March 31, 2014

MD3 Notebook: Tufts' Fragile Dominance

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

Cole Bailey (above) had three goals and eight assists in Tufts' 21-13 romp over Conn. College. He's one member of the Jumbos' prolific four-pronged offense. (Kevin Ma/Tufts)

Like most coaches, Mike Daly combs the scores every day to see how the other programs are faring, especially NESCAC league foes. The Tufts coach took particular notice of two recent Middlebury scores.

His Jumbos dispatched the Panthers, 24-6, in the season opener, dispensing one of the worst losses in Midd history. Over the course of the past two weeks, however, Middlebury has manhandled a ranked Bowdoin team on the road and edged a rated Amherst squad on Saturday.

Daly readily admits that he was confused by those results, but it also sets off alarm bells in the back of his mind.

"The only foolish thing to do would be to assume that something like that wouldn't happen in this league on a week-to-week basis," Daly said on Sunday after his team improved to 7-1 with a 21-13 rout of Conn. College. "That's my biggest challenge right now: making sure our team is above that and avoids that head-scratcher, because they are out there every time you turn around."

There haven't been any head-scratchers for the Jumbos yet. The 17-16 win over Keene State was curiously close and the road loss to defending champion Stevenson can't be labeled as a surprise. So far, the stunning loss that every coach fears hasn't appeared.

In fact, Tufts has been clobbering teams.

The Jumbos are averaging 19.3 goals per game and eclipsed the 20-goal mark five times in eight games.Tufts put away Conn. College – a team that likes to grind things out with its zone – after 15 minutes. The Jumbos scored on nine of their 14 shots in the opening stanza, taking a 9-1 advantage that would never be threatened.

"I'd be lying if I told you I saw it all coming," Daly said. "There's always these fine lines in a lot of these games. Our goalie makes a few saves early and our offense puts a few in, and that's the difference between a 3-0 start and a 3-3 dogfight. To have a start that we did [Saturday], that's a pretty good combination of great defense and great offense."

The Jumbos chased Camels goalie Bobby Bleistein, one of the better goalies in the league, after just 20 minutes, but it's not something the Daly particularly cares about. He doesn't like getting caught up in how to approach the opponent's backstop.

"We over-coach goalie preparation sometimes; this is where we want to be shooting and all that," Daly said. "I hope our guys don't even notice [a goalie getting pulled], to be honest. We want them to be doing what we do, and shooting the ball to our strengths. I think that our team is doing a great job at it this year. Really preparing against ourselves and for ourselves, and I think we're getting better every game. We've just got learn how to play consistent."

Consistency hasn't been a problem for the Jumbos' four-headed offense. Cole Bailey (19g, 28a), John Uppgren (20g, 26a), Beau Wood (28g, 12a) and Chris Schoenhut (36g, 1a) have blended from the outset and are playing with an ease that has occasionally bordered on the unstoppable. The only hiccup was the setback to the defending champs.

As is his way, Daly took the blame for the 15-9 loss to Stevenson on March 18 – "I didn't have our team ready to play, so that's where I'm pointing that finger" – but the setback to the Mustangs has proven useful from a developmental and motivational aspect since then.

"We learned we weren't ready to play at the level that the elite teams are playing at right now," Daly said. "We're more concerned about us as opposed to playing an opponent. We're looking to play at the speed that the Stevensons, Cabrinis, RITs, Salisburys and Cortlands seem to be playing at right now. And Lynchburg. We've got to get there. That's kind of our challenge every day at practice and on game days."

The Stevenson loss also confirmed Daly's theory about the ephemeral nature of playing outstanding lacrosse.

"Even in some of these games that appear to be one-sided, it's just those little inches and little fine lines," he said. "In [the Stevenson] game, their goalie played a little above where he'd been playing at and our goalie maybe played neutral to a little bit below where he was playing at. It's a little luck here and a call here. It's very fragile. We're trying to keep our guys focused on those inches and tiny little things."

Cabrini Making It Look Easy...and Fun

It seemed like the fans were just finding their seats at E.R. Dixon Field and Cabrini was already down 4-0 to Ithaca.

