C.W. Post Repeats Behind Second-Half Surge
by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff
NCAA DIVISION II CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: C.W. POST 14, LE
C.W. Post defenseman Richie Schmidt rebounded from a rough first half to shut down Le Moyne attackman Jack Harmatuk in the second half of the Pioneers' 14-9 NCAA Division II championship game victory.
© Kevin P. Tucker
BALTIMORE, Md. -- Richie Schmidt wears jersey
No. 99 and plays an unbridled style of defense. For two quarters,
it cost the C.W. Post men’s lacrosse team dearly.
But Schmidt found the perfect safety net for his wild play: his teammates.
The Pioneers put the clamps on Le Moyne stars Jack Harmatuk and Matt Chadderdon in the second half, erased a three-goal deficit and defeated the Dolphins, 14-9, in the NCAA Division II championship game Sunday in front of 20,734 fans at M&T Bank Stadium.
Eddie Pomplen, named Most Outstanding Player, led all players with four goals. Joe Meo and Keith Rodriguez added three apiece.
It was an about-face by C.W. Post’s defense, however, that spelled the difference in the Pioneers’ second straight national championship and third overall.
Pioneers faceoff specialist Mike Cama won seven of nine first quarter faceoffs and even scored a goal to put C.W. Post up 5-3 after the first quarter. The offensive flurry forced Le Moyne head coach Dan Sheehan to pull starting goalie Matt Krupka, who did not make a save, for injured freshman Jeff White. White started the Dolphins’ first 11 games before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament.
Cama cooled significantly in the second quarter -- in part because of an unsportsmanlike penalty for grabbing the ball with his hand -- and Le Moyne went on a tear. The Dolphins reeled off five unanswered goals and, despite playing a goalie “on half a leg,” as Sheehan put it, blanked the Pioneers in the second quarter.
Harmatuk, the Division III national attackman of the year, led the barrage and twice victimized Schmidt for his overaggressive defense. Harmatuk finished the first half with three goals and an assist, as Le Moyne took an 8-5 lead.
Chadderdon almost made it a four-goal lead with an improvised backhand rocket that appeared to beat C.W. Post goalie Mike Giordano at the buzzer, but officials ruled -- and instant replay upheld -- that time had expired before the ball crossed the goal line.
Still, momentum was in Le Moyne’s favor at halftime. Schmidt asked for help on Harmatuk.
“He was getting the best of me,” Schmidt said of Harmatuk. “I just said at halftime, ‘I’m going to give you everything I got, guys. But I need you to give me everything you got too, because I need help out there.’”
C.W. Post, hesitant to slide off to Harmatuk for fear of opening up Chadderdon, rearranged its defense to put more pressure on the ball carrier while shifting rangy Joe Blount and Dan DaCosta in its help schemes.
The move allowed Schmidt the latitude to continue his aggressive defense without sacrificing the alleys or middle of the field.
Neither Harmatuk nor Chadderdon, the Division III national player of the year, would register a point in the second half.
“We tried to put pressure on both those guys,” Blount said, “but Richie held down the fort in the second half.”
“They were doubling pretty quickly,” said Harmatuk, who was hampered by leg cramps in the second half. “It was just tough finding the open guy.”
Meo ended a scoreless drought of over 18 minutes when he finished a feed from freshman Justin Patterson to pull C.W. Post within 8-6 at the 12:03 mark of the third quarter. Six minutes later, Patterson scored to pull the Pioneers within one.
The turning point came in the last 30 seconds of the third quarter. Meo tied it with 27 seconds left in the frame on a shot from eight yards out that somehow found a seam between White and the near pipe.
Cama won the ensuing faceoff and attackman Nick Coric -- a California native on a roster littered with Long Islanders -- scored before a late Le Moyne slide with just three seconds remaining to put C.W. Post ahead, 9-8.
Sheehan noted the Dolphins’ six third-quarter turnovers.
“We certainly had the momentum going into halftime and then we came out in the second half and continually turned the ball over,” he said. “You’re not going to win too many games if you’re playing defense for 45 minutes in 90-degree weather.”
Cama regained his rhythm in the fourth quarter -- “Mike’s done a good job this season of having short-term memory,” Pioneers head coach John Jez said -- and C.W. Post finished the game on a 4-0 run.
Save for Vinnie Alexander’s lefty finish off a pick that made it 10-9 at the 9:14 mark of the fourth quarter, Le Moyne’s offense was rendered futile.
The Dolphins had victimized the Pioneers for their overaggressive defense early. Jez’s response: more pressure.
Asked what he was willing to try, he said, “Defensively? Anything. We pushed out a little harder.”
It’s that more-is-more attitude that has quickly become the hallmark for the Pioneers, who have two straight national titles to show for it.