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January 30, 2011

Making Sense: 'Horns Hook First Upset

by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | Coyne Archive | Twitter

With a new coach and a resilient attitude, No. 20 Texas rallied to pull the first upset of the spring by edging No. 5 Florida State on Saturday night, 12-11. It's still early but the Longhorns have the look of a contender.
© Cecil Copeland/theathleticimage.com

I had this story written. Florida State breezes past Texas. Or something to that effect.

The No. 5-ranked Seminoles were a logical pre-game hedge. FSU has tons of talent, a premium goalie, tournament experience, and a steady coach. I just didn't bank on No. 20 Texas – a team that imploded at the end of last season and was breaking in a new coach – to play with poise, as well as with a chip on its collective shoulder.

"We said last night was kind of statement game," said Longhorns coach Brian Myers on Sunday morning as he was navigating his way out of New Orleans, the site of the game. "We feel like we don't get a lot of respect in the MCLA. Hopefully this caught some people's attention and proves that we can play with anybody in the Top 10 or even the Top 5."

The 12-11 win for Texas not only proves the Longhorns can square off with any team in the MCLA, but that the Longhorns are also a resilient bunch.

Florida State scored 20 seconds into the game and built a 4-1 lead early in the second quarter, bringing the game to the brink of being a runaway. Texas took a series of penalties – including a bench penalty that Myers admitted "didn't help the cause" – and although the Seminoles only netted one extra-man goal, the constant man-down situations had the 'Horns on their heels.

With the help of junior midfielder Johnny McKnight, who finished with six goals on the evening, the Longhorns battled back. Their efforts were perhaps aided by a bit of complacency on the part of FSU.

"We scored in the first 20 seconds and we thought, 'Hey, we'll just cruise through this game,'" said Seminoles coach Bill Harkins. "I think we were shocked when their team kept playing hard. They came back and actually went ahead. I think at one point they came back and were leading by four or five goals. We didn't know what was going on."

"We have a young team, but I thought it showed a lot of character by our guys to push through that adversity in the first quarter," said Myers. "Then we started to put some goals together and we tied it up. Then we took the lead at halftime, 5-4, which was pretty awesome because I think it says a lot about our guys. It also gave us a lot of momentum going into the second half."

Throughout the game, Texas consistently provided Florida State with an avenue to get back into the game via the yellow hanky, but the 'Noles declined the offer. FSU went an abysmal 1-for-11 on extra-man chances.

"If you take the national average, we score four goals and win by a couple," said Harkins. "But they just outplayed us. Even when we got into gear, they kept coming on. They played 50 good minutes, we played 10 good minutes – a few at the beginning and a few at the end."

"Our man-down stood on their head; they played unbelievable," said Myers. "They really played as a unit and our goalie, freshman Jordan Lee, had a great game. The book says he has 14 saves, but all the saves he made were critical stops."

Lee's play was crucial, but it was McKnight's evening. With the Texas attackmen taking a pass-first mentality in deference to the 'Horns powerful midfield unit, McKnight constantly found himself open for a shot or spotted a lane to the cage.

"Johnny can shoot with anybody in the country at whatever level it may be," said Myers, a former D-I standout who played in the MLL. "He's one of those guys who is going to take a lot of shots, 15 to 20 shots a game, and you really can't get mad at him when they aren't the highest percentage shots. You can't get mad because some nights he is going to get them on cage and score six goals. If he gets it on cage, the goalie is usually not going to save it. And I'm really not kidding when I say he can shoot with anybody in the country."

"He was terrific," said Harkins of McKnight. "He was great at cutting across the crease and finishing."

Texas is clearly a legit team this year, but can we set the storyline for the 'Horns now?

Combined with the 24-4 beatdown of conference foe LSU on Friday night, Texas is 2-0, but Lindenwood, Oregon, Florida and Virginia Tech loom in the next month. A showdown with defending Lone Star Alliance champ Texas State awaits in the last game of the season. And it's important to keep in mind that despite notching the first upset of the season, this is a team that lists 30 of its 35 current players as freshman eligibity-wise.

As I learned while prepping for this story, it's best not to get too far ahead of ourselves when analyzing UT. But there's no denying one thing: it was a heckuva win for the Longhorns.

"I don't think our guys will rest on that," said Myers. "We've got a lot of good games ahead of us."

