May 22, 2012

The Midfielder: MD1 Tournament Reaction, Notes

by Matt Forman | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Tewaaraton finalist Peter Baum, as much as any player who met with the media over the weekend, handled the stage with poise, even after a tough defeat, writes Matt Forman.
© Greg Wall

Peter Baum took the dais in the media room tucked underneath the south end of PPL Park, sitting alongside Colgate coach Mark Murphy and teammate Ryan Walsh.

No more than 15 minutes prior, the final buzzer had sounded on the record-breaking season of Baum and the Raiders. Though Baum buried just one goal on 11 shots in Colgate's 17-6 quarterfinal loss to Duke, the nation's leading scorer totaled 97 points for the season — more than any player since Duke's Matt Danowski scored the same number in 2008. The Tewaaraton Award finalist broke seven school and Patriot League marks this season, and just one week prior led Colgate to its first-ever NCAA tournament victory over previously undefeated UMass.

So these were unchartered waters for Baum — both playing in front of 10,000 fans and a national television audience, and taking the stage in front of nearly 30 assembled reporters afterward. But you never would have been able to tell.

Baum, as much as any player who met with the media following the weekend's action, handled the podium with poise, answering each question with thoughtful, insightful responses. He said all the right things.

Per NCAA playoff procedure, each press conference beings with the head coach making an opening statement. Then questions are directed to the players, and once those are finished, eventually questions for the coach once again.

Murphy made his remarks, and he congratulated Duke. Baum answered a few questions directly and honestly (as did Walsh.) But the media didn't get another chance to follow-up with Murphy, who walked off stage with the players. (The media wasn't quite quick enough.)

But this was about Baum being an ambassador for Colgate, an ambassador for the sport. He handled the moment with composure.

"We jumped out, scored four goals. That's what we wanted to do: start fast," Baum said. "Then in the second quarter there, we didn't get the ball a lot. We had a few turnovers, and the wheels kind of fell off. Against a team this good, if you give them a chance like that, they can streak some goals together. That's what they did. They kind of buried us in the second quarter. It's tough to come back after that.

"There was just a stretch there where we really didn't get the ball and control the tempo the way we wanted to in that second quarter. They were able to score four or five in a row in. Once that happened, we didn't do a good job of handling it. If we had managed our emotions better and played the way we wanted to play, I think we wouldn't have had a problem beating our guys, because we were doing it in the first quarter. We let our emotions get the best of us a little bit and started to play a little bit too selfishly — not moving the ball. They just kind of buried us in the second quarter."

"Being an attackman, standing at the midline watching, it's tough. Our defense has battled all year. [We had a] sophomore goalie playing his second ever game, and I thought he made some great saves early on keeping us in it. But a team like [Duke] has so many weapons."

Baum's basic message: Don't judge Colgate's season based on its performance against the Duke buzz saw. There was a lot to like about the Raiders' 2012 season, and they'll be back in 2013. They just need to button up defensively and learn from the quarterfinal experience.

Listening to Baum speak Sunday — as well as Virginia's Steele Stanwick and Duke's CJ Costabile on the same stage, in the same seats — I couldn't help but envision the Tewaaraton Award ceremony. What great acceptance speeches any of these players would give, and how well they would reflect on the sport at large.

Stanwick is a historic talent who ended his career ranked 18th all-time in career points, scoring two goals and dishing out five assists in Virginia's 12-10 loss to Notre Dame. Costabile is a do-it-all long-stick midfielder whose impact is felt well beyond the stat sheet.

But again, you'd never be able to tell with the way they carry themselves. When Costabile was asked about picking up a game-high 15 ground balls, he replied: "It's certainly beneficial with the pole. It's easier to track balls down. I was just fortunate to be in the right spot."

Talk about understating the obvious.

That's what makes this group of Tewaaraton finalists so hard to separate, I would argue. Their contributions sometimes to unnoticed because of circumstance, or who surrounds them.

Stanwick quarterbacked one of the nation's most dynamic offensive units, featuring Chris Bocklet, Rob Emery, Colin Briggs, Matt White, Mark Cockerton, etc.

Baum led a 2,800-student private school (Colgate), from small a town in New York (Hamilton, with a population of 6,700) to the postseason.

Costabile, as Duke coach John Danowski put it, "is such an understated young man. He's certainly not a rah-rah guy. He is quiet. Sometimes we do take him for granted, because he is so quiet, and he goes about his way." But he's also on a team with big-named stars Jordan Wolf, Rob Rotanz, Mike Manley and Justin Turri.

Will Manny paced UMass' high-powered attack that had two other 50-point scorers. And Loyola's Mike Sawyer plays with two of the nation's most dynamic defensive players — Scott Ratliff and Josh Hawkins — plus lefty 45-goal scorer Eric Lusby.

So who has the Tewaaraton edge? History would suggest Costabile or Sawyer, since they're still alive, and all but one of the men's award's winners (Doug Shanahan, 2001) has played in Memorial Day Weekend.

