Monday Notebook: MCLA Division I
When you're operating in Eugene, it's easy to get sucked into the Oregon football mythos. The Ducks market themselves to the nth degree, mostly via uniform variations, and their schemes have revolutionized the gridiron to an extent. Chip Kelly's dynamic practices are thought to be setting the new norm. It shouldn't be surprising that Oregon lacrosse head coach Joe Kerwin would look toward the Ducks' flagship program when formulating his plans last year.
The results, unfortunately, didn't go quite as planned.
"We were trying to model ourselves after the football team a little too much and how they practice," admitted Kerwin. "We changed up our format and it just led to slower practices. In a sense, we were trying to speed things up, but we weren't hitting things at full speed. There wasn't enough just playing the game. We were being too cutesy."
As such, when he looks back on OU's horrific, 1-5 start to the '11 season, he accepts the blame.
"That start last year had more to do with what we were doing as coaches," Kerwin said. "We were trying to do some different things and it just didn't work out. We weren't prepared, and we learned from it. Last year, it was just a freak thing. We've always been a fast starting team and we blew it on our end. We went back to doing things a little more straight forward."
The results are far better this year. Even with a more inexperienced squad than last year's senior-laden team, the Ducks are 6-2 with the only losses coming to No. 3 Cal Poly (15-12) and No. 5 Chapman (11-9). Fortunately, Kerwin easily determined what went wrong in those two losses and has focused on it in the meantime.
"We hang our hat on three things – faceoffs, riding and ground balls – and we feel that we rode both of those teams and we won the faceoffs percentage-wise," said Kerwin. "But we weren't good on the ground balls and they had more possessions than us. I think everybody on the team would love to play those games again and that's really exciting."
When asked whether he sees any glimpses of the 2007 team – the one that advanced to the MCLA championship game – Kerwin admits that there's one similarity, but as a whole, this is a different group.
"We had a huge class in '06 and no one expected anything from us in '07 because we graduated so many guys. I think we graduated 11 guys last year, so there's that sense of it," Kerwin said. "But it's a different team. That '07 team was so athletic, and we're not that team. We feel like we have athletes, but that year we only rolled five middies. We rode those guys. We're more diverse in the midfield now."
Spencer Robertson is the face of this edition of the Ducks. A high-motor middie, Robertson (15 goals, 11 assists) creates havoc and he's complemented on attack by Matt Johnson (15g, 16a). While his numbers don't necessarily show it, attackman Sean Silverstein (6g, 9a) has been crucial in setting the offensive tone as the primary ball-handler.
Oregon doesn't have the big senior class, or maybe the overall talent, but they have something even more important.
"They're having fun," said Kerwin. "I think if you're having fun, you're going to do well on the field."
- There isn't much to question when you're playing on the number one team in the country, but the numbers for Colorado State sophomore Sean Smith are jarring. Two goals and 13 assists? It's one thing to be the quarterback of the offense, but you expect all your attackmen to be a threat, right?
"Sean is naturally a great feeder and with Cooper [Kehoe] gone, he definitely has been carrying the ball more for us this year," said Rams head coach Alex Smith. "He's probably our best inside finisher, but that just hasn't been his role this year. Plus, he's feeding two outstanding finishers and when our attack is moving well off-ball, they are hard to stop. I'm really happy with the way his role has been redefined this year. It says a lot about him that he has adjusted his game so well in a new situation this season."
Speaking of unexpected numbers, just two goals and three assists out of senior midfielder Greyson Konkel – a guy who notched 20 goals and five assists in '11 – seems a tad low.
"Greyson has been battling injuries and illness so far this year," said Smith. "He and [sophomore Alex] Devlin seem to both get a pole depending on the other team. I think [Konkel is] ready to turn the corner as we move into the second half of the season. We'll see how fresh he comes back after break. We need our middies to continue to be a force if we are going to be successful."
- Sometimes you can't fight Mother Nature, but the game between Florida State and Buffalo that was called because of lightning could be a dagger for both teams come Selection Sunday if they are in the at-large pool...the jury is still out considering their schedule, but Richmond is now 5-0 after beating South Carolina, 11-5...BYU may have shaken things up during their recent hiatus, but one thing has remained constant: Ted Ferrin. He is tops in MCLA-I in goals (34) and has 49 points total...I have nothing but admiration for Nebraska traveling to Boulder this week and running with the big dogs (the 'Huskers were part of the GRLC's I-AA league last year), but it was tough sledding. Nebraska was outscored 58-5 by New Hampshire, Colorado and Clemson...speaking of Clemson, the win over the Buffs is huge if the Tigers don't get the SELC AQ...the game between Illinois and Minnesota-Duluth on April 15 is looking like it'll determine the Nos. 15 and 16 seeds in the tourney.