Monday Notebook: NCAA Division II
One of the somewhat surprising teams in NCAA Division II this year has been Mars Hill, a school located just north of Asheville, N.C., and a member of the Deep South. And they've been doing it with new coach Dave Klarmann. While Klarmann doesn't lack experience – he has an extensive resume, including nine years as head coach at North Carolina – this is his first stint in D-II, so the 10-1 start to the season is pretty impressive.
"The players I was left with are really pretty good," Klarmann said. "The programs we were playing in the first few games were first- or second-year programs, so I had a real advantage in having veterans against younger teams. So all I had to do is get their names right and make sure I had lefties and righties and it didn't matter who was coaching which team for the first few games. In the last few games I've been playing teams that have seniors and juniors and it's more of a dogfight. Now I have to earn my stripes."
In general, Klarmann has been pleased with the talent level on the team, and raves about his senior LSM Chris Cudmore. "He would play for anybody," Klarmann said. The coach notes that the big difference between Division I and Division II is the depth of talent.
And maybe the recruiting.
"It's not like I can be at a doorstep on July 1 of your junior summer and say here is a full-ride," Klarmann said. "That doesn't happen. We'll go out July 1 after their senior year and say, 'Here's a couple of hundred dollars. Would you like to come?' We have academic packages and grants and those types of things. We get to show kids a beautiful part of America. We have a lot of nice things that you don't know about until you see them."
Klarmann's predecessor, Sean Woods – now the head coach at Colorado College – brought in a lot of Canadians and the Lions' roster is still dotted with foreign players. Klarmann, who says he's no stranger to British Columbia or Ontario, hopes to keep a strong north-of-the-border influence with the program.
"The Canadian kids we have here that Coach Woods brought in are as high a quality human beings as I've ever seen," Klarmann said. "Have you met a coach anywhere who said, 'Oh, those Canadians, they don't try hard?' I'd like to find a coach who says they have a Canadian lacrosse player who doesn't give it his best every time he steps on the field. I haven't found one. They might not execute it the way you'd like them to do it, but it's not from lack of effort from any of those guys."
Backed by Canadians, the Lions now must win the remaining two games on their regular season schedule, which includes a road date with Limestone, along with the Deep South Conference tournament if they hope to earn a bid to NCAA tournament. It's not something that Klarmann has brought up with his players, but he doesn't really need to.
"They know," he said. "We know we have to win four in a row to go the NCAA. There's no secret. There's no need to hide it."
If they don't end up running the table, it won't ruin Klarmann's first season at Mars Hill.
"If you're sole purpose for coaching the sport is to get into the NCAAs, you probably should rethink why you're doing this," he said. "Maybe this is my age, but you should love playing. This should be fun stepping on the field. I get off on watching guys run a fastbreak well, both offensively and defensively. I don't take it for granted and I appreciate it everytime we do it well."
- When I spoke with Mercyhurst coach Chris Ryan about his relationship with Dowling head coach Tim Boyle leading into Saturday's game, I asked him about the 19-5 wipeout of No. 10 Seton Hill – a team that beat Post and made both Dowling and Le Moyne work. Ryan said the Griffins are a team to be reckoned with. It was just one of those days.
"We had some success in areas that heading into the game I was concerned about," Ryan said. "The ball just sort of got rolling. That Seton Hill team, they are going to beat people down the road, there's no doubt about that. One time we had a kid going out of bounds and he just scoops it over his head and he hits one of our kids in the stick. At that point as a coach you're scratching your head on the sideline and you're saying, 'Maybe it's just our day at this point.' There was a lot of hustle and a lot of luck that turned into a successful day."
- So now that the pecking order in the ECC has been set with Mercyhurst's win over Dowling, the attention switches back to the Northeast-10 where No. 4 Merrimack will host No. 5 Adelphi in a critical contest. The Warriors, who are currently undefeated, could take a loss here and still be in the mix with a game remaining against Le Moyne. And on the flip side, a win over Adelphi would keep the North region in the running for the Wild Card (and heighten the importance of Dowling's game against Limestone on May 6).
However, if the Panthers drop a second game in the NE-10, it could be game over. Realistically, Adelphi would have to win the remainder of its regular season games – not an impossible task, by any means – but then win the conference tournament by going through Le Moyne and Merrimack again. That would be a slightly taller order. We'll find out on Saturday just what road Gordon Purdie's troops will have to take if they want to get another shot at the NCAA title.
- NYIT outscored C.W. Post, 8-1, in the second half as the Bears knocked off the Pioneers, 11-6...Florida Tech topped Coker, 11-9, in a match-up of first-year programs on Friday night...Le Moyne posted the shutout against Southern New Hampshire in a game that only took 1:40 to play...Ohio Valley picked up a pair of wins this week against a couple of Division III teams.