But one thing is clear: There could be more suspense than ever before come May 31, when the Committee names the 2012 winner.

As Cool As The Other Side of the Pillow

"He's the best goalie in the country. I wouldn't even get into a conversation about who was second," Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said of John Kemp.
© Kevin P. Tucker

Baum, Costabile and Stanwick were relaxed and comfortable at the podium. But the coolest character of them all? That would be Notre Dame goalie and Tewaaraton snub John Kemp, who never seems to get flustered on the field either.

Near the end of the first half of Notre Dame's 12-10 defeat of Virginia, Kemp faced a flurry of pressure by the Cavaliers offense. He got a piece of Steele Stanwick's sidewinder, then denied Colin Briggs' step-down shot from the right side as time expired.

In total control, Kemp corralled the shot and lightly tossed it back in Briggs' direction. There might have been a slight hint of, "That's all you've got?"

Kemp's calm has to be deathly intimidating to opposing shooters.

When Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan was asked about Kemp's level-headed nature, he said: "For today, or for the last three years?"

"He's the best goalie in the country," Corrigan continued. "He shows it game after game. I wouldn't even get into a conversation about who was second, because he's been consistently terrific all year long. We sometimes get credit for playing such good defense that people think John Kemp's job is easy back there. It didn't look very easy to me today. He's just a great goalie. And he's our best player."

Duke's Fowler Out With Broken Collarbone

Duke sophomore faceoff specialist Brendan Fowler, who won 12-of-17 faceoffs against Syracuse in the Blue Devils' first-round win, broke his collarbone in the third quarter against the Orange, Danowski confirmed. Fowler suffered the injury on a collision at midfield following a faceoff. It's safe to assume Fowler will miss the rest of the postseason.

Junior Greg DeLuca spelled Fowler in the second half against Syracuse and won 5-of-7 draws, while senior long-stick midfielder and Tewaaraton finalist CJ Costabile — Duke's main option at the X — played on the wings and did not take a faceoff.

"We were working with other young men to try to take the load off of CJ, if we needed to," Danowski said after the Colgate win. "Greg came in last week and gave us a great spark, and we didn't need to use CJ."

But when DeLuca started 1-for-5 against the Raiders in the quarterfinals, Costabile was re-inserted and won 14-of-20 faceoffs.

"[Sunday] you saw Greg struggled a little bit," Danowski said. "It was a senior's time. A senior's moment. And certainly he didn't disappoint."

With Costabile and DeLuca, Duke is plenty potent at the faceoff X, though it will be without Fowler for championship weekend. For the season, Fowler had won 60.6 percent of faceoffs (90-of-149).

Preakness' Impact on Crowd Presence

There were mixed reactions to the size of the crowds that filled Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and PPL Park for the weekend's NCAA quarterfinal action.

But how did the 2012 attendance compare to the last 10 years? Glad you asked.

Year: Total/Average

2002: 13,029/6,515
2003: 13,334/6,667
2004: 15,562/7,781
2005: 12,819/6,410
2006: 15,652/7,826
2007: 18,561/9,281
2008: 23,138/11,569
2009: 23,401/11,701
2010: 18,284/9,142
2011: 27,569/13,785
2012: 24,160/12,080

Though 2012 attendance decreased 12.5 percent from 2011, it still represented the second-highest total ever, and represented a slight increase over the 2008 and 2009 totals. And Saturday's quarterfinal games in Annapolis drew 13,390 fans on the same day as The Preakness Stakes, which attracted a record-break crowd of 121,300 in Baltimore — just 30 miles away.

Nonetheless, it's worth asking: Are attendance totals stagnating as a result of a greater number of games being on TV? (In 2008 and 2009, all four quarterfinals games were broadcast on ESPNU. This year, Saturday's games were on ESPN2 and Sunday's were on ESPNU.)

At the very least, NCAA organizers should avoid planning a quarterfinal in the greater Baltimore metropolitan area on the same day as the Preakness. Put the lacrosse games on Sunday.

Pictorial PPL Park

One of the most popular and common refrains heard on Sunday, both inside and outside the press box: PPL Park is picturesque, and will certainly rank among the top choices to host future quarterfinals.

So much was obvious to Danowski, who said the facility was "phenomenal."

"It would be really cool if in Major League Lacrosse, everybody had a facility like that," Danoski said. "It would be great. Great setting, great place. Just getting a chance to walk around it yesterday, I thought it was a big-time facility. Perfect size for our sport. I would imagine if you were a fan, it seemed like perfect sightlines, no bad seats. Just seemed like a great place to enjoy the game."

Home to Major League Soccer's Philadelphia Union, PPL Park sits along the Delaware River, just underneath the Commodore Barry Bridge, which separates Chester, Pa., from New Jersey. The spacious, open-ended stadium offers stunning views of the water, while Philadelphia's skyline stands in the distance. The overhanging rooftops keep fans mostly in the shade and protected from the elements. And the sightlines are perfect, as the stadium's architecture builds vertically more than horizontally, but isn't too tall.

