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posted 03.18.2013 at 10.00 a.m. by Jac Coyne

NCAA Division II Notebook

Molloy head coach Eric Petrullo doesn't coach the score. He doesn't coach the Lions' record – currently standing at 5-0 with a goal differential of 85-35 – either.

"During the games, the score could be 18-1 up or down and I'm coaching the same way," Petrullo said. "I'm barking at kids if they are not making the right look. If they are not doing what they are supposed to be doing, you won't be able to tell. It's never good enough and there is always room for improvement. I remind them of that every single day."

It's always good to stay grounded, especially when you're playing in the ECC, which is always ready to humble even the best teams. When you're a program like Molloy, which has never made the NCAAs, it's a lot easier, although there is some optimism with the Lions this spring.

"We've got a couple of transfer kids in and, last year, we were banged up for a good part of the year," said Petrullo, a graduate of ECC rival NYIT. "We had freshmen play a whole bunch. Now those guys are back with a year under their belt. We've been able to get off to a pretty good start."

The two transfers of note are sophomore attackman Joe Leonard and junior defenseman James Lang, both of whom transferred in from St. John's (N.Y.). Leonard's contributions are unavoidable. In just five games, he has 13 goals and 25 assists – a ridiculous 7.5 points per game average.

"He's a complete player," said Petrullo of Leonard. "He just brings a little attitude to the team that we might have been lacking a little bit. He does all the little things."

The most important contribution from Leonard and Lang has been the everyday approach to the game that this young team – 17 of the 30 roster members are either freshmen or sophomores – has eagerly adopted.

"They kind of pick up on how it's supposed to look," said Petrullo. "It's good for the young guys to kind of see the way you're supposed to be riding and the way you should be working in practice. It's been great because our whole work ethic in practice has changed. It's good for the younger kids to see how it's really supposed to work and now we're kind of seeing how it pays off."

The influx of transfers has certainly been a benefit, but the Lions also learned quite a bit from last year. The Lions lost five games by three goals or less, including setbacks to Mercyhurst and NYIT, and that confirmed that the program wasn't too far away from its overall objectives.

"That was a big growing year for us," Petrullo said.

Molloy finished 2-7 in the ECC last year, which makes it really easy for Petrullo to take the 5-0 start with a grain of salt. After all, the Lions started last year with a 5-2 record before finishing up 7-9. That's why Petrullo will keep after his players in both practices and games.

And there won't be any pleasant looks on the Molloy coach's face this spring, even if the Lions exceed short-term expecations.

"The players joke with me and say, 'Hey, Coach, we just won a game, you can crack a smile'" Petrullo said. "I told them, 'I'll be smiling on Memorial Day weekend. That's when I'll crack my smile.' Until then, we've got business to take care of."

- Despite a pair of losses, Tampa's trip to Long Island to play NYIT (a 13-9 loss) and Dowling (a 14-13 triple OT loss) was nothing but a boon to the Spartans. First off, UT will receive a RPI boost by just playing the Bears and Lions, and the losses won't be too catastrophic unless the committee starts digging into secondary criteria. Second, and perhaps more importantly, Tampa just went into the most fertile lacrosse grounds in the country and proved they could run with a tournament favorite and the defending national champion.

This means when Rory Whipple and his staff start making calls to kids on the island this spring, they'll have a huge chip in their pocket. Tampa will no longer be perceived as a backwater outpost playing marginal lacrosse. Rather, the Spartans are a legit program that is serious about making the postseason. And have we told you about the weather in mid-January? The Spartans are about the repeat this process, albeit at a smaller scale, when they travel out to Colorado to play Mesa and Adams in late April.

Whipple and the Tampa players will tell you they are disappointed about losing both games in New York, especially the Dowling game that was in their grasp, but in reality, that trip was nothing but a long-term win for the Spartans.

- Another come from behind win for Adelphi, this time against St. Anselm, 8-7. The Panthers do keep things interesting...NYIT's Luke Miller went off against No. 11 St. Michael's, scoring five goals and setting up three more in a 14-10 triumph...No. 7 Merrimack needed to outscore Lake Erie, 5-2, in the fourth quarter in order to scrape up a win, 11-10. There just aren't that many easy games anymore...Tom Cleary scored his fifth goal in the third overtime to save No. 5 Dowling in triple overtime against Tampa...Pfeiffer is definitely in the hunt for the fourth bid in the South, but it narrowly avoided a calamity with an 8-7 win over Florida Southern...oddest note of the weekend: Rollins held its 'Senior Day' on Saturday. Seems a tad early, no?