NCAA Division III Notebook
I got the opportunity to watch the webcast of No. 9 Lynchburg's exciting, 13-12 victory over (former) No. 1 Salisbury, and there were three key points that stood out to me. I was able to catch up with Hornets' head coach Steve Koudelka prior to his eight-year-old son's rec basketball game on Sunday to get his thoughts on my trio of takeaways.
Point No. 1: Joe Lisicky, Lacrosse Magazine's Preseason Player of the Year, didn't play against the Gulls as he is still nursing a lower body injury. Missing Lisicky's production on the field is obviously a huge setback — he's the best defender in Division III — but there's also the psychological impact of going into a huge game without one of the team's stars. It's almost like a built-in excuse. Still, Lynchburg didn't flinch. How'd the Hornets pull that off?
"I would like to think it's the makeup of the program," Koudelka said. "We've only had one first-team All-American over all these years. I give a lot of credit to Joe, as well, just talking to the young players during the game and helping those guys out. We've known for a couple of weeks that we wouldn't have him for the game. It's not like we found out Friday afternoon. We've been letting that sink in with the guys. It's a team effort. Teams win games first, not individual players, and that's something we've tried to get across to our players."
What's the timeline on Lisicky?
"He's close to being back, and we're hoping he comes back sooner than later, that's for sure," said Koudelka with a laugh. "We want him in the lineup!"
Point No. 2: Even with all of the turnover and all of the graduated All-Americans, Salisbury was in a good spot because they had Tyler Granelli returning on faceoffs, along with his able backup, Chris Biank. The production at the faceoff X was going to cover a lot of warts for the Gulls, especially early in the season. It figured that Lynchburg would do its best to neutralize Granelli, but as it turned out the Hornets faceoff duo of Vin Curran and Bobby Distler dominated Granelli, who finished 6-for-16 (38%). How'd LC pull that off?
"I give a lot of credit to two of my assistants," Koudelka said. "Jeff Schwartz, who played last year and was a faceoff guy, and Steve Bradney, who is our volunteer assistant who helps out with a lot of faceoff stuff with our guys, as well. Our game plan going in was just to make it a 50-50 ground ball. I think our guys were able to do that. [Granelli] jumped a couple of times early, and I think we even got a man-up penalty because of it with the new rules. I think that slowed him down a little bit at times.
"Again, the goal was to make it a 50-50 ball and have six guys battle for it — three for us and three for them. We were able to do that. On the wings, we felt like we were athletic enough to battle. We didn't just want to give in to him and let him have his way. We've seen him do that and he's done that against us in the past. Having someone like Coach Schwartz, who has gone against him, and was able to give some insight to the two guys who took our faceoffs was nice."
Point No. 3: Salisbury is all about pressure. Much of it is pressure in the literal sense. They push out at every chance they get and make the game as fast as possible. The Gulls also pressure you mentally by their reputation and talent. They are never out of a game, and when they start to make a run, other teams often wilt (see the Stevenson regular season game last year). Salisbury did the same thing to Lynchburg on Saturday. Trailing 11-7, the Gulls scored four goals in a span of 3:20 to tie the game heading into the fourth. The Hornets, however, didn't cave.
"We were up 11-7 and our guys felt like we gave them two goals there, and I give our guys credit for understanding that," Koudelka said. "One was on a man-down clear where [goalie] Adam [Davey] made a mistake and good teams cash in on that. What was nice was we got a little bit of a break because the quarter ended at 11-11. We were able to regroup. Players in the huddle were all just very positive. Hey, we've got 15 minutes left and we're in a tie ballgame with Salisbury.
"Over the years, we've been fortunate enough to be able to tell our guys that we should be able to outscore teams in the fourth quarter. Our guys believed that and some of the older guys relayed that message to the younger guys. This is our time to shine. In the fourth quarter, we got a great man-down stop. We were able to score a goal and then they came back and scored to tie it. Then it became an awesome lacrosse game, if it wasn't already. We were able to capitalize at the end of the game, and it was nice having the ball late."
Even when Davey, a sophomore, had the bad turnover that helped extend Salisbury's comeback, Koudelka never flinched on the sidelines. He remained calm through the entire play even though it was happening literally yards from him. How did he remain so stoic?
"Being a former goalie, the worst thing I could have done right there was lay into him," said Koudelka about Davey. "I don't think I would've wanted my coaches to do that. So I let it roll for a couple of seconds and kind of said, 'You know what, it's OK.' He made a mistake and he knew it. That's something we can work on this week. It's a correctable mistake. That's what we tell our guys all the time: we want to push the envelope. We want them to play fast and let's make our mistakes going at full speed.
"Salisbury makes you play full speed. The mistakes we made yesterday, we'll see on film and we'll be able to correct him. In that moment, it would have been the worst thing to do would be to get all over Adam. Not to mention, I know the guys on the team are watching, too, so I have to watch what I do there. It was just one of those cases where you say, 'All right, that wasn't the best situation, but we're still up and let's just play. Next goal counts.'"
A dangerous and hungry Franklin & Marshall team awaits next weekend. Are the Hornets ready to build on the win?
"We'll have our hands full up there," Koudelka said. "It's the first road game for our young guys. There are some challenges that lie ahead, but I'd rather be 1-0 going into that game than 0-1. That's for sure."
- Congratulations to Hampden-Sydney head coach Ray Rostan, who became the 11th coach in NCAA lacrosse history to hit the 300-win plateau. Rostan hit the milestone with the Tigers' 9-8 victory over Mary Washington...congrats to Jason Tarnow and Baldwin-Wallace, which won its first ever game with a 10-7 victory over Calvin...Aurora obviously wanted the win, but an 11-9 loss to Ohio Wesleyan is encouraging...nice win for Albion over Kenyon, 10-9. The Lords were a tournament team last spring.
- Colorado College put itself in nice position for a Pool B bid with its weekend road sweep of Greensboro (10-9 in 2OT) and Guilford (11-8)...after being locked in a tight game with Nazareth early on, Stevenson pulled away for a 17-11 victory...Goucher needed five consecutive fourth-quarter markers to break open a tie game and post a 13-9 win over Birmingham-Southern...if you've got a minute, here's a good read on Otterbein captain Steve Resch, who will miss his final season with the Cardinals...there are a lot of little things that make the difference in a one-goal game, but Albert Mitchell's 21-for-25 production on faceoffs was definitely a big thing in St. Mary's victory over Roanoke.