February 22, 2016
After a tough 5-9 season in 2015, Hofstra opened 2016 with a huge win on the road at North Carolina. (GoHofstra.com)
After a tough 5-9 season in 2015, Hofstra opened 2016 with a huge win on the road at North Carolina. (GoHofstra.com)

Weekend Takeaways: Hofstra Makes Early Statement

by Patrick Stevens | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Hofstra was a close-but-not-quite sort of team when it came to results a season ago. The Pride was competitive nearly every time out, but was left with a 5-9 record to show for it.

There was nothing close about Hofstra's 2016 season opener, a 10-5 triumph at North Carolina earned as Sam Llinares scored five goals and junior college transfer Josh Byrne added four goals and two assists in his Pride debut. That also made Hofstra arguably the most interesting team of the week.

1. Hofstra upsets North Carolina

Hofstra coach Seth Tierney doesn't want to get too carried away. The Pride's victory in Chapel Hill is only the first step in a long season, it guarantees nothing and he plans to relay that message to all who will listen — particularly those in his locker room.

But there's no way to look at Saturday's triumph through a prism other than Hofstra's 2015 season. Defenseman Joe Ferriso died from injuries suffered in a car accident that January. The Pride dropped four of their first five games. Close losses mounted, and the offense often sputtered. There was no trip to the CAA tournament, only a 5-4 loss to Fairfield to close the regular season.

"It was the best 5-9 team I have ever coached because of the things they handled," Tierney said Sunday night. "They handled one-goal losses and they buried a teammate. They handled other adversity. To lose eight games by [a combined] 13 goals, a lot of people were like 'It's 5-9' and it is. But it was a team fighting to find themselves all year long and they never stopped."

A major difference already is depth. Hofstra added starting defenseman Brett Osman (Marist) and reserve long pole Liam Blohm (Ohio State) via transfer, but the Byrne provided the most immediate difference.

A year ago, Llinares attracted plenty of attention while rolling up 33 goals and 24 assists. But only one other player had even 15 goals, and establishing alternative options was a priority.

Enter Byrne, a Canadian who played the last two years at Nassau Community College on Long Island. He was the 2015 NJCAA Attackman of the Year. On Saturday, Byrne scored Hofstra's first two goals of each half against the Tar Heels (2-1).

"He hasn't changed what we do," Tierney said. "We do a few things differently because of the ingredients he brings, but we're doing the same things. We're just doing them better or we're doing them with a multidimensional look."

Hofstra turned in a stout defensive performance, with Jack Concannon making 11 stops as the Tar Heels scored their fewest goals at home since a 5-4 defeat of Bryant in 2010.

Regardless, Tierney remains concerned his bunch might not handle success well as Princeton arrives in Hempstead this weekend. The Pride played well in a preseason scrimmage at Syracuse, then turned around a week later and struggled against Hobart and Rutgers.

Nonetheless, he acknowledged Saturday's high-profile triumph possessed meaning that reverberated throughout the Hofstra locker room.

"There was a tremendous amount of excitement and joy and a lot of it had to do with us beating the University of North Carolina, a school that gets recognized every year," Tierney said. "But I'd be lying to if you if I told you there wasn't some relief. We were 5-9, and maybe we weren't a 5-9 team but we were carrying some stuff. We didn't finish. We needed to finish some games, make one less mistake, make one more play, get one more groundball. Yesterday, we were able to do that."

2. Denver is spreading the wealth

There are obvious upshots from Denver's 14-12 defeat of Duke: The defending national champions already own what should be a high-profile victory and made the sorts of advances normally expected of good teams from its first game to its second.

The most interesting facet of the Pioneers' triumph in the Atlanta area is just how balanced they were against the Blue Devils. Ten players scored for Denver (2-0), and not one of them was Nate Marano, the freshman who dropped four goals on Air Force in the Pioneers' opener a week earlier.

This isn't really a surprise given the collection of talent amassed in recent years and offensive coordinator Matt Brown's track record of deftly deploying that depth. But it is a meaningful reminder that even the graduation of the program's career scoring leader (Wesley Berg) is unlikely to slow down Denver in 2016.

