May 15, 2013

Men's Division III Quarterfinal Impressions

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

Sophomore Tyler White (12) and the rest of the Dickinson team probably don't want to contemplate much after their loss to Salisbury on Wednesday. The Red Devils should know, however, that ultimately the success of this season will now be determined by future teams.
© Kevin P. Tucker/File Photo

Does one loss change anything about how we look at Dickinson's accomplishments this year? Or does it change everything?

It's a cruel question to ponder so soon on the heels of the Red Devils' 11-9 loss to Salisbury in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, but when a team wins the first 18 games on its schedule, and the 19th proves slightly too much, it demands a closer look. As a Boston native and New England Patriots fan, writing that previous sentence gave me an uncontrollable left-eye twitch.

Looking back on the season, there will not be any questions about the legitimacy of the Dickinson's undefeated run. The Red Devils played a solid non-conference schedule and tore through a stacked Centennial Conference that nearly produced three NCAA teams. This was not a couple of lucky wins here and there; it was season-long run of superiority.

But does this one loss change the tenor of how this Dickinson season is viewed? From a short-term perspective, of course. The nature of our playoff system puts a primacy on teams and players who deliver in the one-and-done format, a crucible that often times craves the "hero or goat" concept. I'm sure I could scour the box score and find some damning stat that would put one Dickinson unit or player on the hot seat.

I'm actually not interested in that. I'm more intrigued to see what the Dickinson program does with this loss next year. That will ultimately determine the value of this season.

If we look back on this 18-1 season as the pinnacle of the Red Devil ascendency, with successive seasons illustrating a steady decline back to the mean, it will become clear that this year was just an anomaly. It will always be considered a great campaign – and one that they all should be proud of – but viewed through the prism of time, it will lose some of its dominant aura.

If we look back at this 18-1 season and find that it was the stepping stone for deeper runs in the tourney and, perhaps, even a shot at the Holy Grail, the 2013 campaign will be looked back on with a fondness by the Red Devils. The nostalgia will be much like Salisbury's 1991 team that entered its first national championship game with a 15-0 record, only to lose to Hobart. That setback eventually launched the division's dynasty.

Who's to say if it can't be a similar catalyst for Dickinson? The sting of Wednesday's loss is still palpable, but the program's present can only be properly analyzed via its future.

The Team to Beat?

And imagine if Brendan McDonald was still on the team!

McDonald, of course, was the second leading scorer (33g, 17a) for RIT as a freshman last year who didn't return this spring, but it looks like the Tigers are all set on the offensive end. Jack Krzyston (46g, 25a), Eddie Kiesa (36g, 28a), Kyle Aquin (54g, 8a) and company have that end of the field on lock down. On Wednesday, the RIT defense showed that it was the real deal, as well.

From the outset, it was clear that the Tigers backline had the Tufts offense feeling very uncomfortable, and the fact that RIT raced out to a 6-1 to start the game didn't help the Jumbos' poise on the offensive end. Elliot Cowburn and his mates combined to hold Tufts' dynamic scoring duo of Cole Bailey and Beau Wood to a combined one goal on 14 shots. There were very few good attempts coming out of brown and light blue gloves, and the ones that were often times got snuffed out by Pat Johnston (15 saves).

Getting hung up on one performance is not a good idea in the tournament, especially when the team in question is heading into the Cortland buzzsaw. However, judging by the performance today, there is no question that RIT is the team beat.

For the next three days.

The Pleasure and the Pain

The reality of another Stevenson-Salisbury meeting in the South region finals brought with it mixed emotions. With the history between the two programs, there are a ton of plotlines leading into the game, and the contest itself has very rarely disappointed. Alas, there's a little bit of sorrow that we're seeing the same old characters yet again.

Don't get me wrong. I have all the respect in the world for both program's players and coaches, but this is the third time in four years these two have squared off in the South final. Perhaps heightening this whole sensation of disappointment is it looked we were nearly assured of finally getting a fresh result this spring. Roanoke, W&L, Dickinson, Cabrini, Lynchburg. They all looked at various points like they could be one of the southern teams vying for Philly. But, alas, even with the odds stacked against it, here we are: Stevenson vs. Salisbury.

At least this will kill all the parity talk.

Thoughts...

It's just one of the many things that is so astounding about what Salisbury has been able to do. There have been eight undefeated national champions in NCAA Division III history, and the Sea Gulls have accounted for seven of them (Naz '96 is the eighth). Wednesday's game put in perspective just how hard it is to run the table, and the Gulls (often times) make it look easy...there are so many scary parts about Cortland, but for me, it's the Red Dragons' ability to generate goals from so many different people. Against Western New England, they had 10 different guys score 12 goals. I can only imagine how hard that is to prepare for...pretty impressive rebound game for Stevenson netminder Dimitri Pecunes. After getting the hook against Washington College (although he returned), Pecunes made 12 saves against Lynchburg and looked solid for most of the night...it was all for not, but Max Voumard ended his career with an exclamation point, scoring four goals for Lynchburg.

Quarterfinal Results
Salisbury 11, Dickinson 9
RIT 15, Tufts 4
Cortland 12, Western New England 7
Stevenson 13, Lynchburg 7

Sunday's Semifinal Matchups
RIT at Cortland, TBA
Salisbury at Stevenson, 7 p.m.


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