February 27, 2012

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Making Sense: The Importance of the Western Rivalries

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

There's no need to tell Dominican attackman Jake Fritz (above) that NDNU is a huge rival. The freshman spoke with his stick, scoring four goals and setting up six others in the Penguins' 16-7 victory over the Argos on Saturday.
© Dominican Athletics

Just when you want to hate someone, you end up sharing a hallway.

Ned Webster, the head coach of the Dominican (Calif.), wanted his players to have anger in their hearts when they took the field Saturday against the Penguins' blood rival, Notre Dame de Namur.

As much as Webster wanted to create a contrast, he couldn't fight reality. Many of the players played against, or with, their current opponents in high school or at the club level.

"There's some crossover in that hallway," Webster said. "There are some hugs and some high fives and all of that. It was pretty funny in that respect. I know the NDNU coaches and they are good guys. But once the first whistle was blown, just like any other game, there wasn't a whole lot of friendship on the field."

That rivalry doesn't sound too much different than the rest, right?

Two schools that have an inherent dislike for each other via geography and demographics; it isn't different from your garden variety Hatfield v. McCoy.

Or C.W. Post v. NYIT. Or Adelphi v. Le Moyne.

But unlike all of the East Coast rivalries, the two Western match-ups over the weekend – Dominican vs. NDNU and Adams State vs. Colorado Mesa – are not only born out of convenience, but also necessity. Without a team nearby, none of the teams would exist.

"It's imperative," said Colorado Mesa head coach A.J. Stevens. "Adams State is the only team we can drive to; we have to fly to every other road game. I don't know too many other programs that could handle that. It's a real challenge for us budget-wise to make it all work."

In addition to having a cost-conscious game in the vicinity, it's also critical that both schools embrace the 'travel partner' concept.

"When I was first starting out, I remember the NDNU coach at the time saying, 'I want you to be successful because it is so much easier to get teams like NYIT to come out and play us knowing that they'll have a guaranteed game against another close program,'" said Webster. "We want NDNU to be successful, not on the day that we play them, but every other day. I would hope that they would feel the same way."

They have to feel the same way because it's about survival. If one of the Western rivals crumbles, they'll take their twin with them. That became evident when Grand Canyon, a former member of the same Western Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association, had to fold up shop last year for lack of a local rival. While the 'Lopes were able to play plenty of MCLA teams and attract an occasional Eastern team looking for a sunny, early-season locale, it wasn't feasible to maintain the program without a partner.

Part of the equation in Grand Canyon's decision was also the lack of excitement that the team was able to build on campus. That is attributable, in part, to no clear rival. Having a foil on the lacrosse field generates fans. With that comes tradition.

"This one is a real big deal just because everybody on our campus knows who Adams State is in just about every sport, so that crosses over," said Stevens. "The other coach gets excited about it. It's an important one for us in a lot of ways."

"There's no doubt, and I don't think it matters what sport it is, they are our rivals across the board," added Webster. "The student body gets up for it and our athletic director is pretty tight with their athletic director, so I think they have their own rivalry going. Everybody was excited; the players, the parents, the seniors who were getting their behinds kicked the first couple of years."

The NDNU-Dominican rivalry is older than the Adams State-Colorado Mesa clash, which is just in its second year and third contest, and as such, it holds more weight on the field. The Argos dominated the Penguins for the first seven years of the match-up, with Domincan earning its first win in the series last year. Saturday's dominating, 16-7 performance has officially swung the pendulum toward the Penguins.

"I think that's why everyone felt happy after that performance we had yesterday," said Webster.

Colorado Mesa, which improved to 3-0 all-time against the Grizzlies with a 10-3 victory, was just as pleased in their victory, especially because it gives them a leg up when they eventually meet in the hallway again.

"They look across the field and see kids they went to high school with," said Stevens. "That's going to affect you no matter where you're from. This one is a big one for us for the kids in terms of the emotion."

It's also big for their survival.

Game Balls

Alex Branton, Soph., Goalie – Clemson
In the biggest game in the SELC this year, the Garden State native came up big for the Tigers, turning away 15 shots and only allowing three goals in Clemson's 10-3 upset of No. 12 Florida State.

John Dehm, Sr., Attack – St. Mary's
With the Seahawks facing its second top 3 team in as many games, Dehm posted a career high three goals and two assists to lift St. Mary's to the 12-9 upset of No. 3 Dickinson.

Mike Duddy, Jr., Midfield – Chestnut Hill
Duddy scored a pair of goals for the Griffins, but his second was the key strike. He delivered early in the third overtime to give Chestnut Hill the thrilling, 7-6 victory over No. 9 Mercy.

Austin Fisher, Jr., Attack – Colorado State
The Rams traveled to the Pacific Northwest and took down both No. 22 Simon Fraser and No. 3 Chapman, helped by Fisher, who combed for five goals and three assists in the two contests.

Gerry Gehling, