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posted 09.02.2011 at 10.43 a.m. by Jac Coyne

MJ: Le Moyne Is Feeling Oddly Optimistic

It's kind of weird, but Le Moyne head coach Dan Sheehan is as fired up for the 2012 season as I've ever heard him. In the wake of the stunning end of last season, in which the Dolphins were passed over for the four-team NCAA Division II tournament despite a 12-2 record and the No. 1 ranking in the USILA weekly poll heading into Selection Sunday, one would think Sheehan would still be simmering about the decision. Yet, as Le Moyne prepares for the upcoming campaign, he has the sound of a coach reenergized.

It weird because the 2011 season was supposed to be the year when the Dolphins shook off three consecutive runner-up finishes in the national champion game – a contest they had participated in for the past five seasons (winning it all in '06 and '07). In addition, according to the USILA, Le Moyne had the best attackman (Jack Venditti), the best defenseman (Pat Moran) and the top faceoff man (Corey Bulken) in the country. Throw in premium players like Jack Harmatuck, Vinnie Alexander and Matt Chadderdon – all six of them were seniors – and the Dolphins were essentially denuded of all of the recognizable names on the roster.

And this has Sheehan excited?

"We'll find some guys at different positions to take advantage of some opportunities that maybe they didn't have last year because of the talent that was in front of them," he said.

Sheehan and the Le Moyne staff have shown that they are particularly adept at filling holes. Moran is a perfect example. After toiling for a couple of years as a serviceable LSM, he was bumped down to close defense and evolved into the best pole in the country. However, the Dolphins haven't dealt with this kind of turnover. As such, Sheehan is not going to harp on how the 2011 campaign ended.

"This might be the first time in a long time that we don't know our expectations until we get going," Sheehan said. "It's really not fair to put the burdens of a team from last year on a team coming in. With that said, I don't think that we need to remind anybody how the season ended. Everybody around here is aware that for the first time in a long time we didn't make the tournament. Each team has to develop its own personality, and as a coaching staff, we'll try to help them do that in the best way they can."

In order to maximize the talent on the roster, and perhaps give the returners and incoming players an added incentive heading into fall ball, Sheehan and his staff will be operating with a clean sheet.

"We've tried our best as a coaching staff to let everyone know going into the summer and over the summer that it's about who wants to take advantage of the opportunities," Sheehan said. "Who's going to be ready to take advantage? We'll get rolling in a couple of weeks and we'll see who came back in shape and who came back hungry. We'll see where the chips fall."

The chips will always fall in the Northeast-10 Conference – aka the North region – which makes Sheehan's rebuilding job both more difficult and more compelling.

"From top to bottom, [the NE-10] is very solid," he said. "Just in the past three or four years, the number of coaches who have gone from part-time to full-time has been significant. Any time that happens, recruiting gets better and preparation gets better. We're excited. Adelphi coming into the conference was a huge boost for us. It really is a great a conference."

Le Moyne is coming off a huge disappointment. The Dolphins have been decimated by graduation. And they will be facing a conference as deep as any in the country. Somehow, Dan Sheehan is acting as if he knows something nobody else does.

It might be time for the rest of Division II to start feeling a little weird.