MCLA Division II Notebook
As he lay in the hospital last fall after a follow-up procedure from cancer surgery in the fall of 2011, Charlie Mark wondered just how many years left he had coaching at Dayton. This latest medical visit wasn't as invasive as the original operation, which removed a football-sized tumor from his colon — "They cut you open like a pig," he said — but it was enough for him to consider hanging up the whistle.
"I was waffling for a while, as you can probably imagine," Mark said.
After his first surgery, lacrosse played a pivotal role in his recovery. Mark was buoyed by the fact that the doctor was a former player from Manhasset, N.Y. — Mark's old stomping grounds before he enrolled at the Naval Academy — and many of his Dayton players came to visit shortly after the operation. They goofed around getting pictures with the nurses as Mark looked on, smiling, and they brought an autographed picture of the team for the surgeon.
"It was a poster and some of the guys wrote things like, 'Thanks, doctor, for giving us back coach," Mark said. "And a couple of them wrote, 'Doc, you're a dead man! You gave us back Coach C!' The doc loved it. I was the most disastrous patient they've ever had, but it was wonderful."
The grind of the season, which once again produced a trip to the national semifinals — the fifth time that has happened in the last six years — combined with his health heading into this season, forced some changes. As such, this season will be very different than any other Mark has ever faced; some of it by his own choosing, some of it unwanted.
The unwanted part is the schedule, which is the smallest in Mark's nine years with only eight games on the slate. Part of it is due to budgetary issues. Road trips to Long Island to play Briarcliffe, which cost $7,700 just for the bus, and Chicago to face St. John's, put a dent in the Flyers' flexibility. The players' unwillingness to play a game over their spring break was also a factor. And this year just wasn't a good fit for some traditional non-conference opponents like North Dakota State.
"I'm uncomfortable with it," admitted Mark. "I think our strength of schedule will be fine, but I wanted to play more games. I'm [angry] that I can't find teams to play us [at home] and we can't travel because we're already over extended financially."
The other change will come on the sideline. In a nod to his health, Mark is handing over a lot of the coaching to his two assistants. Former Dayton players Tom Margraf (offensive coordinator) and John Pastorek (defense) have joined the staff, are taking some of the duties off Mark's plate.
"I'm letting Pastorak put together the daily practice plan," Mark said. "Charlie Mark doesn't give away that kind of control. And now I'm doing it and I like what I'm seeing. It's kind of a new world for me. Obviously, a couple of operations have given me a new perspective. We're finally at a point where I can look at the transition."
He'll certainly need a new perspective when it comes to Xs and Os. Dayton graduated a prolific senior class and Mark admitted that he's not exactly sure where the goals are going to come from. He speaks highly of sophomore Taylor Kolanko and freshman goalie Ross Sattler, but the run-and-gun Flyers are a thing of the past, as the season-opening 6-5 win over Siena Heights testifies.
"We're not going to be easy," Mark said. "It's going to be a slog, no matter who plays us."
There's now a two-week hiatus for the Flyers before they face Briarcliffe on March 16. It's a break that irks Mark, but that's something he's trying to get away from. He says he's not going to be quite as emotional on the sidelines and enjoy the ride a little bit.
And even if he does get a little amped up or isn't quite sure what his coaching future holds, Charlie Mark won't get too worried.
"It beats the [crap] out of dying."
- In its first big test against a D-II opponent, No. 14 Western Oregon downed No. 19 Western Washington. Jacob Bohince, who missed '12 with an injury, scored five goals while senior Tyler Bolton scored four goals along with two dimes. The Wolves should be 6-1 when they head to the Upper Midwest to face No. 6 North Dakota State, No. 1 St. Thomas and No. 5 St. John's in a four-day span.
- St. John's ran into a weather mess on its opening road trip to St. Louis, but it didn't impact the team too much. The Johnnies rolled to four wins by a combined score of 58-10...solid 3-0 start to the season for Grove City with wins over Kennesaw State (12-7), Tennessee Wesleyan (9-4) and Georgia Southern (15-5). Look for the Wolverines to crack the Top 25 poll this week...Andy Fargnoli scored four goals and set up two others, leading No. 11 Elon to a comfortable, 12-6 victory over No. 21 Florida Gulf Coast...No. 17 Palm Beach Atlantic is still rolling along. The Sailfish beat D-I Miami (Fla.), 14-11...Humboldt State is still on track for its showdown with WOU on March 8 after doubling up Pacific.