3. Notre Dame sticks to its strengths

What's the basic primer on Notre Dame? Savvy offensive quarterback (Matt Kavanagh), exceptional finisher (Mikey Wynne), an absolute monster in the midfield (Sergio Perkovic) and a selfless and cerebral defense that boasts plenty of athleticism in its own right.

Those are the knowns for the Irish, and they'll win a lot of games leaning on those strength. Sure enough, all of them played a role in an opening 12-7 defeat of Georgetown. Kavanagh had a goal and four assists. Wynne delivered a hat trick. Perkovic scored four times. Goalie Shane Doss made 14 saves. And Georgetown didn't get on the board until the second quarter.

Throw in P.J. Finley's 16-for-21 day at the X, and there wasn't much besides turnovers for the Irish to quibble about. It was a substantial first impression, and a formula for plenty of success over the next three month plus a weekend.

4. Loyola showed its opener was not a fluke

Loyola had one of the most noteworthy opening results, hammering Virginia on the road. But even an impressive performance like that begs the question of how easily a team can replicate the result.

The Greyhounds didn't blast Johns Hopkins, but they never trailed, got solid goalie play and peppered Blue Jays goalie Brock Turnbaugh throughout the afternoon in a 9-8 victory over their neighborhood rival.

Loyola (2-0) still has three nonconference games scattered across its schedule against Towson, Duke and Georgetown, but there's already reason to believe the Greyhounds absence from the NCAA tournament last spring was merely a one-year hiatus. Plenty of work remains, but Loyola has the potential to be relevant for quite some time this year.

5. There's progress at Penn State

It's possible the breakthrough everyone expected at Penn State is arriving two years later. The 2014 season was derailed by the lack of access to an automatic NCAA tournament. Last year the Nittany Lions slogged to a 5-9 mark. They were a bit forgotten about coming into this year, even with much of their offense back intact.

Now Penn State is 3-0 for the first time since 2002 after Saturday's 8-7 victory at Cornell. It was a bit easier to brush aside home (and indoor) victories against Robert Morris and Hobart. But this was a statement victory the Nittany Lions, secured against an annual postseason threat (which admittedly might be regrouping a bit this season) on Matt Florence's goal with 3:49 to play.

Think back to Jeff Tambroni's Cornell teams. While they were rarely quite this under-the-radar, they often did their best work when a deep run wasn't expected. Just how good are the Nittany Lions? It's tough to say, but Saturday's contest was precisely the sort of game Penn State lost in 2015. There's definitely progress in Happy Valley.

Penn State, which won over coach Jeff Tambroni's former Cornell team on Saturday, is 3-0 for the first time since 2002. (John Strohsacker)

Three Stars

Mike Rastivo, Saint Joseph's: His five goals and four assists helped the Hawks roll to a 15-5 victory over VMI.

Ben Reeves, Yale: Had four goals (on four shots) and three assists as the Bulldogs routed UMass Lowell 17-7 in their season opener.

Chris Walsch, Air Force: Was pivotal in the Falcons' 7-6 quadruple-overtime triumph at Marist, scoring four goals (including the game-winner) while adding two assists.

Game of the Weekend

Harvard 13, Villanova 12 (OT)

The Crimson spotted Villanova a four-goal lead in the first half, but rallied to secure a 12-9 advantage entering the final five minutes. The Wildcats rapidly erased it, getting goals from Jack Curran, Christian Cuccinello and Jake Froccaro in a span of 20 seconds to ultimately force overtime. Yet once there, Villanova committed a turnover after winning the faceoff and Harvard's Morgan Cheek scored with 1:27 left in the period to secure a victory for the Crimson in their season opener. Devin Dwyer had a goal and four assists for Harvard, while goalie Robert Shaw made 19 saves.

Numbers of Significance

1

Navy allowed just one goal in its defeat of Delaware on Sunday, the fewest it has surrendered to any team since a 12-1 rout of Army in the 2007 Patriot League semifinals. The Mids improved to 2-1 with a 5-1 triumph over the Blue Hens.

4

Massachusetts scored four consecutive goals on three occasions in its 16-9 rout of Ohio State. The Minutemen were especially effective in the second half, shooting 9 of 17 against the Buckeyes.

