February 20, 2012

Making Sense: When "The Givens" Go Wrong

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


Playing a team like Salisbury when everything is clicking is a challenging enough. When the things a coach takes for granted start disappearing, as well? That's when you've got problems, much like Lynchburg had on Saturday in the 16-7 loss to the Sea Gulls.
© Joe Gardner/fotojoe.net

Steve Koudelka calls them "The Givens."

They are the parts of the game you take for granted; the aspects of the sport that you just can't coach, necessarily. Examples of The Givens include not air-mailing a pass into the bench area while working it around the perimeter. Or avoiding the warding off call while trying to get your offensive subs on the field. Not drawing an offsides call when your team has possession in the offensive end would also qualify.

Obviously, anyone who has played or watched lacrosse knows that The Givens are never, well, given. Depending on the quality of your opponent, The Givens can go horribly wrong and you still might pick up the victory. If you've got designs on upsetting the best team in the country?

Then you'll need to have just about all of The Givens.

When the dust settled on Salisbury's 16-7 victory over Koudelka's Lynchburg team on Saturday afternoon, it didn't take long for the Hornets' head man to figure out what went wrong.

"We had two moving picks, we had two crease violations. We had an off-sides, and then we had three times where we just threw the ball out of bounds," said Koudelka. "Those are those things we have to think aren't going to happen in a game if we want to contend with one of the best teams in the country. That's probably the most frustrating part of the day."

Adding to the frustration was that one of the many variables that a coach can't bank on was going very much in the Hornets favor. Senior goalie Franc Cook, who lasted five minutes before being yanked when these two teams met last year, was red hot. He made 15 saves in the first half, and he was a major reason why Lynchburg only trailed 9-5 after the first 30 minutes despite the sloppy play.

"Sam Bradman had him blatantly beat twice, and he saved both with his ankle," said Salisbury head coach Jim Berkman. "If [Cook] doesn't have a day, things would be totally different."

Things weren't different, however, and the coaches approached their halftime adjustments with a level of satisfaction inverse to the score at the time.

"What worried me at halftime was we had really dominated in the first half and the score was 9-5 when it should have been 15-5," said Berkman. "I was really worried, and we talked about the first five minutes of the third quarter. As good as we played, if they come out and stick one or two goals, it's 9-7 and all of a sudden they are right back in game they shouldn't have been in. Those first five minutes of the second half were a priority for us."

"We said the same thing," said Koudelka of his halftime huddle. "I said, 'Okay guys, we did not have a great first half. We weathered the storm a little bit and it's 9-5. A couple of goals and I think the game is a much different game.' Unfortunately we had the opportunity to be there, we just didn't take advantage of that."

It's not that Lynchburg didn't have its chances to make Berkman's dreaded scenario occur. Rather the Hornets were again abandoned by The Givens. The first possession resulted in a warding call and, after a stop on the defensive end, the Lynchburg offense was tagged with a moving pick call.

The Hornets didn't get a shot off either time.

The Sea Gulls scored on the next possession and the game, for the most part, was over.

As Koudelka reflects on the game and the breakdown of The Givens, he can't help but wonder if playing the defending national champion and a program with a weighty tradition had an impact. Further, Salisbury's high-pressure, high-tempo pace was expressly created to deny as many of the things its opponents take for granted as possible.

Against Lynchburg, Berkman saw it really take its toll on the ride.

"I think our attack rides really well," he said. "Even the ones they did clear, they were under a high amount of pressure, so they had to work. We finally go to them a few times. They are going to make mistakes with that much pressure over time because they start to panic a little bit."

Koudelka wouldn't use the word panic, but he felt a certain level of timidity might have crept in the collective play of the Hornets.

"We tell our guys at practice, 'We don't mind if you make mistakes, but let's make them going 100 percent. I'd rather have that,"' Koudelka said. "I don't know if we did that or not. I thought we were a little tentative in some of the things we were doing. I'd give some credit to Salisbury, but we can learn from that. Obviously, everybody can be a Monday morning quarterback, and say we would have done this differently and that's fine, but I thought the game plan that we had was a pretty good one. The execution of it is where we need to improve. We need to coach better and I'm sure they'll respond in the right way."

The unpredictability of the sport is what makes it alluring. And for a lot of coaches, including Koudelka, that pursuit of the perfect game – that contest when all The Givens are present and every variable is known – is what keeps them returning to the office on Monday, even after a disappointing loss.

"That's the part that I'll wake up tomorrow and be the most excited about – just how great this team can become," said Koudelka. "I think we have the tools in the shed, we've just got to find them."

Game Balls

Stephen Banick, Fr., Attack – Stevenson
Who is going to replace Jimmy Dailey for the Mustangs? We might have found our answer during the Haverford game, when the rookie scored two goals and set up five others in the 11-5 victory.

