February 24, 2014

Making Sense: Delmonico Stakes Claim to New Role

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

Senior attackman Matt Delmonico (above) had four goals in Seton Hill's clutch, one-goal victory over NYIT on Saturday. Unlike years past, he'll be the primary option for the Griffins this spring. (Seton Hill Athletics)

Matt Delmonico's plight was nothing new for a native of British Columbia. Recruited out of school in Port Moody to play at the Blue Ridge (Va.) School for a post-grad year, Delmonico arrived with a skill set honed in the numerous indoor venues in Canada.

"When we were growing up, we'd use field [lacrosse] to stay fresh for box season coming around," he said.

So when Seton Hill head coach Brian Novotny came to watch Blue Ridge play in a fall tournament in Annapolis in 2009, he wasn't exactly blown away with Delmonico's game.

"To be completely honest, he didn't impress us that much," Novotny admitted. "He looked like a box player trying to figure the game out. He hadn't played much field and certainly not at a very high level."

Novotny was urged not to give up Delmonico by one of his players – midifielder James Delaney, a childhood friend from Port Moody. Novotny extended Delmonico a partial offer to join the Griffins on Delaney's word, but wasn't putting too much stake in the Canadian.

In the middle of the '10 season – one in which Seton Hill went 10-4 – Novotny was waiting for the team to get showered up after a road game against Molloy when he checked his email. In his inbox was a link to a webcast from one of Blue Ridge's spring contests. The coach watched, mesmerized by Delmonico's play; the passing, the dodging, the shooting, the dominance.

"Within two or three minute of watching, I called Matt up and immediately upped our scholarship offer," Novotny said. "A couple of days later he committed to us having never been on campus and not really knowing what he got himself into."

"Just learning the game and working out every day really prepared me for college," Delmonico said of his transformation. "That really helped my field game from the time I got down there to the time I got recruited."

When he got to Seton Hill, it helped that Delmonico could develop on the attack in a no-pressure atmosphere. Because of the presence of Delaney – who would go on to twice be named the Division II midfielder of the year – Delmonico was never seen as the first option. As such, he averaged over four points per game (121g, 64a) in his first three seasons with the Griffins and only failed to garner a point in one of the 46 contests.

Now that opponents don't have to choose who to put their best cover guy on, Delmonico is going to see the best that the division has to offer.

And that's just fine with him.

"Every year you kind of take a step back after losing guys and re-identify your offense," Delmonico said. "Playing with Jimmy [Delaney] my whole life and playing with him at the start of college was something that helped us because we kind of knew where we were on the field all the time. We had a good connection out there. But a lot of guys have stepped up this year and we're building some chemistry with a lot of new guys. That's really good, too."

"I'm not sure if that's really going to affect him because, in the grand scheme of things, it could lead to a bigger year for him," added Novotny. "Jimmy is not here to handle the ball as much as he did, so those opportunities are going to get spread out among a lot of different guys. One of the assumptions we've made in the office from day one is that Matt is going to touch the ball a few more times a game or have the opportunity to initiate a few more times a game, and that usually leads to good things."

It certainly did in Saturday's clash with NYIT. Delmonico scored four goals, with three of them coming in the second half, as the Griffins edged the Bears, 10-9.

With the four-goal binge, last year's game against Mars Hill remains as the only contest in his career so far that yielded no points. It may also hold the secret as to why the Griffins are in good shape this year even with Delmonico as their go-to-guy.

"What he does very well is he lets the game come to him; he doesn't force things too much," Novotny said. "If he needs to be a dodger, he'll do that and if he needs to be an off-ball player, he can do that, as well. He can be a team system type of guy, too. It's really when the opportunities present themselves to him that he takes advantage."

"At the end of the [Mars Hill] game Coach Novotny came up to me and said, 'You don't have any points today?' I said, 'No,'" said Delmonico. "We both laughed and he said he couldn't remember the last time that happened. I said me neither. But that's kind of a good thing. We can't go through one or two players on our team and expect to be successful. We're happy to see our team win whether the big guns score or not."

It's a nice sentiment, but with the Griffins embarking on a five-game stretch against teams that have been ranked at some point this season, they'll need Delmonico producing at a very high level. And as a captain, he'll be expected to undertake a leadership role on the team – a task he has left for others during his first three years. He's done well with it so far as the Griffins eye a repeat visit to the NCAA tournament.

"He's just 100 percent for the boys," Novotny said.

"The guys came back this year hungrier than ever," said Delmonico. "We have a blue collar mentality and the guys have been good about pushing each other. That's something that has stood out: the hunger and desire to get back to where we were last year."

Lacrosse Magazine Player of the Week

Austin Murphy, Fr., A – Wingate
It appeared the Bulldogs were destined for a loss, trailing 11-6 to Mount Olive heading into the fourth quarter. But that's when Murphy, an Ontario native, came alive, scoring four goals and setting up a fifth in the final frame alone. Wingate would go on to win the contest in three overtimes, and Murphy finished with five goals and three assists.

Honor Roll
Dom Cianfarano (Roberts Wesleyan), Grant Clifford (Dominican), Matt Delmonico (Seton Hill), Connor Drost (LIU Post), Kevin Kelly (Le Moyne), Dave Moore (Saint Leo), Todd Nakasuji (Limestone), Chris Stemke (Dowling), Jesse Wood (Mercy).

Bracket Watch

North
Dowling (1-0) at Le Moyne (2-0)
LIU Post (1-0) at Adelphi (0-0)
South
Tampa (3-0) at Mercyhurst (1-0)
Seton Hill (2-0) at Limestone (4-0)

Slides & Rides

- Tampa got the Catawba monkey off its back with a clinical, 11-5 win against the Indians. The Spartans were balanced, using two goals each from four different players, including all three of the starting attackman. Tampa will get a warm-up when Notre Dame de Namur comes calling next weekend before a massive showdown with Lake Erie on March 8.

- Le Moyne picked up another win, besting Chestnut Hill, 13-8, in a game played at Drexel. Kevin Kelly led the way with four goals and an assist. Another eight goals given up for the Dolphins, however. Awaiting them now is Limestone in Baltimore this weekend. Dan Sheehan's back line will gets a real stress test in that affair.

- We're used to seeing games cancelled because of snow and bad weather, but it was something entirely different in Lakeland, Fla., on Friday night. With Florida Southern and visiting Limestone just over a minute into their contest, a local transformer blew, cutting most of the power to the field. After over an hour wait, and assurances from the local power concern that things would be back up shortly, the two teams had to, um, pull the plug on the contest. The game will not be made up, which stings the Mocs because they needed a crack at a signature win. Limestone went on to blast Rollins on Sunday, 17-8.

- It was a prolific weekend for Roberts Wesleyan's Dom Cianfarano. The sophomore opened up on Friday by netting five goals and setting up a sixth in a 16-11 victory over American International and then followed that up with a nine-goal, one-dime extravaganza in the Redhawks 15-9 triumph against Alderson-Broaddus...Mercy's Jesse Wood tried to give Cianfarano a run, however. Wood, a junior, scored seven goals and dished out two assists against A-B on Friday before going 3-3-6 against Ohio Valley on Sunday. Both were wins for the Mavericks.

- Congratulations to Rockhurst and head coach Kevin Kelley for picking up the first victory in program history when they downed Division III Fontbonne, 9-8, on Tuesday...also, Jim Griffin and Post (Conn.) earned their first-ever triumph when they opened the season with a 13-7 win over Ohio Valley.


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