November 8, 2011

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Fall Ball Brief

Dougherty Teaching Chestnut Hill How to Win

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Junior Dakota Maurer has looked superb this fall, according to Chustnut Hill head coach Brian Dougherty. As it turns out, Dougherty is comfortable with the offense he'll roll out this spring, but still needs to see some consistency from the backline. "Offensively, I like where we’re at," said Dougherty. "Defensively, I like where we can be, but we’re not there yet."
© Chestnut Hill Athletics

Brian Dougherty doesn't conform to most coaching blueprints. He's not a micromanager on and off the field, and he doesn't get caught up in the prevailing standards that are traditionally accepted. 'Doc,' as he's known, is just looking for the best way to pick up the victory.

"I would say that I'm pretty different than most of the coaches out there," Dougherty said. "If you know me at all, you know I'm not a real big planner. I feel like I've been on winning teams throughout the course of my life, and I'm just trying to incorporate things that have worked for me in the past. Everybody throws the ball the same amount of time, everyone has roughly the same athletes and everybody practices the same amount of time. I believe teaching the kids how to step up during game day is what separates a lot of the winning teams from the losing ones."

In his second season as the head coach at Chestnut Hill, located just outside of Philadelphia and a member of Division II's East Coast Conference, Dougherty believes his team is quickly adopting that killer instinct that made Dougherty one of the best goalies to ever play the game.

There were flashes of that attitude last spring. In addition to a stunning upset of eventual national champion Mercyhurst, the Griffins also downed a very strong – and ranked – Dowling team before the end of the season.

"The kids were completely shocked with what they could accomplish in that short a period of time," Dougherty said. "That's what we've been telling them as coaches all year: have confidence in yourselves and don't expect to lose any games. It's one thing to say that and it's another thing to believe that, and you can't really teach kids to believe. The only way to do that is by winning, and I think winning some of those games that we did last year showed the kids on the team what is possible."

- Fall Ball Priority: Dougherty has a couple of goals this spring, and they both mesh with the emphasis on intangibles. The first was familiarizing the players with themselves.

"Even the guys who played last year have only really known each other for a little while, so we wanted to build up some camaraderie," said Dougherty. "We wanted to get the new guys on the same page with the returning guys."

The second was establishing an atmosphere where players were trying to prove themselves during every minute of practice.

"Another thing we wanted to do was compete, and we competed in everything we did," he said. "Just learning how to win, having each other's backs and playing competitive lacrosse. Whether it's during games or drills, that's what we were focusing on."

- Know this Name: Chris Schaffer. It's not surprising for a Dougherty coached team that goalie Dakato Maurer is considered the backbone of the backline, but Schaffer, a sophomore pole, will provide his netminder protection this spring.

"A lot of people don't know a lot about him, but he is turning into our No. 1 defenseman," said Dougherty. "He's a big boy: 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, and fast. He could have played football as a fullback in college, and somehow he landed at Chestnut Hill. You're not going to get into him or run him over, and he's fast enough and has quick enough of feet to cover the smaller guys. He'll be able to handle both types."

- No Warmups: The Griffins will have their competitiveness tested from the first minute of the season. Chestnut Hill opens against ECC rival Mercy, which finished No. 7 in the country and beat the Griffins, 13-3, in 2011. That game is followed by a road date against the reigning national champ, Mercyhurst.

"I can't wait," Dougherty said. "Mercy took it to us pretty good last year, and we beat Mercyhurst, so I'm sure they'll want a little payback. That's fine. We're not going to be scared of anybody. I'm really looking forward to that first game against Mercy. It's a chance to go out there and get a Top 10 win right away."

- The Train's a Comin': Last year's key victories are a double-edged sword for Chestnut Hill. It showed the program is ascending quickly, but it also took away any element of surprise this year. None of the Griffins' opponents, whether in the ECC or out of conference, will be looking past Dougherty's program in 2012.

Dougherty's take: Who cares?

"We don't say, 'Hey, we're going to sneak up on these guys this year!' That's not what we're trying to do here," he said. "We want to go out there and prove that last year was no fluke. Whether we're sneaking up on teams or they all know the train is coming down the track, whatever. We're not good enough to the point where we're the hunted yet, but I think people can kind of see us in their rearview mirror."

- Depth Charge: With just 28 players on the active roster, many of the top players for Chestnut Hill logged a lot of minutes. While it worked out to some degree, depth did have an impact as the season wore on.

"We ran our first midfield line until they couldn't breathe anymore," said Dougherty. "We didn't really have a fourth or fifth middie who I was comfortable putting out there. Now we have three lines that aren't a whole lot different from each other. Defensively, same thing; we only had four defensemen on our team last year. We just got worn down at the end of the year, but at the same time, that was okay. That's just the way it had to be."

Dougherty only lost one senior off last year's team, and added a class of 14 players. Add three players who were hurt or ineligible from last year's team, and the number bumps up to 17. With no one graduating of the 2012 edition of the Griffins, depth problems will likely be a thing of the past.

- Verdict: Expectations are a wonderful thing, and they are rightfully high for Chestnut Hill. Maurer gives the Griffins a premium goalie and Mark Winkelspecht could emerge as one of the top midfielders in the conference. Add that to the accomplishments of last year along with improved depth, and it's easy to be optimistic.

Expectations, however, can be chewed up quickly in the ECC meat-grinder.

Even if the Central Region once again snags the Wild Card bid to the NCAA tournament, Mercyhurst, C.W. Post, Dowling, Mercy and NYIT all stand in front of Chestnut Hill. If the Griffins want to earn their first berth, they'll have to finish ahead of four of those teams. Not impossible, but unlikely. As such, Chestnut Hill will play the role of spoiler this spring while keeping their eye on 2013, when the tournament expands.

- News and Notes: Chestnut Hill revamped its weight room facilities, and it couldn't have come at a better time. "We were noticeably smaller and weaker than most of our opponents, so we have to change that," said Dougherty...The Griffins' non-conference slate includes Assumption, Coker, AIC and St. Rose.


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