June 4, 2014

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Coyne's All-Americans: NCAA Division III

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

Tufts junior Cole Bailey (aboev) tallied 118 points this spring, including seven in the title game, for the champion Jumbos, but was it enough to outkick teammate John Uppgren for Player of the Year honors? (John Strohsacker)

The proliferation of Division III All-Americans actually slowed this spring as the USILA trimmed 13 players off last year's high-water mark of 146 to give us 133 award winners. They are all good players – better than average players – but there are still too many to keep it one of the highest honors in the game.

As has been my postseason chore for past several years, I've put together my own team comprised of just 13 players (I've added a short-stick defensive midfield slot this year in a nod to the sport's specialization). It's no easy task. Trimming 90 percent of the field to arrive at the right choices requires some sturdy metrics and a heaping spoonful of subjectivity. It also takes a little bit of X-ray vision to peer through the regional, conference and program biases of the committee members who put the USILA squads together.

I'm not necessarily saying they are wrong. I just have a different way of arriving at a much smaller pool of players who are the best of the best. And in defense of the USILA team, I have the luxury of using the postseason – an arena where many All-Americans are forged in my mind – while the other teams are comprised heading into the tournament.

With all of that said, here is the 2014 Coyne's All-American team for Division III:

Attack – Cole Bailey, Jr., Tufts

What stands out the most for Bailey? Is it the 53 goals and 65 assists going against one of the toughest schedules in the country? How about the six game-winning goals or the 42 ground balls (good for third on the team)? Or maybe it's the 45.7 shoot percentage (53 goals on 116 shots)? Pretty much since he arrived in Medford, Bailey has been the straw who stirred the drink for the Jumbos, and that was on full display during the title march.

Attack – Corey Elmer, Sr., Cabrini

Elmer earned the tag of Lacrosse Magazine Preseason Player of the Year and he did all he could to live up to the billing. After a 112-point junior year, he topped it with a 115-point senior season, doing it with the same balance (59g, 56a). He notched a point in every game and was held out of the goal-scoring column just once, and finished second in ground balls (57) for the Cavaliers and tied for third in caused turnovers (16).

Attack – Quinn Moroney, Soph., Amherst

Moroney's points total (112) would be enough to lead the nation in year's past, but it's his assist number (80) that sets Moroney apart. That number accounts for over half of the Lord Jeffs' total assist total (150), and it means he played a part in setting up nearly a third of Amherst's total goals (277). Without Moroney, the Jeffs don't make the NCAA tournament and are likely a middling NESCAC squad. With him, they are a team with a monstrous ceiling for the 2015 campaign.

Midfield – John Uppgren, Soph., Tufts

The nation's leading scorer with 124 points (65g, 59a), Uppgren was a co-cog in the Tufts scoring circus along with Bailey. While he obviously had a knack for potting goals, helped by his 184 attempts, it was his playmaking ability that sets him apart as a midfielder. Uppgren was a monster on EMO (10 goals) and wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty on the ride (28 GBs, 7 CTs) despite having limited responsibilities on the defense end.

Midfield – Kyle Aquin, Jr., RIT

Salisbury rode its defense to the championship game, anchored by senior Josh Martin (above). (Kevin P. Tucker)

Aquin's numbers were a tad off from his epic '13 campaign that culminated in seven goals in the national championship game, but he was still the most dangerous middie in the Tigers' seemingly endless group of offensive weapons. The goal number (44) is what we've come to expect, but Aquin's ability to set up goals this spring showed his evolution. After only mustering just 10 dimes in '13, he nearly doubled that total with 19.

Midfield – Hunter Nowicki, Sr., Washington College

The Shoremen were searching for an alpha offensive player, and Nowicki stepped up to the task, leading Washington College in points with 77. He took charge of being the team's playmaker, leading the team in assists with 41 – more than double that of the next closest Shoreman and accounting for nearly a quarter of the Geese's dimes (132) on the year. Nowicki was particularly effective in the postseason, averaging 4.5 points per outing, including a hat trick in the season-ender against Salisbury.

Faceoff – Brent Hiken, Sr., Stevenson

Last year, Hiken was part of a platoon, which probably helped him post his 70.9 win percentage on the draw. He didn't the help, however, as his numbers got even better operating as the primary guy this spring. He finished by winning 250-of-347 draws (72.0%) with a staggering 178 ground balls. He only posted a goal and an assist, but there's something to be said for knowing one's role, and Hiken did his better than anyone.

