Men's NCAA Division II Weekly Notebook
It was that uncomfortable feeling a coach gets when the score doesn't reflect the flow of the game, and he starts wondering, "Is it going to be one of those games?"
Despite controlling most aspects of Friday night's game against NYIT, Tampa found itself trailing early 2-0. It was still only 2-2 after the first period even with all of the statistical indicators leaning heavily toward the Spartans.
"Originally when they started out, [NYIT] got a couple of nice goals with some good possessions and certainly that made me a little nervous," admitted Tampa head coach Rory Whipple. "Then we started clicking. We started playing better and with more confidence. Things started to open up and shots started to fall."
Boy, did they ever.
Over the following two periods, Tampa outshot the Bears, 24-12, and scored 10 of the next 13 goals for a 12-5 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The final count was 15-6 – the second worst loss for NYIT since 2005.
Every aspect of the Spartans game was humming. The attack of Jake Rooney, Mike Morris and Conor Whipple – all three Division I transfers – amassed eight goals and dished out four assists despite still acclimating to each other.
"They are just getting going," Whipple said. "Conor came here in January. Morris played hardly at all in the fall. Rooney was out until Thursday with a mild concussion from the week before. They are just starting to get to know each other and they are going to be a great attack. Two sophomores and a freshman? All D-I transfers? I'm excited about those guys."
The 15 goals immediately catches your eye, but the defense also played a huge role. Shawn Murphy amassed four goals an assist for NYIT, but the Spartans limited player of the year candidate Luke Miller to three assists and dangerous crease man Cory Triola to one score.
"We had a sophomore, Marty Heyn on [Miller] and he did a real good job," Whipple said. "We were quick to double him when he got to the goal line extended with Nate Tembi. Our third guy, Larry Gress, had a real good game. I thought our team defense played very well. A lot of preparation went into that. We worked hard on it. We were concerned with Luke Miller and their crease guy and we did a real good job on both them."
Whipple said the victory over NYIT was the best win in the history of the program, which is just in its third year. The Spartans had a win over Mars Hill, which was ranked No. 8 at the time, in the inaugural season, but they had never defeated a team with Tech's cachet. Still, Whipple's keeping a tempered approach to the victory, for two reasons in particular.
The first is Whipple knows he didn't get an NYIT team running on all cylinders. Whipple graduated from Cortland, so he knows that February in New York can be a dicey proposition.
"We couldn't have played New York Tech at a better time," he said. "With all the cold weather, their field is a sheet of ice. You could tell they hadn't been outdoors on a full field. You play that game in three weeks, it could be a different story."
The second is he doesn't want to get his kids thinking they are better than they are. While the win over NYIT is a huge feather in the Spartans' helmet, it's a non-region game. They still have huge regional clashes with Lake Erie, Limestone and Mercyhurst, not to mention rivalry contests against Florida Southern and Saint Leo.
"We'll probably put the hammer down on them this week," said Whipple with a laugh. "I don't want them to start feeling too good about themselves. We can't be feeling too good about ourselves, but we also have to be confident enough that we can play and compete at a high level."
It's a great spot to be in for Tampa.
Lacrosse Magazine Player of the Week
Conor Whipple, Fr., A – Tampa
Projecting the final Division II brackets in February? Yes, it seems preposterous, but this will be a running subsection in the D-II weekly notebook, and will obviously get clearer the closer we get to Selection Sunday. The baseline consists of the teams that made up last year's tourney and will change as events warrant. This first version will look vaguely familiar.
Slides & Rides
- How close did this turn into a lost weekend for NYIT? Well, the Bears were tied with Florida Southern with under a minute to play before Luke Miller came to the rescue with 38 seconds left for a 9-8 win. With the weather on the Island, everyone knows this isn't the version of NYIT we'll see in two weeks, but this sojourn was very close to being an incapacitating southern swing. An 0-2 start and the Bears would be dancing on a razor's edge for the rest of the year despite the non-region competition.
On the bright side, Miller snapped out of his early season scoring funk. After getting blanked for the first 97 minutes of the weekend (although he did have three dimes against Tampa), Miller scored four in the final 23 minutes against Florida Southern, and all of them were needed. In addition, Bill Dunn can feel confident in goal with the play of rookie Alex Seltzer. The final score didn't look pretty, but Seltzer kept the Tampa game close for as long as he could with six stops in the first quarter and 10 in the first half. He followed that up with 10 more in the win over the Mocs.
- Mars Hill head coach Dave Klarmann knew that his Lions were going to have their hands full with Pfeiffer. In the end, the No. 11 Falcons pulled out the win, but the game played itself in a very odd manner. Mars Hill jumped on Pfeiffer, racing out to a 6-2 lead after one and the Lions still held a 9-8 lead at the half. Alas, the Falcons posted a 7-0 third quarter, finishing with the 18-11 triumph.
- Limestone grinded out its second straight victory. Clinging to a 5-3 lead late in the third quarter, the Saints scored five goals in the final 16 minutes to take a 10-5 triumph against Saint Leo. This appears to be Limestone's plight this year...LIU Post couldn't beat Winter Storm Pax, so the Pioneers didn't get off the Island to face Queens. Considering what happened to NYIT, it might have been a bullet dodged...Wingate won its season opener for the first time since '11, downing Young Harris, 12-6...Rollins won its first opener since '09 when the Tars took down Belmont Abbey in double overtime, 9-8.