Growth of the Game

Scott Ratliff, though from suburban Atlanta, was coached by a former two-time All-American defenseman at Maryland, his father Randy Ratliff.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Lacrosse is the nation's fastest-growing sport, numerically and geographically. That was remarkably obvious throughout the quarterfinals, when star players from across the country impacted the outcome of each game.

When Loyola coach Charley Toomey was asked about what this says about the sport. He responded: "It says when this [season] is over, we better go on the road and go recruit. It's great for the state of lacrosse. 'Well they're athletes, but they've got to improve on their stick-skills.' Scott Ratliff might have the best stick-skills of any pole in the country. We've got to get out and find those players."

It also helps that Ratliff grew up in suburban Atlanta learning to play from a two-time All-American. Randy Ratliff, his father, was a defenseman at Maryland in the 1970s. (Not everyone gets this experience. At least not yet.)

By team, here are a few of the quarterfinals' biggest stars, from Seattle to Waxhaw, N.C...

Colgate
Peter Baum — Portland, Ore.

Duke
Chris Hipps — Dallas, Texas

Denver
Carson Cannon — Stillwater, Minn.
Chase Carraro — Louisville
Terry Ellis — St. Louis
Ryan LaPlante — Fort Collins, Colo.

Johns Hopkins
Pierce Bassett — Scottsdale, Ariz.
Marshall Burkhart — Dublin, Ohio
Lee Coppersmith — Boca Raton, Fla.

Loyola
Scott Ratliff — Marietta, Ga.
Mike Sawyer — Waxhaw, N.C.

Maryland
Jesse Bernhardt — Longwood, Fla.
Landon Carr — University Place, Wash.
John Haus — Chapel Hill, N.C.
Drew Snider — Seattle

Notre Dame
Will Corrigan — South Bend, Ind.

Virginia
Rob Emery — San Francisco, Calif.

Said Maryland coach John Tillman, on having a number of players from non-traditional areas: "Typical of us, we kind of have a mixed bag. We take a lot of pride in that. We like the fact that we have a lot of diversity on our team. We have a lot of different guys from different areas. Nobody is safe. Everybody gets picked on a lot. I probably pick on Drew Snider more than anybody. And the coaches pick on me probably more than anybody. It's just great to see."

The Secret Recipe

Many have repeated throughout May that there's a simple formula for postseason success: control the possession battle by winning faceoffs and picking up ground balls.

The formula held true in the 2012 quarterfinals. All four teams that survived and advanced won (or tied) both the faceoff and ground ball battles.

But how do those numbers hold up over time? We've done a little bit of research for you, over the past six seasons...

Since 2007, here are the success rates of teams who win both key categories:

First Round: 24-9
Quarterfinals: 12-5
Semifinals: 5-1
Championship: 1-1
Total: 42-16 (72.4%)

Since 2007, here are the success rates of teams who win at least as many faceoffs as their opponent, irrespective of ground balls:

First Round: 30-18
Quarterfinals: 13-11
Semifinals: 6-4
Championship: 3-2
Total: 52-35 (59.7%)

Since 2007, here are the success rates of teams who pick up at least as many ground balls as their opponent, irrespective of faceoffs:

First Round: 30-18
Quarterfinals: 12-12
Semifinals: 7-3
Championship: 3-2
Total: 52-35 (59.7%)

The most telling and timely finding? Since 2007, teams who win both categories in the semifinals are 5-1. That nugget is for you, coaches Corrigan, Danowski, Tillman and Toomey.

Who's Got the Runs?

Goal-scoring runs. An argument could be made that lacrosse games — similar to other sports, like basketball — always have their fair share of scoring streaks or droughts. But this year's tournament has been littered with them and defined many outcomes.

As Duke senior midfielder Rob Rotanz put it: "Momentum is a funny thing."

Let's take a look at a few of the longest stretches (at least three goals), by round...

Quarterfinals

Duke: 13-0 vs. Colgate
Notre Dame: 4-0 vs. Virginia
Loyola: 3-0 vs. Denver (twice)
Maryland: 6-0 vs. Johns Hopkins

First Round

Maryland: 5-0 vs. Lehigh
Lehigh: 7-0 vs. Maryland
Notre Dame: 5-0 vs. Yale
Johns Hopkins: 5-0 vs. Stony Brook
Duke: 4-0 vs. Syracuse
Syracuse: 4-0 vs. Duke
Colgate: 3-0 vs. UMass (thrice)
UMass: 3-0 vs. Colgate (twice)
Loyola: 13-0 vs. Canisius
Denver: 5-0 vs. Carolina (twice)
North Carolina: 5-0 vs. Denver

***

Good day, and good lacrosse.


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