In reality, just 5:14 had elapsed, but the suddenness of the Bombers dominance was somewhat odd for the Cavaliers. Sure, they had trailed before during the season, but not so quickly. As it turned out, Ithaca might have been better served to take a more subtle approach.

"Early on, we were struggling to win faceoffs and get to some loose balls," said Cabrini head coach Steve Colfer. "Once we were able to do both things a little better, we were able to get control of the game back. I think we were down 4-0 so quickly that it really didn't have time to sink in with the team, and we just played our way out of that hole."

By the midpoint of the second quarter, the score was tied at five. At halftime, Cabrini led 9-5 and the Bombers were defused. When the dust settled, it was 20-11 in favor of the Cavs. Just another Top 10 win in the books and a school record 9-0 start to the season.

The game also marked the de facto end of the non-conference season for Cabrini. All that's left on the docket are five contests against overmatched CSAC foes and a battle against Salisbury on April 11 that will have large tournament seeding implications.

Regardless of what's left on the slate, any concerns about atrophy during the conference regimen or feelings of overconfidence aren't readily evident.

"The group leadership is strong and they left the locker room more excited for our annual intrasquad scrimmage on Wednesday -- better known as "The Cheesesteak and Hotdog" scrimmage -- than our record or start," Colfer said. "Winners get some of Philly's finest cheesesteaks and the losers get hotdogs. It will be a highly contested battle!"

Lacrosse Magazine's Player of the Week

Anthony DiSanzo, Jr., M - Cabrini
With the Cavaliers facing one of their last remaining challenges of the regular season in a Top 10 Ithaca squad, DiSanzo delivered for Cabrini. The Bombers raced out to a 4-0 lead to start the game, but helped by DiSanzo's six goals, the third-ranked home team rallied for a surprisingly comfortable, 20-11 win. "Anthony came back from a small injury this week and played great," Cabrini head coach Steve Colfer said. "When he shoots the ball accurately, I believe he is one of the best midfielders in the country. He really showed that [Saturday]."

Honor Roll

As a way to honor the two firefighters killed responding to a nine-alarm fire in Boston's Back Bay, the UMass-Boston men's lacrosse team adorned their helmets with a BFD sticker. The Beacons then went out and posted an 11-8 conference win over Salem State. John Powers led the way with four points.

Luke Aubrey (Roger Williams), Cole Bailey (Tufts), Jordan Boreman (Centre), James Collins (Olivet), Charlie Cronin (Stevens), Danny Dahms (Concordia), Jay Dolan (Wittenberg), Kyle Doner (Augustana), Cody Eckes (Hendrix), Dylan Florian (Keene State), Luke Frazier (Bryn Athyn), John Henry Glascock (Bard), Alex Green (Castleton), Troy Haefele (Nazareth), Tyler Haines (Frostburg State), Brian Heff (Ursinus), Max Herman (Vassar), Zach Hopps (Cortland), Grant Hughes (Washington College), Jalen Jackson (Wilmington), Jacob Kamstra (Hope), Mike Kane (Salisbury), Connor Laughlin (Bowdoin), Austin Lein (Susquehanna), Cam Lewis (Washington & Lee), Robby Maddux (Gettysburg), Tony McCraw (Gwynedd Mercy), Tyler McKelvie (Keene State), Max Meserve (St. Joseph's), Sam Morrissey (Montclair State), Connor Nash (Springfield), Tyler Nicoloff (Hilbert), Mike Rakos (Wesley), Jack Rautiola (Middlebury), Frank Reda (FDU-Florham), Sean Reilly (Lycoming), Zach Rosen (Mount Ida), Tom Rotanz (Farmingdale), Chris Schoenhut (Tufts), Aaron Shavel (RPI), Maxwell Smerka (Berry), Jack Strain (Bates), Dylan Swope (Marywood), Tim Taylor (Widener), Tom Urso (Albion), Alexander Vanderhoff (Greensboro), Luke Verdi (MIT), Mario Vezza (Ohio Wesleyan), Drew Wassenaar (Elmhurst), Andrew Watkins (Salve Regina), Derek Youngman (Colby).

