Monday Notebook: NCAA Division III
No coach wants to lose, but if there's going to be a loss, it's more important to take something positive from it. For Franklin & Marshall head coach Todd Cavallaro, the 11-4 setback against No. 9 Lynchburg on Feb. 25 has laid the foundation for the Diplomats current three-game win streak, which includes a last-minute, 12-11 win over Washington & Lee on Saturday.
"With Lynchburg, we didn't put a complete game together," said Cavallaro. "We were OK in the first quarter, but when the game got a little tighter in the second quarter, we had way too many turnovers and we'd compound one mistake with another mistake. It wasn't one person in particular – it was the same lineup in both games – we just corrected some of those mistakes, stopped the unforced turnovers and shot the ball a little bit better."
It sounds simplistic, but it has certainly worked for the Dips. It started with their convincing, 11-5 victory over then-No. 19 St. Mary's – a team that beat Centennial heavyweight Dickinson earlier in the season – and continued with the W&L triumph, which was sealed when Kevin Kilpatrick scored with 2:27 left in regulation. Now F&M is 4-1 and, considering what Lynchburg did on Saturday night, might be on the cusp of entering the Top 20 poll.
Beating the likes of St. Mary's and W&L, and even losing to Lynchburg, is also important when league play commences next Saturday on the road at Muhlenberg.
"The non-conference strength of schedule means quite a bit to us, and hopefully each of the games we play prepares us for the Centennial Conference," Cavallaro said. "Being in one of the toughest conferences in the country, there's no question that game in and game out, if you don't play well, you're not going to win. That's been proven in the last ten years."
Andrew Setian, a two-time first team all-Centennial performer, has been the rock for the Dips. The faceoff middie is currently running at a 71.6 percent clip after winning 19-of-27 against the Generals. Kier Blevins has been solid in the midfield, especially on ground balls (second on the team to Setian) along with the combustible James Wenk, who has 10 goals and an assist.
"As a group, everybody has increased their tempo and increased their production," Cavallaro said. "As a team, I feel we've gotten a lot better from a month ago."
F&M will ease into the Centennial schedule – as much as possible, anyway – before running the gauntlet in mid-April when they play Haverford, No. 14 Gettysburg and No. 13 Dickinson in a week. Until then, Cavallaro and the Dips will be quite happy to learn from their wins, and avoid any constructive losses.
- When I spoke with Stevenson head coach Paul Cantabene for last week's Making Sense column, one of the questions I asked him was whether he had to dial it back and nurture this team more since he had so many young and inexperienced players. I was kind of surprised by the answer.
"We aren't nurturing them because we expect to play at a certain level, so we were harder on them to make them rise up and play," Cantabene said. "In high school, all of these kids were the best players on their team, and they were coddled. They got away with a little more than what you can in college. We had to talk to our freshmen and tell them they are good players, but they have to play like they're good players.
"You can't make little mistakes because we need you to be great now. We can't afford for you guys to be great next year. We need it now. They have understood that. We still have to be patient with them. They aren't going to understand things that a more seasoned team like last year would understand; how defenses work and understanding the commitment level. In that aspect, we have to coddle them a little more. But these kids have done a good job in reaching that level and meeting that challenge."
When I spoke with Cantabene, the Mustangs were just coming off their win over Western New England. Now that they have suffered their first loss of the season – a 6-3 loss to Lynchburg – it will be interesting to see how this young team reacts, and if Cantabene changes his style. Stevenson hosts York on Wednesday before traveling to face No. 3 Cortland on Saturday.
- The NESCAC finally opened its season and four of the conference's five ranked teams managed to get out of the first weekend unscathed. No. 2 Tufts broke open a tight game in the second half for a comfortable, 15-8 win over Hamilton while No. 5 Amherst needed a late comeback to halt Colby, 9-8 before dispatching Bates on Sunday. No. 8 Middlebury stifled Bates, 7-1, and No. 18 Bowdoin managed to drop Conn. College in a slugfest, 7-5. The lone casualty was No. 16 Trinity losing their overtime game to Skidmore, 11-10.
- Congrats to Dickinson head coach Dave Webster, who won his 100th game with the Red Devils in the upset win over No. 10 Roanoke on Sunday...can't give a game ball, but congrats to Utica's junior Ben Winkler for tying the school record for goals with eight against Cazenovia...Rosemont lost their first-ever game, 25-2, to Messiah...SUNY Canton posted its first win in program history, a 3-1 triumph over Regis (Mass.)...Curry is 4-0...I'm starting to believe that F&M's Andrew Setian is the best faceoff guy in the country...King's (Pa.) beat Lycoming, for the first time since the program was born in '99. It took overtime to do it, 7-6...Middlebury improved to 25-0 all-time against Bates...Amherst had the rare 6-on-3 advantage against Colby for 30 seconds, and failed to score. The Jeffs won the game, however, 9-8.