March 15, 2012

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Coyne v. Censer: Finding the ODAC's Blueprint

by Jac Coyne and Joel Censer | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Lynchburg senior goalie Franc Cook will hopefully get a glimpse at a national title shot this spring.
© Kevin P. Tucker

It's not easy for a Northerner to understand the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.

Whether it has to do with lacrosse, or just life in general, it definitely takes time to acclimate to the ODAC life. It was a long time ago, but I was once a Massachusetts Yankee lost in Stonewall Jackson's court.

It was my first year out of college and my memories run the gamut – from traumatic to fulfilling – but I wouldn't trade them for anything.

I thought I'd be flying solo, at least geographically, during my first year at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Va., but my roommates included a Brit (soccer), a Bowdoin grad (swimming/water polo), and a Baltimorean (current Notre Dame lacrosse assistant Kevin Anderson).

We all got a lay of the land.

Pork barbecue was on the food pyramid, the third Monday of January was Lee-Jackson-King Day and lacrosse was a soft religion. Jim Stagnitta had built quite a fiefdom at W&L by that point, although Bill Pilat and Roanoke were always ready to raid the castle.

Honestly, all of the locations were great.

I hopped the tracks at Randolph-Macon, navigated the mountain to Lynchburg (and some of the distaff institutions on the other side) and quietly asked myself why I didn't attend Virginia Wesleyan. Even Farmville had its charms.

But, alas, it's still tough to understand the ODAC.

In particular, it's tough to understand why they don't have a national championship yet.

Listen, I understand one must always keep in mind the "Salisbury Supremacy" when evaluating South region teams and conferences. Still, the amount of talent flowing through the ODAC in the last decade would make anyone believe it's not just one team that is keeping the league from the position it deserves.

Am I wrong, Joel? Is the ODAC just caught in the Sea Gull vapor trail?

CENSER: What Jac's forgetting is that all the schools mentioned have to sell private school tuition tags and remote locales to recruits. Certainly, that can't help Roanoke and Lynchburg when they're competing for kids against the Salisburys and Stevensons. As for HSC, I can't imagine convincing 17- and 18-year olds that an all-guys liberal arts college is the perfect place. Washington and Lee still has to recruit head-to-head against parts of the Centennial and schools from that Northern conference that shall be not named.

Institutional disadvantages aside, I've thought something – besides the aforementioned Sea Gull dominance – was holding respective ODAC powers back. The Generals were always too conservative for their own good. Great defense never seemed to trickle-down to the offensive end. For the Tigers, they always lacked the depth to pair with elite talent like Vince Smith, Thomas Jennings, Ryan Harrington and Colin Dunn. As for 'Noke, I played the Maroons at their rumbling, run-and-gun peak – back when Chris Keating and Canuck John Mason were playing catch. But for as much talent as Roanoke had (usually about as much as anyone in Division III), they just always seemed hamstrung by too many unforced errors in big moments.

Lynchburg was the most balanced of the ODAC teams. They could defend you, score goals, were tough between the stripes, and had those fans that had no problem ripping you to shreds. But even the Hornets have had some talent issues the past couple of years.

But take a drive along Route 29 or I-81 or I-64, and those rolling Virginia hills have a way of sucking you in (if you don't get pulled over by some enterprising sheriff in Greene County, that is).

Right now, I like the direction of the conference powers that be. HSC has some big guns on offense again. Washington and Lee is showing more spark at that end as well – even outshooting Salisbury yesterday (the 13-3 loss notwithstanding). Lynchburg shook the Stevenson gorilla off its back last Saturday. And I think 'Noke will start canning their shots sooner rather than later.

To the games (after Coyne's perfect week, it's Jac, 16-4 and Joel at 15-5)....

Uh, oh...wait for it...it's a Speed Round! Ten games on the docket this weekend, so we'll go machine-gun style.

No. 16 Gettysburg (2-3) at Haverford (1-4) – Saturday, 12 p.m.

COYNE: I usually like to set up the Squirrels for a fall, if only to watch Joel's face melt after another excruciating loss, but I actually like the way Haverford has been playing in its last two games. As such, I'll let JC get a game back here and I'll take visitors. The 'Burg, 8-5.

CENSER: The home team has, for the past six years, won this grinder. That being said, since bumping Phil Valiant to attack, the Ford offense has improved. Goals will be at a premium, but I'll take the Squirrels in a 7-5, half-field fest.

No. 19 Springfield (3-1) vs. Keene State (1-2) – Saturday, 12:30 p.m. (at Orlando, Fla.)

COYNE: At first glance, this looks like a slam dunk for the Pride, but I'm not so sure. Yes, the Bates loss isn't looking real good for the Owls, but they did play within a goal of a very good RPI squad. Plus, Springfield will be worn down after a midweek win against Middlebury. I'm keen on Keene, 10-9.

CENSER: I know Jac's still in denial, but the Pride smacked Middlebury 14-5 on Wednesday. Keene State hasn't proven anything outside the comfy cupcake confines of the Little East. Pride rolls, 11-6.

Hamilton (0-2) at Colby (0-1) – Saturday, 1 p.m.

COYNE: The White Mules took Amherst to the brink on the road in their opener and the Continentals fared better than most thought they would in the brutal weekend double-dip against Tufts and Wesleyan. The difference in this game? The soul-sucking, round-trip drive from Clinton, N.Y., to Waterville, Maine. White Fools, 9-7.

CENSER: No Craig Bunker? No problem, as the Mules gave Amherst all they could handle last Saturday. Hamilton's going to learn the hard way that NESCAC bottom-feeders still aren't Vassar and Clarkson. Mules plod, 8-5.