Pool Duty

Pool B
1. Sewanee (7-3)
2. Whittier (4-2)
3. Colorado College (6-4)
4. Eastern (6-4)
5. Centre (6-3)

Pool C
1. Union (7-1)
2. St. Lawrence (5-2)
3. Bowdoin (7-2)
4. York (8-3)
5. Franklin & Marshall (7-3)

Slides & Rides

- The NCAC league contest between Denison and DePauw on Saturday did not make a blip on the overall Division III radar, especially after the No. 5 Big Red blanked the Tigers, 21-0. But it was a reunion of sorts for one family (picture below). Denison head coach Michael Caravana already has his oldest son, Nick, a junior attackman, playing for him, and they faced off with the Carvana middle child, Sam, a rookie attackman on DePauw. "It will be a special moment for me to have two sons play college lacrosse! How lucky am I to have that occur?" said the Caravana patriarch prior to the game.

At the conclusion of the Denison-DePauw game on Saturday, Big Red head coach Michael Caravana embraced his two oldest sons, Nick (left) and Sam. (Ashlin Caravana)

- Late March is an odd time to announce staff hirings, but when you're adding one of the more recognizable names in the lacrosse world as a coordinator, there's never a bad time. That's likely the thinking of Cazenovia head coach Kevin Johnson when he sent out the release naming Ryan Powell as his offensive coordinator. Powell's cachet as one of the best players to play at every level of the sport would help any program, but his legendary status in CNY – Cazenovia is located 20 miles southeast of Syracuse – could payoff big for the Wildcats. "This is a great fit for me as Cazenovia College is very close to my home and, more importantly, they are an up and coming program at the Division III level with major upside," said Powell via the release. Cazenovia is currently 3-2 and 0-2 in the NEAC.

- The de facto championship game of the Mustang Classic turned out to be a bit of a dud as Stevenson coasted past Lynchburg, 13-5. It was a 4-2 game after one quarter, but the Mustangs buried the Hornets in the second, taking a 10-3 lead at the break. With the exception of an Easter weekend clash with Salisbury, this concludes the non-conference portion of the Stevenson schedule and there's no question about the Mustangs status as the second-best team in the country. Paul Cantabene's troops also know they can play with the team they'll likely face in the championship game if they make it that far.

- Don't discount Whittier's win over Division II Dominican (Calif.) on Friday. Not only does it show that the Poets are a good squad – the Penguins were once ranked in the D-II weekly poll – but the win is one more step towards keeping Whittier above .500. Games against other divisions is down the list of selection criteria, but they do count against the overall record (unlike the Poets win against current NAIA program Westminster). It was a win so big, it rattled the entire planet. The Los Angeles area was struck with a magnitude 5.4 earthquake just after the final whistle. "The quake happened a few minutes after the game while everyone was still on the field," said Whittier head coach Brian Kelly. "Funny timing."

Whittier must now gird itself for the trip to the Midwest where three key games await in the pursuit of a Pool B bid. "Pumped for our trip to the Midwest," Kelly said. "The guys are pretty fired up!"

- FDU-Florham's Frank Reda filled up his statistical line against D-II Dominican (N.Y.) on Saturday. He scored seven goals on 20 shots, dished out an assist, had eight ground balls and caused three turnovers...after a 6-0 start, first-year program Illinois Wesleyan finally suffered its first defeat of the season at the hands of Olivet...I have a feeling RPI is one of those teams that is going to be a headache in the Liberty...as mentioned in the opening, Middlebury has now knocked off two of the top teams in the NESCAC, following up the win over Bowdoin with an 8-7 triumph against Amherst. A gritty effort by the Panthers, but they're probably not doing the conference any favors.

- Salisbury's 10-7 win over Mary Washington pushes the Gulls one step closer to the No. 1 seed in the CAC. St. Mary's is the only team who could alter that course, and the Seahawks will host the Sea Gulls on Saturday...speaking of the CAC, Frostburg State has quietly improved to 9-2. The Bobcats have York on Wednesday...Wittenberg jumped up and bit Wooster, 7-5, keeping the Tigers in the NCAC playoff race...Stevens has now won three straight...Dickinson dropped to 4-5 with the league loss to Ursinus. The Red Devils will be in a dogfight just to make the Centennial playoffs now...Union is the only team that looks like they have a Pool C bid in the bag at this point...will this winter ever end?


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