March 24, 2010

Opportunity Now for D-II Upstart Chestnut Hill

by Chris Gentilviso | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Chestnut Hill men's lacrosse coach Richard Carrington addresses his players in the huddle. The Griffins are 3-3 in their inaugural season, but still searching for their first ECC win.

There is no set formula to building a team from scratch.

When head coach Richard Carrington assembled Chestnut Hill’s first men’s lacrosse roster, there was a common truth embedded in each of the 26 spots he had to fill.

“I think the biggest challenge coming in was not having a blueprint,” Carrington said. “We came into a situation where everyone that's on this team -- they're new to Chestnut Hill.”

But with the help of an established power conference on their side, the Griffins are progressing toward their blueprint for success.

Equipped with a roster of 24 freshmen and two community college transfers, Carrington’s first step to eliminating the proverbial youth of his club was to throw it into a proven fire. On Feb. 19, 2009, Chestnut Hill became the 11th member of the prestigious East Coast Conference, inheriting a schedule that included dates with the last two Division II national championship teams.

“It was a no-brainer for me,” Carrington said. “You have to play against the best teams in order to become the best team. We knew walking into this season that it was going to be very challenging and that there were going to be games where we were going to take some lumps.”

Thirteen months later, those lumps have formed. After losses to Dominican (N.Y.), NYIT and C.W. Post by a combined 57-8 margin, Chestnut Hill is still in search of its first ECC win.

But for the Griffins, year one is not defined by wins or losses. By facing premier opponents on the field, Carrington is quickly finding his core nucleus of players prepared to carry the program forward.

When freshman goalkeeper Dakota Maurer arrived at Chestnut Hill, Carrington recalled thinking that Maurer would be ready for a role as backup goalie. Through the program’s six games, Maurer has reversed that impression. The Lititz, Pa. native has started each of the team’s six games, stopping 47 shots and helping the Griffins to non-conference wins against Neumann, American International and Penn State-Abington.

Under the off-the-field tutelage of assistant coach Doug Miller, Maurer’s comfort continues to rise. Miller has a decade of experience working with legendary Roanoke head coach Bill Pilat at The Goalie School, specializing in 1-on-1 training at the position.

Without a backlog of upperclassmen in front of him, Maurer has logged plenty of early minutes on the field, expanding his learning curve in rapid fashion.

“There's no leadership above you to point you in the right direction,” Maurer said. “It helps out a lot. In terms of development to our game, our coaches do that for us and they do a great job. But as far as our characteristics, it helps build responsibility and character.”

While there was no blueprint prior to the start of the season, freshman Nate Tharp has a vision of what it will take to reach the same championship heights as his current conference foes.

Of Carrington’s 26 recruits for 2010, only two called the lacrosse hotbed of Maryland home, and Tharp was one of them. After enduring a handful brutal prep bouts at St. Vincent Pallotti H.S. in Laurel, Tharp has been one of the more consistent Griffins this season, netting goals in each of his five games played.

When Tharp looks over at the sidelines of ECC powers, he sees that blueprint for success in action.

“They're on the wall," Tharp said. "They have the skills already. They've got these teams meshed. They've been together. They have chemistry. Seeing that, you hope that you can build that same chemistry with your teammates.”

Carrington holds that same hope. By exposing his players early on to that top-notch competition, the blueprint will theoretically become less hidden come 2013 – a well-established group of seniors with the experience to compete at the top of the standings.

“We brought in a pretty big class,” Carrington said. “But out of that class, we're looking for that core group of guys that we know will be here for all four years. This way, as we continue recruiting, we're able to take the new recruits under their wing and show them the way that we want to do things.”

Division II Notes

Five years ago, St. Leo men’s lacrosse coach Brad Jorgensen was in the same circumstance as Carrington. Five years after leading the Lions through their inaugural season as a lacrosse program, Jorgensen's 2010 team has propelled itself to No. 8 in this week’s USILA Division II poll. St. Leo (8-1) held off a frantic second-half comeback by Mars Hill last Saturday, netting a 9-7 victory for its sixth straight win … NYIT (4-1) needed overtime to hold its No. 6 spot, topping Seton Hill 17-16 last Saturday. The Bears have faced one-goal nailbiters in three of their five contests this season, including a 10-9 victory over Belmont Abbey in their season opener on Feb. 21 … On the women’s side, No. 1 Adelphi (5-0) reeled off weekend wins over No. 7 Stonehill and Assumption. Since the start of last season, the defending national-champion Panthers have won 23 straight games. Of the 10 remaining regular season games left on Adelphi's schedule, only two are against current top-10 foes: at No. 9 New Haven (April 20) and at home against No. 3 C.W. Post (May 1).

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