Wild Makes Good on Guarantee, Sparks Mercyhurst as Surprise MOP
Ian Wild calls himself a "physical presence" whose skills don't match his teammates' and whose shooting woes of late did not warrant slides -- which made his four-goal, most outstanding player performance in Sunday's NCAA Division II championship game all the more impressive.
© Joe Rogate
BALTIMORE -- Ian Wild may speak softly, but he
carries a big stick.
At least he did Sunday, scoring a game-high four goals to lead Mercyhurst to its first national championship with a 9-8 win over Adelphi in the NCAA Division II final.
Wild, named Most Outstanding Player, is not usually the team’s offensive leader. He scored just 11 goals all season before Sunday's outburst. In fact, his normal role is serving as the third wheel on the team’s top midfield line alongside Kevin Coholan and Andy Windslow. Not that he minds.
"They take up the best defenders," said Wild, who also stars as an all-conference strong safety on the Lakers’ football team.
The junior’s four-goal performance may have come as a welcome surprise to him, but it didn’t catch Mercyhurst coach Chris Ryan off guard.
"We expect that out of Ian," Ryan said. "He’s a leader on and off the field. It’s a funny relationship with him, because we don’t have him in the fall, so he’s a brand new personality when he comes in that locker room in January. But he commands respect by the way he handles himself."
Ironically, part of Wild’s success in Sunday’s game stems from his lack of success against C.W. Post earlier this season. He finished 0-for-10 shooting in that game as Mercyhurst lost 4-3.
"That made Ian mad," Ryan said. "He’s a competitor, and we know how to push his buttons at times. Boy, he came out today. It’s that leadership quality. He decided a long time ago that he was going to take this thing into his own hands."
Prior to the game, Wild told one of the assistant coaches that
he was going to go to goal on his first touch. Guaranteed. The
story leaked to Ryan.
"He said, 'It might pop out, but I don’t care. I’m going.'" said Ryan. "It’s that leadership quality."
True to his word, Wild capped Mercyhurst’s first possession with an unassisted goal two minutes into the game. More than simply fulfilling his own prophecy, that goal jumpstarted the best scoring day of his career.
Wild also tallied Mercyhurst’s second goal of the game in the opening quarter, then added two more markers in the third quarter as Mercyhurst built its largest lead of the game.
"They just weren’t sliding to me today," Wild said. "I guess they know I have the worst shooting percentage. But I was just hitting them today."
Mercyhurst 9, Adelphi 8
As a two-sport athlete, Wild’s lacrosse prep time is limited. He doesn’t normally touch his stick at all during football season. The fact that he missed all of last spring while recuperating from a groin injury put added pressure on his preparation for the 2011 season. It had been two years since he was part of the lacrosse environment.
"I’m really glad I was able to come back and pick up my stick, because after not playing for a year, it takes some time to get used to it," Wild said. "It took me a good month this year to get into the swing of things."
Even then, scoring was not Wild’s primary motivation.
"I’m more of a leader on the football team, but when I come over to lacrosse, I’m kind of a role player," Wild said. "My stick skills aren’t as good as everybody else’s. I’m more of just a physical presence."
Understanding his limitations has made Wild, a native of Pittsburgh, a better student of the game.
"I really have to listen to the coaches and ask all kinds of questions," he said. "I don’t know as much as everybody else, but I love playing lacrosse."
Mercyhurst loves having him, limitations and all.