens overnight, it's something you have to learn to do and I think we've done a good job of that so far."
The highlight of the season is obviously the Dowling victory. Beating the defending champs is always a signature win, and it put Chestnut Hill in a position where they could finish third in the ECC — something no other Griffin team has done.
"I was very pleased at the outcome and how we played versus Dowling," Dougherty said. " You can say they might not have performed up to their best, but at the same time, I would say we played really, really well. I've been challenging the guys to put a full game together and that was the first time we did. When you do it, it just shows you have the talent, but it just seemed like every game there was one thing off. We would do well offensively and couldn't stop anybody. We'd stop some people but couldn't do anything on offense. Faceoff breakdowns. All that kind of stuff. This was the first game we put it all together and I thought we were pretty awesome."
Dougherty said he had a heart to heart with his team this week, giving them some real talk about their prospects for making the postseason. "I was pretty honest with them and told them where we're at and introduced them to the world of the RPI, which I'm sure blew their minds a little bit," he said.
Dougherty, the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame goalie, has been in as many big tournament and championship lacrosse games as anybody on the planet, so maybe that's why he didn't want to make Saturday's game against Post mean anything other than what it is. Maybe he didn't want to cheapen the experience for his players when they finally do make the postseason, which looks like it'll be sooner than later.