May 6, 2009

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Matchups & Predictions: MD3 First Round

by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | Coyne Archive

Put the regular season to bed. We're into the second season.

The men's Division III tournament kicks off on Wednesday with five first round games as we meander our way to Foxboro on May 24. As is typical of the first round, we'll see some mismatches and a couple of solid pairings.

But they're all important, and in a one-game setting, the nerves are astronomically high for both the favorites and the underdog.

Here's a look at each game with my predicted outcome.

WEDNESDAY'S MD3 GAMES

Mount Ida (13-6) at Springfield (11-6), 7 p.m.
Common Opponents: Babson (M: W, 8-7; S: W, 24-4), Amherst (M: L, 17-5; S: L, 6-5).
Best Win: Springfield beat Stevens, 8-7. Mount Ida beat Babson, 8-7.
Worst Loss: Springfield lost to Amherst, 8-7 - its only non-ranked loss. Mount Ida lost 9-7 to UMass Dartmouth (6-9) at home.
How they got here: Springfield won the Pilgrim AQ as the top seed. Mount Ida won the North Atlantic AQ as the second seed.
Mount Ida wins if: they achieve perfection and Springfield mails it in. The Mustangs won't be wowed by playing in the tourney - they've been the last two years - but the only team they've played in the Pride's class is Tufts, and Mount Ida lost that one, 26-3. Any and all of the four goaltenders Mount Ida uses must play out of their melons.
Springfield wins if: they can put the game away in the first 10 mintues. Bowdoin let the Mustangs hang around last year in their first round match-up, and it took three quarters for the Polar Bears to finally subdue Mount Ida, 11-5. If Keith Bugbee's defense can put the clamps on Mount Ida playmaker Brett Conley (41g, 52a), the rest of the Mustangs attack will falter.
Coyne's Pick: Springfield is going to win, but I think the Mustangs have the NCAA experience and the underdog mentality to keep this one closer than people might think. Springfield 14, Mount Ida 6.

Nazareth (11-6) at St. Lawrence (12-3), 4 p.m.
Common Opponents: Oswego (SL: W, 13-4; N: W, 14-7), Cortland (SL: L, 13-4; N: L, 17-10).
Best Win: St. Lawrence beat Nazareth on March 16 in Texas, 15-10. Naz beat then-No. 3 Ithaca in the E8 semifinals in overtime.
Worst Loss: the Saints lost to three ranked teams, the lowest being Bowdoin, 10-6, in Texas. Due to the margin, Nazareth's setback to Stevens, 20-10, qualifies.
How they got here: St. Lawrence won the AQ out of the Liberty as the top seed. Naz snagged the AQ from the Empire 8 as the fourth seed.
St. Lawrence wins if: they can turn this game into a grinder, keeping both teams in the single digits. In two of their three losses, the Saints allowed the opponent into double digits (oddly enough, Naz was the only team to make it to 10 and still lose), so they are playing their best when they lock down the opposition's attack. Thomas Hollingsworth has been efficient in goal (7.22 GAA, .539 sv%), but it's the poles in front of him who determine how SLU goes. Carl Festa, Trevor Scoon and Chris Farr work very well together and, unless Naz forces them to start taking risks, they could dominate.
Nazareth wins if: they can get a lead and make St. Lawrence press the issue. "They are extremely athletic and have an All-American candidate at every position," said Naz head man Rob Randall. "We're going to have to go up there and steal one." I don't think the Golden Flyers are that big an underdog because they've played as stiff a schedule as anyone in the country, but if they want to take this one, they have to build an early lead and get SLU out of its comfort zone. That means Mark DeCirce (54 pts), Joe Jacobs-Ferderbar (53 pts) and C.J. Estes (45 pts) can't have any empty possessions early on. Every shot in the first quarter has to go in. Basically, they need to replicate how Bowdoin handled the Saints.
Coyne's Pick: This is the Game of the Day, as far as I'm concerned. I'm a huge fan of the SLU program, but I'm going to go with the tougher schedule and, perhaps, destiny. Nazareth 11, St. Lawrence 9.

Eastern Conn. (14-3) at Merchant Marine (11-5), 4 p.m.
Common Opponents: None
Best Win: Merchant Marine edged FDU-Florham, 7-6 (ot), which might have been huge in getting them into the tourney. Eastern Conn beat Keene State twice.
Worst Loss: The Mariners' was probably Union, 10-5. It's really tough to say with EConn. The Warriors lost to Salisbury 15-7, Trinity 12-9 and Montclair St., 14-8. No shame in any of them, but I guess Montclair.
How they got here: Merchant Marine was one of three Pool B selections. Eastern Conn. won the Little East as the top seed.
Merchant Marine wins if: they can somehow keep things close. The Mariners are one of those rare tournament teams that has been outshot (558-486), been dominated on ground balls (586-483), been miserable on faceoffs (110-for-324, .329) and been held below an 80 percent clearing rate (.775). With the help of its defense, King's Point has been able to keep things tight, with 11 of its 16 games having been decided by three goals or less. To be honest, I'm not sure exactly how they're doing it, but they are, and they need to keep it up.
Eastern Conn. wins if: they crack the 10-goal barrier. It's been a simple equation for the Warriors this year: when they are kept in single digits, they lose. To avoid this, DJ Simmons and Matt Savage can't go in the tank. In the three losses, that duo combined for 10 goals. In the 14 wins, they teamed up for 82.  EConn will also have to take advantage of their dominant faceoff man, Eric Vasil (236-for-334, .707). The Warriors convincingly won the battle at X in all three of their losses, but were sloppy with the ball and didn't take advantage. That can't happen in the tournament, where every possession is a game of its own.
Coyne's Pick: While I'm fascinated by Merchant Marine's ability to win 11 games despite statistical data that would seemingly disprove that fact, I'm going with the Warriors ability to score in bunches. Eastern Conn. 14, Merchant Marine 10.

