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posted 02.13.2012 at 10.03 a.m. by Jac Coyne

Monday Notebook: NCAA Division II

- One of the difficult parts of writing feature stories is attempting to cram in all of the pertinent information about a player or coach into a smooth read. Sometimes important stuff gets left on the cutting room floor, so to speak, and that was the case regarding my story this past week on Dowling attackman Vito DeMola. I wrote about his Japanese jiu jitsu background and his transfer from Hartwick, but an aspect of DeMola's college career didn't fit the story.

There are numerous lacrosse teams of both genders that participate in the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation, which partners sick children with athletic teams in hopes of giving the youngsters a great experience. The Dowling men's team has been doing it for several years, and DeMola is the man who has made it work for the past two seasons. The Lions have adopted Cameron Riccommini, an 8-year-old who suffers from Chordoma, a rare, malignant cancer that forms adjacent to the central nervous system

"Vito organizes the players to go over and see him play soccer or organizes the blog so the guys can keep in communication with Cam," said Dowling head coach Tim Boyle. "That's one of the main ways to communicate because he might be out of state getting a surgery. Vito organizes the players to go see Cam, either at the house or if he's well enough to play soccer. When he comes to our games, Vito and all the guys are all around him."

DeMola has enjoyed the relationship, which was started by a couple of since-graduated Dowling players, and says the Lions draw strength for Riccommini.

"It motivates us seeing our little guy go through such a hard time," DeMola said. "He comes to our games and shares the same passion with us, whether he's on the sideline or at one of our tailgates. Whatever it may be, Cam definitely boosts the morale for us. He came to our Post game last year in overtime and he was jumping up and down and he was running around the field. It was pretty cool."

Riccommini has to head back into surgery soon for a tumor recently found in his nasal cavity, but DeMola and the Dowling players will be with him the entire step of the way.

- When the word came down that Mercyhurst was getting bumped down to the South region when D-II transitions to its new two-region format (as opposed to the current three-region system), it looked like the Lakers were getting rooked. When a team located a stone's throw from the shores of Lake Erie has to build its schedule among teams from the Carolinas and Florida to stay regionally viable, it was easy to empathize with its plight.

Don't get too misty for 'Hurst. Hidden amongst the NCAA rule book is a stipulation that teams located in contiguous states count as in-region competition. Thus, Mercyhurst, which is located in Erie, Pa., can still count all of the games against New York teams – including most of their current ECC rivals – when putting together their schedule.

"We've been able to play some really good teams for 16 years," said Lakers head coach Chris Ryan. "We've built some tremendous rivalries and the games have always been tight. Playing C.W. Post and Dowling and some of these other teams is part of our identity as a program. We're going to do our best to have a mix of the old and the new. A lot of the coaches have been calling. It'll be interesting to see who is on the schedule."

- First-year programs just aren't what they used to be. Coker and Tampa played the first games in school history on Friday night and both came away with victories over established programs. Coker handed Shorter a 14-7 defeat while Tampa pulled away from its new rival, Florida Southern, 7-4. There used to be a time when start-ups would get hammered during much of their first season, but now they're hitting the ground running. It's a testament to the amount of talent that is looking for a chance to play, as well as to coaches like Rory Whipple, who have made a cottage industry of laying solid foundations for new teams.

- Congrats to Dave Klarmann for picking up his first win as the head coach at Mars Hill. The former North Carolina head man led the Lions to a solid, 11-5 triumph over Rollins in the Deep South Conference opener for both teams...Merychurst's opener against Ohio Valley was postponed by inclement weather. The two teams expect to make up the date...Catawba set its single-game record for goals with 29 against Lees-McRae. The Indians led Bobcats, 18-2 at halftime on their way to the 29-5 victory...Other than the light snow, everything went as expected for Limestone in the 22-3 win against Rollins.