Hampden-Sydney (2-3) at Washington & Lee (4-3) – Saturday, 1 p.m.

Roanoke is the only ODAC team to make it to a national championship game ('83, '92), but Eric DeLong and the Maroons are looking to change that.
© Kevin P. Tucker

COYNE: Man, I thought Sydney was primed for a big spring. But after that opening season loss to Mary Washington, they just seem to be having trouble finding their groove. W&L's game against Salisbury midweek has me spooked, but since Hampden-Sydney has to visit Lex-Vegas, I'll go with the home squad. Los Generales, 12-9.

CENSER: Bush-Cheney '04 Bumper Stickers and seersucker rule the day in this ODAC civil war. The General offense showed some life against the Gulls (outshooting Salisbury!), and I think Joe LaSala and Co., hold Micah Keller and Ryan Martin in check. Gennies, 13-5.

No. 2 Tufts (2-0) at No. 4 Stevens (5-0) – Saturday, 1 p.m.

COYNE: Much of this pick is determined by whether Sean Kirwan will be ready to roll by Saturday's contest (he was out for Tuesday game against Conn. College). Without him, the Jumbos become slightly more predictable (see: Kevin McCormick's 21 shots against the Camels) and a bit more manageable for Stevens. I think there will be plenty of goals, but Gene Peluso's crew will have a couple more at the final horn. Ducks, 12-10.

CENSER: The Kevin McCormick show keeps rolling through to Hoboken. Even without Kirwan, I think Nick Rhoads wins enough at the stripe, Patton Watkins stops enough shots in goal, and the Jumbos escape from Jersey. Tufts in a 15-13 shootout.

Washington College (3-2) at McDaniel (4-3) – Saturday, 1 p.m.

COYNE: The Shoremen are starting to round into form just as the conference slate is about to begin and I can't shake the image of that 22-1 McDaniel loss to Salisbury. I like WAC in a walk, 13-7.

CENSER: If Jac knew anything about the Centennial, he'd know this game is never going to be a walk. Western Maryland vs. Eastern Shore. State bragging rights on the line. Traditional power against traditional upstart (does that make sense?). This will be an ole-fashioned conference bloodbath.

In a half-field grinder, I'll always go with the squad with DJ Rickels and JS Duke. 10-9, Terror.

Western New England (1-1) at Nazareth (2-2) – Saturday, 1 p.m.

COYNE: I was waiting to see if Wednesday's results might make it appear that these two teams were closer in talent than what I suspected. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. The Golden Bears are going to be a nightmare for every team they play this season. Don't call me WNEC, 12-5.

CENSER: Western New England is a tough out. Brewster Knowlton's a "bear" in cage, Patrick White's going to fill it up, and Joe Martin will grind at the X. As for Nazareth, this ain't the Hotaling/Amidon squad of year's past. Da Bearz, 13-4.

No. 9 Stevenson (5-1) at No. 3 Cortland (3-0) – Saturday, 3 p.m.

COYNE: The key to beating Cortland is having an offense that eventually overwhelms the careful Red Dragon game plan. Stevenson had it last year with their prolific attack, and still only managed to win, 10-8 (RIT and Tufts were the two other losses for Steve Beville). Now that the Mustangs have an offense that is posting three goals against Lynchburg? No, that's not going to work. Dragons, 10-2.

CENSER: So Stevenson is struggling mightily to score goals. Cortland makes a living out of eating up offenses. I have a feeling where this one is going. Goalie Mike Kaminski and the rest of the Dragon defense chew up the 'Stangs. 8-4, Cortland.

No. 15 Bowdoin (2-0) vs. No. 7 Amherst (3-0) – Saturday, 6 p.m. (at Orlando, Fla.)

COYNE: The Polar Bears are producing a lot of shots this year and the defense has been proficient, which makes me think Bowdoin is going to be an unwanted partner when the NESCAC tourney brackets come out. However, Amherst will be motivated by last year's dismissal from the conference tourney at the hands of the PBears and gut it out. Jeffs, 6-5.

CENSER: The Lord Jeffs were still reading their own press clipping when they played Colby last Saturday. Since escaping the 9-8 tightrope, Amherst has played well, dispatching Bates and Endicott.

But Bowdoin is no conference slouch, and has a balanced scoring group who won't take kindly to Amherst's perceived NESCAC power status. I'll take the Polar Bears, who have less to lose and a lot of fight. 10-8, Bowdoin.

No. 6 Lynchburg (6-1) at No. 13 Roanoke (4-2) – Saturday, 7 p.m.

COYNE: The last game of the day should be a changing of the guard in the ODAC. Oh, it'll be competitive, because this rivalry always is, but Lynchburg will finally shed the conference monkey that has been on its back ('Noke has won 10 of the last 11 meetings, including the last five). It'll be the Bugs, 13-9.

CENSER: Roanoke has had Lynchburg's number for most of the decade. But Noke's 2012 – the blowout loss to Salisbury, closer than expected contests to unranked teams, another loss to Dickinson – has not played out like many expected.

Personally, I just think the Maroons have had a tougher-than-people-realize schedule and are figuring out some roles between the stripes. Not to mention that Lynchburg's win over Stevenson loses a bit of its luster after the York letdown.

I'll take Keating, Lachlan, and recent history in this one. Roanoke, 12-9.

Coyne v. Censer Archive
Week Four: NESCAC's Degree of Difficulty
Week Three: Using Scheduling to Recruit
Week Two: The State of the Shoremen
Week One: Starting with a Must-Game


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