Brandon Gamblin, Fr., Midfield – NYIT
The UMass transfer made quite an impact in his first game with the Bears, scoring five goals in the 12-3 victory over Notre Dame de Namur on Friday. He added three more markers in the win over Dominican (Calif.) on Sunday.

Greg Griffo, Jr., Midfield – Tampa
The Spartans improved to 2-0 on Friday afternoon by beating Wingate, and Griffo was the catalyst as he factored in on six of UT's eight goals with four markers and two assists. He added two assists in Sunday's win over Coker.

Andy Lihani, Jr., Attack – UC Santa Barbara
After the Gauchos dug themselves a 5-1 hole in the first quarter to Chico State, Lihani helped UCSB dig themselves out with a seven-goal performance in the 16-12 victory.

Patrick Matheson, Jr., Middie – Brigham Young
The 6-foot-6, 235-pound middie scored three goals and set up two others against Chapman, but it was his game-winner in double overtime that was the dagger.

Matt Prin, Sr., Goalie - Mary Washington
The defense was the key in the Eagles' 10-7 victory over Hampden-Sydney, and Prin was the star. The senior made 19 total saves, including 12 in the second half when the Tigers made their push.

Olivier Schmied, Sr., Attack – Cal Poly
Matched up against No. 8 Oregon – a team that beat the Mustangs last year – Schmied stool tall, scoring four goals and assisting on a fifth to lift Cal Poly to the 15-12 victory.

Power Fives

NCAA Division II
1. Mercyhurst (0-0) – The Lakers have reportedly added a scrimmage against Canisius this weekend in preparation for Wingate in the opener.
2. Adelphi (0-0) – Nice honor for Joe Vitale being named the Tewaaraton watch list. Panthers opener still two weeks off.
3. Limestone (2-0) – Shayne Jackson, who is also on the Tewaaraton watch list, has four goals and nine assists in two games.
4. Dowling (0-0) – The Lions worked out the kinks in a scrimmage against Manhattan. Now it's Molloy in 10 days.
5. C.W. Post (1-0) – The Wheeling win won't wow anybody, but it's a win in the ECC and they all count.

NCAA Division III
1. Salisbury (2-0) – The Gulls ran into a hot goalie and still managed to win by nine. If Tyler Granelli can time up the faceoffs a little better, Salisbury will be even scarier.
2. Tufts (0-0) – It was nice of the NESCAC schedule makers to make the Jumbos the first game for Hamilton. Just in case the Continentals didn't know what they were getting into.
3. Roanoke (1-0) – Bill Pilat said that faceoffs were a serious concern for the Maroons. 'Noke fared pretty well versus St. Mary's, going 14-for-22 at the dot.
4. RIT (0-0) – Two weeks until RIT and Endicott square off at Harvard Stadium. That's a tough task for a team that has plenty of question marks entering the year.
5. Dickinson (0-0) – The promising Red Devils season finally kicks off on Wednesday when Lycoming comes to town. Dickinson will get challenged in this one.

MCLA Division I
1. Brigham Young (5-0) – The composure shown by the Cougars when they looked to be out of it was impressive. No panic in the champs.
2. Chapman (2-1) – The Panthers were one faceoff win from beating BYU in regulation, and we're not even out of February. They're only going to get better.
3. Boston College (3-0) – With every Clemson and Florida State win, the Eagles look better. Still two weeks of vacation left before the brutal Cali trip.
4. Arizona State (2-0) – As expected, the defense is great and the offense is a work in progress. The Devils will need to have a better attack against Texas on Saturday.
5. Colorado State (1-0) – The Rams will have to run a lot of players against Simon Fraser on Friday to make sure they're fresh for Chapman on Saturday. That's when upsets happen.

MCLA Division II
1. Davenport (1-1) – I'm starting to realize why more MCLA Division I teams didn't want to play the Panthers. They dominated Miami (Ohio).
2. St. Thomas (1-0) – Thirteen different scorers were on the sheet after the 21-2 win over Bethel. That's all I've got here.
3. Dayton (3-0) – Not sure what is more surprising: that Dayton gave up 11 goals to Walsh, or that the Flyers goalies had to make a combined 23 saves.
4. Grand Valley State (0-0) – This is probably not the same Emory (0-3) team that the Lakers were hoping to open up with. GVSU might score 40.
5. St. John's (0-0) – Johnnies finally get to see a different colored jersey on Friday, even if it is only a scrimmage against Mankato State.

Monday Notebooks

NCAA Division II: Is defense no longer Le Moyne's signature unit?
NCAA Division III: Mary Washington's defense is turning heads.
MCLA Division I: San Diego State making young man's life better.
MCLA Division II: Westminster comes up aces in Vegas tournament.


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