January 3, 2013

After D-I Transfer, Novotny Embracing Pitt Project

LM's MCLA-I Preseason Player of Year has mojo to take Panthers to new heights

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

After joining Pittsburgh after a year with St. John's (N.Y.), Tyler Novotny has become one of the most dangerous attackman in the country and has lifted the Panthers to new heights.
© Cecil Copeland/The Athletic Image

Division I transfers.

For those operating in lower divisions, they're catnip for teams and fans alike. Adding a player once deemed worthy by a scholarship program is as irresistible as a siren's song. This is especially true in the MCLA, where transfers become a sort of measuring stick of a school's lacrosse viability.

But they can also come with some hefty baggage: a sense of entitlement. As non-varsity programs perpetually fight off the old-time club stigma, there are just as many misses as hits with former Division I players — many of whom might underestimate the demands of the new MCLA.

And then you have Tyler Novotny.

After a year at St. John's as a spare attackman on the extra-man unit, Novotny left Queens for Pittsburgh and reunited with former teammates from Spring-Ford (Pa.) High. He caught a glimpse of the Panthers during a fall ball scrimmage in 2010, but came away unsure of what his lacrosse future held.

"I really didn't have any basis for what the actual talent level was," Novotny said. "When I got there in the spring it was like, 'Wow, these guys can really play.' It was kind of a shot in the dark that everything ended up paying off."

Eventually.

Novotny needed time to adjust to the realities of MCLA life.

"The biggest thing was acclimating to the fact that we didn't have the weight room and all of the facilities," Pittsburgh coach Sean Buzzard said. "The struggles we have with field space, the last-minute changes, jumping onto the grass field in the rain while the Quidditch team prepares for something. That was probably the biggest thing: acclimating to not having the same level of effort from the university."

Novotny started for Pitt in 2011 and led the team in goals (36) and points (46) during the Panthers' 9-3 season. But he still had trouble connecting with the objectives of the coaches — not unlike other former Division I prospects. Things started to change the following spring.

"It was just building a relationship with the coaching staff," Novotny said. "Coming in during the spring, you have two weeks to meet the guy and learn the system. Last year, I took a leadership role by being a captain and the team treasurer. There was the constant daily contact, and all of the off-the-field stuff has helped. It's not just on the field where you learn, but off the field organizing and making decisions for the team. Our relationship has definitely been able to grow."

Buzzard said Novotny became more coachable. "Teams have a better scout on him and know him, but he adjusted," he said.

Novotny, known for a quick release on his shot, blended his game to accommodate new teammates in 2012. He again led Pittsburgh in goals (67) and points (84), but more importantly, he helped guide the Panthers to their first-ever appearance in the MCLA tournament as a No. 10 seed.

Despite four goals from Novotny, Pittsburgh lost to MCLA power UC Santa Barbara in the first round. The loss resonated in bad way for Novotny, and he said it would be the catalyst for the 2013 campaign in which he enters as Lacrosse Magazine's Preseason Player of the Year. Now Novotny is the one setting and managing expectations for this year's edition of the Panthers, which includes Ryan Lord, a prized Division I transfer from Maryland.

"I don't know what the new guys coming in thought. Maybe it was, 'Oh, we're playing club," Novotny said. "We had to drill it home that whatever preconceived notions they might have, these are good teams we're playing."

Ironically, Novotny's rise to MCLA stardom meant shedding the Division I transfer stamp. He's no longer the guy known for once playing with the lacrosse glitterati. He has fully assimilated himself into the non-varsity culture. And while it doesn't hold the same cachet, he hopes it pays off in a monster individual season and never-before-seen heights for the Pittsburgh program.

Those labels last much longer.

This article appears in the January issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.


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