MJ: Setters Starting to Pick Up Pace
It has been six years since Pace, a member of the Northeast-10 located in Pleasantville, N.Y., has posted a record above the .500 plateau, but it almost seems longer. The Setters have never been a power on the Division II scene – the program, which began in 1986, is still searching for its first NCAA tournament bid – but they were in the discussion for a long time. The salad days came during the 1998-2004 stretch when Pace posted a combined 70-30 record under three different coaches, including the 14-1 campaign in '99.
Since '05, the Setters have toiled near the bottom of the NE-10, making the eight-team conference tournament just twice, both visits resulting in a first-round exit. Even with its bleak recent past, the direction of the program is starting to turn upward. While the expectations once again this spring will be modest – returning to the league tourney is one of the primary goals – there is a feeling that Pace could be a player.
Much of the optimism stems from the roster returning in 2012. Only one player – All-American pole Patrick Joyce – graduates and every single point returns. The attack unit, which was made up of two freshmen and a sophomore, struggled at times last spring, but that part of the field should be a strength now.
"We couldn't score," said Pace head coach Dave Carty, about the Setters offensive woes. "We really didn't have the experience to put the ball in the back of the net. We were really just trying to find out what we needed and add some depth. We added a JuCo transfer, a crease kid to finish, and we brought in a nice group of guys. We're hoping for some good things."
It will be Matt Gebhardt (8g, 13a) and William Scioscia (11, 4), both sophomores, along with junior Thomas Earl (18, 7), who will be tasked with improving the attack production. Defensively, a pair of seasoned goalies in senior Kevin Grady (8.61 GAA) and junior Alex Cain (54.0 sv%) anchor a respectable back line.
On a different level, the aforementioned three attackmen are emblematic of the increasing viability of the Pace program. In years past, the Setters couldn't get any traction with the top prep programs on Long Island and in the area, but Gebhardt (West Islip), Scioscia (Immaculata) and Earl (St. Anthony's) chose to come to Pleasantville over other locales.
"You can see the difference," said Carty. "Those types of schools [are in play] now."
With more talent entering the program, the belief is Pace will be able to catch some of the upper echelon teams in the NE-10. It's not unreasonable, considering the Setters were competitive with many of them in 2011, especially late in the season. They lost by two goals on the road to eventual national finalist Adelphi and stayed within two of Bentley and three of St. Michael's. Against nationally-ranked non-conference foe Mercy, Pace was only four goals back.
The upswing is being noticed by the school's lacrosse alumni contingent, as well. Last year, Pace reintroduced its fall alumni game and welcomed 85 former players back to campus. The expectation is to match that number this fall. It's just another avenue for the Setters to increase their visibility in a very competitive part of town.
If Pace can make the NE-10 tourney this year, it will be setting itself up nicely. The Setters will have the knowledge that they can compete in one of the deepest conferences in the country, bolstered by a non-conference slate that includes Mercy, NYIT and Seton Hill. With the NCAA Division II tourney field expanding to eight teams in 2013, the program could be on pace to keep itself in the postseason discussion. Nothing's definite, but it's a lot better place than where the Setters have been.