Game Balls

Clark Dansby
– Attack, Texas State

The final score – 17-8 – makes it appear that Texas State had a comfortable win over TCU in its season opener, but the Bobcats led by just two goals, 9-7, in the second half before pulling away. Dansby was a big reason why TxState was able to even have a lead. The sophomore had one goal and dished six assists, most of them coming in the first half. Dansby is a transfer from St. Edward's (MCLA D-II), where he led the Hilltoppers in goals and points in 2009.

Matt Frank – Middie, North Florida

The Ospreys had little trouble putting away Reinhardt on Saturday, coasting to a 21-1 victory, helped by the junior's performance. Frank scored five goals and dished out three assists in the triumph.

John Goodrich
– Goalie, Florida State
The Seminoles couldn't hold of Texas, but don't blame Goodrich. The senior was outstanding, making 19 saves, allowing FSU to make a late run. "He was terrific," said 'Noles coach Bill Harkins. "He was our best player."

Thomas Kelly – Goalie, Occidental

Kelly turned away 22 shots and allowed just six goals in Oxy's 10-6 victory over Pepperdine in a SLC Division II league contest.

Johnny McKnight – Middie, Texas

As noted above, the junior had a big first weekend for the Longhorns, scoring six goals against No. 5 Florida State after notching three markers in UT's 24-4 rout of LSU on Friday night.

Power Fives

Men's Division II

1. C.W. Post (0-0) – Am I the only one who thinks Eddie Plompen is going to have a monster year?
2. Le Moyne (0-0) – Despite a title drought, the Dolphins run over the last five years is impressive.
3. Mercyhurst (0-0) – We might not know just how good the Lakers are until April.
4. Merrimack (0-0) – If the Warriors lose to NYIT in the opener, they'll have to sweep Le Moyne.
5. Limestone (0-0) – How much of a transition period will the Saints need to get used to J.B. Clarke?

Men's Division III

1. Tufts (0-0) – Only two more weeks and the Jumbos can finally start practicing!
2. Cortland (0-0) – Off-season acquisitions by Geneseo mean the Dragons may have to earn it.
3. Salisbury (0-0) – Does Greensboro have enough to make it interesting?
4. Stevenson (0-0) – The Mustangs' non-conference schedule is truly a thing of beauty.
5. Middlebury (0-0) - Only two more weeks and the Panthers can finally start practicing!

MCLA Division I

1. Michigan (0-0) – The biggest difference between this year and the last three? FOGO.
2. Arizona State (0-0) – I still think Anthony LaFlam is a bigger loss than Tyler Westfall.
3. Colorado State (0-0) – Expectations are tough, but anything less than a semifinal is a bust.
4. Chapman (0-0) – If they're not careful, the Panthers could be 2-2 heading into March.
5. Oregon (0-0) – Lots o' teams eligible for this spot. The Ducks are the default squad.

MCLA Division II

1. St. Thomas (0-0) – It reached the high-20s in the Cities last week. T-shirt weather for the Tommies.
2. Davenport (0-0) – If the MCLA played 10-minute games, Davenport would be a dynasty.
3. Westminster (0-0) – Darkhorse player of the year candidate: Josh Condas.
4. Utah Valley (0-0) – Did the Wolverines get the memo about the whole strength of schedule thing?
5. Dayton (0-0) – That neutral field game against St. Thomas in late Feb. should be a dandy.

Slides & Rides

NCAA Division II

It's still pretty quiet in MD2. Things will pick up in a couple of weeks. Look for a feature about Merrimack to roll out sometime this week.

NCAA Division III

According to Roanoke's fan site GoNoke.org, the Maroons have strengthened their midfield heading into this spring. Spenser Parnell, a blue-chip high school player out of Fairfield (Conn.) Prep, is transferring to Roanoke from Syracuse and will be ready to roll this spring. Parnell played in eight games for the Orange last year, scoring a goal against Denver. He'll certainly be an asset for the Maroons, but there are still lingering questions about the 'Noke defensive unit – a group that will ultimately determine how successful this team will be.

- When I spoke with new Ohio Wesleyan coach Mike Plantholt this fall, one of the issues he was encountering was putting together a schedule. While OWU got the man they wanted, the timing of the hire left the Battling Bishops' slate incomplete, forcing to Plantholt to scramble. All things considered, he's put together a decent schedule – certainly one that should allow OWU to capture one of the four Pool B bids berth with a 9-3 or 8-4 record. While it wouldn't be enough to crack into the Pool C universe, the games against No. 13 Lynchburg and No. 3 Salisbury provide enough strength for the Bishops' purposes.

