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May 21, 2010

Coyne’s Picks: The D-III National Semifinals

by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Even if Tufts is able to solve the Cortland close defense, the Jumbos still have to find space between freshman goalie Mike Kaminski (above) and the net.
© Darl Zehr Photography

The NCAA Division III men trim the field down to a pair of title contenders for Baltimore on Sunday while the women settle the entire season when they converge on Gettysburg for both the semis and finals over the weekend.

The teams are split between programs that have championships to their credit – Salisbury (men), Cortland, Franklin & Marshall and Hamilton – and those searching for their first chance to hold the Walnut & Bronze aloft – Salisbury (women), Gettysburg, Tufts and Stevenson.

Who’ll get a chance at all the marbles this year?

Men
Tufts (18-1) at Cortland (17-2), 1 p.m., Sunday 

The defending national champs are playing like, well, the defending national champs. The Red Dragons have locked down on the defensive end and, with Chris DeLuca slowly cementing his status as the Player of the Year, the offense is methodically putting the game away. RIT looked like they had a chance in the first half, but the team that beats Cortland will have to play nearly flawless for 60 minutes.

Can Tufts do that, and if not, is there anything the Jumbos can do to alter the course of what appears to be destiny?

Theoretically, yes. They have a goalie, which is one of the wild cards, along with face-offs, in every game. Steven Foglietta is a solid netminder – 8.61 goals against average and a 52.5 save percentage – but he’s not a game changer…yet (he’s only a sophomore). As for face-offs, Tufts is running at 52 percent as a team, which doesn’t instill a lot of confidence against a Cortland team currently operating at a 62 percent clip, led by DeLuca (69%).

It would be helpful if we could go back to the Red Dragons two losses – 7-5 against Gettysburg and 12-11 against Salisbury – and unearth an Achilles’ heel, but that was a completely different team. To wit: DeLuca only took 11 of a possible 42 face-offs (winning eight) in those contests.

The problem with picking Tufts is there is just not one part of the field or one aspect of the game that the Jumbos can unequivocally say they have an edge over Cortland. That’s not good. In the end, we’ll probably witness a result in the range of the Red Dragons 16-8 triumph over Middlebury in last year semis.

Cortland, 14-8.

Stevenson (19-1) at Salisbury (20-1), 1 p.m., Sunday 
I think everyone felt that this was the likely semifinal match-up in the south and it managed to come to fruition.

Barely.

Although we were a couple of minutes (and goals) away from a Haverford-Roanoke semifinal, everything worked out the way these two CAC heavyweights had hoped. Now we have to deal with with Round III. I’ve tackled the meeting for the third time issue before, but I’m starting to think this game is going to come down to one player on each team.

We just need to know who is going to have the better day: Stevenson goalie Geoff Hebert or Salisbury face-off man Ryan Finch?

Both players were the difference between a win and loss in the quarterfinal match-ups.

Hebert made a career high – and, frankly, insane – 27 saves as the Mustangs managed to subdue a feisty Roanoke team. The Maroons out-shot Stevenson, 72-40 on the afternoon, but because Hebert came to play (15 of the stops were in the second half), the ‘Stangs advance. If you’re keeping track, that would mean Hebert has allowed 23 goals in the last two games while making 49 stops, for a save percentage of 68.1. It also means he’s seeing beach balls right now.

Finch won 18 of the 24 face-offs in the game against the Black Squirrels, the last one being the most critical. Finch won the opening draw in overtime, sprinted down the field and potted the game-winner 12 seconds into the extra session, his second of the game.

Who’ll make more of difference in this game? I’ve got to go with Hebert. As Stevenson head coach Paul Cantabene knows, the face-off position can dictate a game, but when a goalie is red hot it doesn’t matter. I think this game will prove that the first match-up – a 16-10 win for Salisbury when Hebert was out with an injury – was an anomaly.

Stevenson, 11-9.

Women
Hamilton (20-0) vs. Franklin & Marshall (16-3), 11 a.m. (at Gettysburg), Saturday
Despite the presence of a pair of championship goalies in net – Kate Fowler was in the cage when Hamilton notched its title in 2008 and F&M’s Lidia Sanza has won titles in ’07 and ’09 – this game will be about the defense in front of them and which can do the better job.

The same was true in ’08 when the two teams met in the championship game. In that case, the Dips couldn’t stop the Hamilton players crashing the cage while the Continentals were able to blunt the F&M attack, allowing Hamilton to win the game comfortably despite Fowler making only six saves.

Will that happen again in this semifinal?

Yes, I think it will.

A trio of sophomores are doing yeoman’s work on the backline for Patty Kloidt’s squad. Lauren Sokol, Josie Jones and Meg Pengue have helped the Continentals allow just 18 goals in the last four games.

In addition, Sarah Bray, who was the MVP of the ’08 tournament as a freshman, is playing lights out. She is not only scoring goals (28), but also setting up all of her teammates (45 assists). Throw in Liz Rave (42 goals) and four other players with at least 28 markers, and Sanza is going to be under siege.

Never underestimate F&M, however, because not only does Sanza have the potential to catch fire, but Blake Hargest (51g, 38a) and Meredith Lussier (56g, 26a) are deadly when given space. I don't they'll find any. 

The game will be close for the duration, but it’s Hamilton in the end, 12-9.

Salisbury (19-1) at Gettysburg (18-3), 2 p.m., Saturday
Whereas Hamilton and F&M are hoping to get back to the top, Salisbury and Gettysburg are still trying to reach the pinnacle for the first time. One will get a crack at it while the other will deal with the frustration for another year.

This will be a tough game to predict. Salisbury has more offensive fire-power, but Gettysburg has an efficient defensive game-plan. The Sea Gulls are the higher seed, but the Bullets are the home team. But since I’m duty-bound to select a winner, I’m going with Salisbury.

Why? Because of the weapons. Despite the presence of two very good defenses, I think this game is going to turn into a shootout. This is exactly what the Bullets don’t want – they’d probably be excited for a game in the single-digits – but they are going to have their hand forced by the likes of Kim Cudmore (35g, 50a), Logan Bilderback (47g, 7a), Jessica Chmielewski (30g, 24a) and three others with at least 40 points this season.

Although it isn’t always put on display against the top tier teams, Gettysburg can score, as well. Nina Emala (59g, 21a) and Hollis Stahl (56g, 15a) make for a deadly combo at the top of the list while four other players have at least 45 points. I think the Bullets will score plenty of goals against Salisbury, but they’re going to need one more when the final whistle sounds.

It’ll be the Gulls, 15-14.


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