Le Moyne, Limestone Meet Again in Another '12 Reunion Weekend
When No. 2 Le Moyne and No. 3 Limestone meet in Baltimore this weekend, it will be a rematch of last year's NCAA semifinals, giving the contest a dose of extra gravitas if the rankings didn't set the stage already. More compelling is the contrast between the team's two styles — the Spartan-like self-control of the Dolphins against the Canadian-fueled creativity of the Saints.
"They are as disciplined a lacrosse team as there is," Limestone head coach J.B. Clarke said of Le Moyne. "Coach Sheehan does a terrific job with them. They do what they are asked to do, and they do it really well. He puts them in a position to be successful, especially offensively. They get to where they need to be to score goals. A lot of people think that Le Moyne is a slow-it-down team. I don't think they are a slow-it-down team; I think they are very disciplined with their shot selection and how they play."
Judging by last year's box score, you would think it was Limestone grinding out efficient possessions and Le Moyne running and gunning. The Dolphins held a 42-15 advantage in shots, but found themselves trailing 4-1 after and could never get closer than two in a 10-8 loss to the Saints. It's a home loss that still resonates in Syracuse.
"I think it goes without saying that our guys remember, but last year is last year," said Le Moyne head coach Dan Sheehan.
One of the reasons for the Dolphins huge advantage in shots was the play of faceoff man Kam Bumpus, who won 16-of-22 draws on that day. Limestone faceoff specialist Jake Ternosky, who grew up 10 miles from Le Moyne, entered the game as the Conference Carolinas Player of the Year, but was completely dominated by Bumpus. The two are back, and their match-up will shape Saturday's contest.
Bumpus is winning 81 percent of his faceoffs after four games while Ternosky is at 65 percent, albeit against stiffer competition.
"We certainly know that Jake is one heck of a faceoff guy," Sheehan said. "He was right here in our backyard and he certainly had a tremendous impact this [past] weekend against Merrimack. We've got a good one ourselves. Kam kind of limped through last year, fighting the injury bug pretty much from start to finish. There is no doubt in my mind that Kam is excited, but the faceoffs are more than just one-on-one. So far, our wing play has been fantastic. It's those decisions after the whistle that have just as much to do with who wins the faceoff as the two guys who get down for it."
"If you look at the stats from last year's semifinal game, we got beat up pretty good in the middle," added Clarke. "If that happens again, I don't think the end result will be the same. We need to face off as a team a little bit better and get Jake some help. Bumpus is as good as there is. We think Jake is pretty good too. Getting those extra possessions is important for us as it is for them. That's going to be the matchup to watch."
Bumpus is really the one player who has stood out for the Dolphins. They still have one of the best defenders in the game in Alex Cameron-Carter and Jeff White, who was named the top goalie in D-II last spring, but they've just been cogs in the machine so far.
"I'm not sure if there is one guy that stands out above the rest," Sheehan said. "Our success will be about a balanced attack on offense along with our midfield. The rules and the pace of play has changed, but people still attack the short-sticks and we're able to have a solid core on that back line. Nobody is standing out quite yet, but we'd be quite alright with that if we went through the season with a total team effort."
Meanwhile, the face of the Limestone team is Riley Loewen, whose creativity and finishing ability on attack has made him one of the most recognizable attackman in Division II. Loewen's running mate used to be Shayne Jackson, but now it's senior Corey Rich, who has 13 goals and 12 assists in six games.
"More than anything, I think Corey is finishing the opportunities that he had a year ago at a higher rate," Clarke said. "I don't know if the stats bear that out, but Corey is really getting to the front of the goal and finishing this year. We worked a lot with Corey on dodging more with his head up and he's dishing a lot of assists as well. He's an athletic kid. Last year he had a busted thumb for the last two months of the season, and I think that really hindered him. He's playing great."
Like Limestone's meetings with Dowling and Merrimack earlier this year, the stakes in this interregional clash are relatively low. Both teams will make the eight-team NCAA tournament this spring. Still, there's something on the line.
If Limestone downs the Dolphins and runs the table the rest of the way, they will be in great position to make sure the South region runs through Gaffney, S.C., regardless of how Mercyhurst does. For Le Moyne, they can get the taste of the NCAA debacle out of their mouths while putting the rest of the North on notice that nothing has changed.