Defensive Middie – Preston Dabbs, Soph., Salisbury

As with most shorties, Dabbs performance can only be appreciated through first-person viewing – stats don't quantify what he provides for the Sea Gulls. His 19 caused turnovers (fourth on the team) are impressive enough and even the 53.2 faceoff percentage speaks to his selflessness. It's the ease that he parries attacking middies with his strength and positioning that sets Dabbs apart.

Long-stick Middie – Austin Campbell, Sr., Denison

The long-stick midfielder position is no longer just for faceoff wing play and stunting the top opposing midfielder. Campbell personified that while leading the Big Red to a 19-0 start to the season. He did his work on the backend with a team-high 34 caused turnovers and 61 ground balls, good for second. He also scored five goals (on seven shots) and dished out five assists.

Defense – Callum Robinson, Jr., Stevenson

At 6-foot-5 and 248 pounds, Robinson has the build of one of the old school defenders who used length and strength to keep smaller attackman away from the cage. Alas, Robinson also blends that size with a gazelle's speed and the sticks skills of a shorty. Oh, and he has a mean streak, which, in combination with his attributes, has ground down some of the best offensive players in the country.

Defense – J.T. Foltz, Sr., Cortland

The top defender on the Cortland squad that held opponents to just 7.3 goals per outing, Foltz led the Red Dragons in caused turnovers (30) while also gobbling up 42 ground balls. He was tasked with squaring up with some of the best opposing attackman in the division, and even though he wasn't as flashy as some other poles in transition, he managed to score a goal and dish out an assist during the season.

Defense – Josh Martin, Sr., Salisbury

Denison head coach Michael Caravana (above) led the Big Red to a 19-0 start to the season and a berth in the national quarterfinals, earning him Coach of the Year honors. (Kevin P. Tucker)

The 6.55 goals against average that Salisbury posted this year is a staggering number, especially considering the level of competition. It was obviously not a one-man effort, but Martin was the tip of the Sea Gull spear. His 23 take-aways was solid, as was the 25 ground balls, but Martin's ability to nearly neutralize one of the opposing team's top players made him invaluable.

Goalie – Stefan Basile, Jr., Union

Despite running in the rugged Liberty League and earning three meetings with the RIT juggernaut, Basile still managed to post a 64.1 save percentage and a 7.00 goals against average, both of which ranked in the top 20 in the country. In his six games against tournament teams, Basile averaged 15 saves per game, and held RIT to just eight goals with a 16-stop effort in the regular season.

Player of the Year

John Uppgren, Soph., Tufts
The number of true player of the year candidates this year is nearly overwhelming, but it's Uppgren who gets the nod. The numbers – 65 goals and 59 assists – and the balanced game that they illustrate are obviously difficult to ignore. The tendency will be to marginalize the numbers since Uppgren is one of four Tufts players who have posted video-game numbers this spring. One could also argue that Bailey is the critical guy in the Jumbos system, but Tufts has won games with a limited Bailey (and without the services of others), but not without Uppgren. When he bumped up to attack in the championship game – admittedly not a huge move considering his status as a hybrid midfielder-attackman – and still caused fits solidified his presence here.

Rookie of the Year

Breanainn McNeally, RPI
From his first game, when he scored four goals and dished out an assist against Montclair State, the Severna Park, Md., native hit the ground running for the Engineers. He finished with 44 goals and 61 points playing in the daunting Liberty League, and managed to bury four goals against a stingy Union team during the regular season. McNeally also paced RPI in game-winning goals (4) and connected on nearly half of his shots (44.9 shooting percentage). The Engineers bring back most of their key components next spring, led by McNeally.

Coach of the Year

Michael Caravana, Denison
With a team boasting just seven seniors and a schedule that sent them out of Granville for seven of their first nine games, Denison reached new heights under Caravana this spring. They rolled to wins in their first 19 games, beating seven teams that had made the '13 NCAA tournament and advanced all the way to the quarterfinals. They lost one of the best faceoff men in the country (Chip Phillips) three games into the season, but didn't miss a beat, and also switched starting goalies 14 games into the season. Caravana has done a lot of impressive things during his tenure at Denison, but this was his best performance yet.


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