Montclair St. (13-4) at Cabrini (14-3), 6 p.m.
Common Opponents: Neumann (C: W, 24-6; M: 24-5), Drew (C: W, 12-5; M: L, 8-7 (2ot)).
Best Win: Cabrini crushed Haverford, 15-3, on Feb. 28. Montclair handled Eastern Conn., 14-8.
Worst Loss: All three of Cabrini's losses were to ranked teams, with the 16-11 setback to Lynchburg being the lowest ranked. Montclair lost a double overtime game to Drew, 8-7.
How they got here: Cabrini won the Colonial States AQ as the top seed. Montclair won the Skyline AQ as the top seed.
Montclair St. wins if: they stay consistent on special teams and don't try to win the game in the first quarter. The Wesleyan game (a 13-10 loss) should be a good guide. It's likely the Red Hawks are going to be dominated in most statistical categories, so if they can avoid the huge early run and stay close, they can hope for a fortuitous bounce and perhaps a sneaky win. This would also be a good time for Thomas Bowers, the two-time Skyline Player of the Year, to have a career game between the pipes.
Cabrini wins if: they don't get sloppy and don't take a lot of stupid penalties. If the Cavs play crisply, value the ball, and convert a third of their chances, they'll win comfortably. Steve Colfer knows he has to get his team ratcheted back up for high end competition after sleepwalking through the CSAC regular season, so you can be he'll be cracking the whip.
Coyne's Pick: This will be great building block for Montclair State and its young players like Tyler Meth, who will benefit from the NCAA experience. However, the Cavaliers are a little above the Red Hawks pay grade at this point. Cabrini 18, Montclair 9.

Ohio Wesleyan (10-4) at Denison (12-2), 2 p.m.
Common Opponents: The NCAC (D: 4-0; OW: 4-0); Colorado College (D: W, 17-5; OW: W, 21-9), Lynchburg (D: W, 19-9; OW: L, 9-8), St. Vincent (D: W, 24-6; OW: 25-7), Mt. St. Joseph (D: W, 17-1; OW: W, 16-3).            
Best Win: Denison demolished Lynchburg, 19-9 on a neutral field. OWU Beat Kenyon, 11-6.
Worst Loss: Denison posted an inexplicable 9-8 loss to Randolph-Macon on Feb. 28. All of the Bishops losses came to ranked teams, but in terms of ranking and score, the 17-9 loss to Denison was convincing.
How they got here: Both teams earned Pool B bids.
Denison wins if: they don't panic. After giving up a 17-spot in the first meeting, it's a pretty good bet that Chris Ryan and the Bishops will try to shorten the game by elongating their possessions. Should OWU get up by a couple of goals, the Big Red can't take the bait. Nate Hall (4g, 4a), Brady Burton (4g) and Emmett Jones (5g) had no problem solving the OWU defense when they worked the offense in the first meeting, so only a loss of composure can alter the outcome.
Ohio Wesleyan wins if: Ryan can devise a way to take the air out of the ball and his team has the discipline to stick to the plan. Part of that strategy will be to reduce the stickwork - OWU took 12 penalties for 9:30 during the first meeting. The faceoffs were dead even, so the Bishops can bleed this one out if they don't fall behind 10-1 again. They'll need Denison to implode, but the possibility is there.
Coyne's Pick: Rivalry games are a tricky animal and Michael Carvana told me it is just human nature that the underdog has a slight motivational advantage in a rivalry rematch. It was subtle, but Carvana talked with the quiet confidence of a man who knows he has the better team. Ultimately, that's what it's all about. Denison 13, Ohio Wesleyan 8.

FDU-Florham (13-4) at Washington & Lee (15-3), 7 p.m.
Common Opponents: DeSales (WL: W, 18-3; FD: W, 11-7), Merchant Marines (WL: W, 14-7; FD: L, 7-6 (ot).
Best Win: Washington & Lee's 15-14 overtime win over No. 1 Roanoke kept its season alive. The Devils beat Elizabethtown and Widener twice, so it's one of those.
Worst Loss: The Generals three losses came to ranked team, and the lowest ranked was Lynchburg, 10-7. W&L avenged the loss a week later, beating the Hornets, 12-11 in the ODAC Tourney. Manhattanville (6-9) beat FDU on their own field, 5-4 in overtime.
How they got here: W&L won the ODAC AQ as the third seed. FDU-Florham captured the MAC AQ as the top seed.
Washington & Lee wins if: they have their EMO unit in order. The Devils take a bunch of penalties and, even though they've managed to get away with it for the most part because they have a solid man-down defense, W&L is currently operating at a staggering man-up clip (34-for-64, 53%). A couple of early extra-man goals will take the aggressiveness away from FDU, which is their lifeblood. Also, if the Generals defense puts the clamps on Kevin Shadiack (50g), there aren't too many scary offensive players left on the Devils' roster.
FDU-Florham wins if: it play its best game of the year while hoping a majority of the W&L players are eyeing Gettysburg in the next round. The Generals are a nightmare draw for the Devils. W&L is a senior-laden team - 10 total - that has played a tough schedule and operates with poise, so FDU will have to operate error-free. With every failed clear or lost loose ball, the window closes a little bit.
Coyne's Pick: It's a good bet that W&L will have a slight emotional hangover from the dramatic win over Roanoke, but it should get flushed out by the end of the first quarter. After a slow start, the Generals will win comfortably. W&L 17, FDU 6.


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