5

Brown attackman Dylan Molloy scored five goals in the Bears' season-opening 20-7 defeat of Quinnipiac. Molloy scored at least five goals in seven games last season en route to Ivy League player of the year honors.

23

Maryland has won 23 consecutive openers after its 15-10 defeat of High Point. Bryan Cole had three goals and four assists for the Terrapins, who last lost a season debut in 1993 and are 87-3-1 all-time in openers.

Quote of the Week

"I think it used to be called 'The Slaughter on Charles Street.' It's not that anymore. It has a legitimate competitiveness to it. For us, especially the seniors, this means the world to us."

— Loyola midfielder Jeff Chase on the Greyhounds' series with Johns Hopkins. The Greyhounds have won three consecutive meetings

How the Nike/LM Top 20 Fared

1. Notre Dame (1-0): Beat Georgetown 12-7; next: Bellarmine (Wednesday)
2. Denver (2-0): Beat Duke 14-12; next: Sacred Heart (Saturday)
3. Duke (2-1): Lost to Denver 14-12; next: at Jacksonville (Saturday)
4. Maryland (1-0): Beat High Point 15-10; next: at Yale (Saturday)
5. Syracuse (2-0): Beat Albany 16-7; next: Army (Sunday)
6. Johns Hopkins (1-1): Lost to Loyola 9-8; next: North Carolina (Sunday)
7. North Carolina (2-1): Lost to Hofstra 10-5; next: at Johns Hopkins (Sunday)
8. Yale (1-0): Beat UMass Lowell 17-7; next: Maryland (Saturday)
9. Brown (1-0): Beat Quinnipiac 20-7; next: at Stony Brook (Saturday)
10. Georgetown (0-1): Lost to Notre Dame 12-7; next: at Towson (Saturday)
11. Loyola (2-0): Beat Johns Hopkins 9-8; next: Lafayette (Saturday)
12. Ohio State (2-1): Lost to Massachusetts 16-9; next: UMBC (Friday)
13. Virginia (1-1): Beat Drexel 14-7; next: High Point (Tuesday)
14. Cornell (0-1): Lost to Penn State 8-7; next: vs. Hobart (Saturday)
15. Towson (2-0): Beat Mount St. Mary's 9-5; next: Georgetown (Saturday)
16. Navy (2-1): Beat Delaware 5-1; next: at Boston University (Saturday)
17. Albany (0-1): Lost to Syracuse 16-7; next: Drexel (Saturday)
18. Marquette (1-0): Beat Bellarmine 9-7; next: at Richmond (Saturday)
19. Stony Brook (2-0): Beat Sacred Heart 17-8; Beat St. John's 14-6; next: Brown (Saturday)
20. Harvard (1-0): Beat Villanova 13-12 (OT); next: Holy Cross (Tuesday)

Five to Watch This Week

Georgetown at Towson (Noon Saturday): The Hoyas' season opener against Notre Dame was a lot like many of their high-profile games last year — the feistiness is not a question, but they might not be at that top-10 level just yet. Nonetheless, they'll still be a great gauge for Towson (2-0), which opened with defeats of Mercer and Mount St. Mary's.

Brown at Stony Brook (1 p.m. Saturday): Dylan Molloy and the Bears visit Long Island to tangle with Brody Eastwood and the Seawolves in a matchup of two potent offenses. Brown scored 20 goals in its opener, while Stony Brook averaged 15.5 goals in two games last week.

Maryland at Yale (1 p.m. Saturday): Who could forget last year's NCAA tournament first round game, when the Terrapins rallied in the fourth quarter and Yale midfielder Michael Keasey's near-goal in the closing seconds almost sent the game to overtime. It's a great early test for both teams, which won their respective season openers Saturday.

Princeton at Hofstra (3 p.m. Saturday): Is Hofstra for real after hammering North Carolina? And what to make of Princeton, nearly a postseason team last season that lost plenty but was not tested in its opener against NJIT? Both teams should learn plenty come Saturday.

North Carolina at Johns Hopkins (Noon Sunday, ESPNU): Both teams in this long-running rivalry are coming off losses, though Hopkins hung close to Loyola in its brief trip to Ridley. How the Tar Heels respond to getting doubled up by Hofstra is the fascinating subplot here.


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