OWU's blood rival, Denison, has altered its schedule slightly. Instead of their usual slow build-up to the start of the season, the Big Red is jumping in quickly, facing Washington & Lee before the calendar turns to March. While the Generals aren't ranked, they are still a formidable bunch and will give Mike Caravana a good gauge as to where his team will be at the end of the year. Win or lose, the Big Red will have a chance to regroup as they have nearly a three-week interlude before they play Haverford.

- I don't know why, but I'm a sucker for a countdown clock. My newest favorite is on Hilbert's site. The Hawks, located in Hamburg, N.Y., are a start-up program this year and will likely join the NEAC in the near future. Despite the countdown clock excellence, Hilbert hasn't exactly tested itself in its opening campaign. The toughest game on the Hawks' 10-game docket is Morrisville State...I'm starting to think Wesleyan head coach John Raba is a big nautical guy. Not only are the Cardinals playing a pair of maritime schools (SUNY Maritime, Merchant Marine), but every non-conference tilt is against a school within 30 miles of the Atlantic Ocean...I spoke with Denison coach Mike Caravana. He said he was supposed to give a presentation at the US Lacrosse National Convention, but got snowed in.

MCLA Division I

- Despite the opening game setback, don't expect Florida State coach Bill Harkins to worry about the sky falling. He's been through a rodeo or two before. "They beat us," he said. "It's not how you start, it's how you finish. We'll be fine. It's one game in an 18-game season. I wish we won it, but the nice thing is we get to play another one today." The Seminoles played Auburn on Sunday afternoon and likely leveled their record. FSU has a nearly three-week lay-off until an SELC conference game against Central Florida on Feb. 18.

- One of the toughest aspects of coaching in the MCLA is the lack of scouting tools, especially in intra-conference games. The coaching style of Texas coach Brian Myers suits this reality. "Going into any game, and I've learned this from the coaches I've played for and coached with, is I don't try to think about the other team too much," said Myers. "I go in from the standpoint where we're going to worry about ourselves, and if we play our game and play to our ability, us just playing Texas lacrosse and doing what we do best, we'll be okay."

- Games of interest this week include Lindenwood at Texas State and No. 14 UC Santa Barbara at Cal on Friday evening. Lindenwood against No. 20 Texas on Sunday should also be interesting, if only for comparative purposes...Brekan Kohlitz and Dave Reinhard covered up a lot of pimples for No. 1 Michigan over the past three years. Just last year, Reinhard won 17-of-25 face-offs in the national championship game -- a game UM won by a lone goal. Now that the Wolverines don't have a dominate draw-man, it could be tougher sledding. Michigan is still the prohibitive favorites to repeat, but as was seen in the scrimmage against NCAA D-I Bellarmine on Saturday, the Wolverines will have to do it without the luxury of winning 70 percent of its face-offs...No. 6 BYU plays its typically strong schedule again, but it will be a slow ramp up to the '11 season. The Cougars host lightweight Boise State this weekend, takes a two-week break, and then gets things rolling against No. 13 Loyola Marymount...just a reminder to MCLA fans: scores of scrimmages could be the most worthless piece of information in existence. It's natural to want to extrapolate scores from exhibitions, but they signify absolutely nothing.

MCLA Division II

- St. Mary's (Calif.) plays in the non-AQ WCLL, so the Gaels' tour of the Southeast this week will let us know whether they are contenders for an at-large bid to the tourney or their highest achievement will be repeating as the conference champs. As if modeling the format for the national tournament, St. Mary's will be playing four games in five days, including games against No. 12 SCAD and No. 11 Kennesaw State. Games against Citadel and Emory bookend the trip for the Gaels. If it can snatch three out of the four, St. Mary's should be in the discussion on Selection Sunday.

- Kennesaw State certainly believes it will a contender for a tournament birth out of the SELC this spring and the Owls jumped out to a solid start. While Georgia Southern is no juggernaut, the 19-5 triumph showed KSU is not taking any team lightly...in the grand scheme of things, the game between Dayton and Kentucky won't mean a whole lot, but it will an indicator of what to expect from these teams at their respective levels.


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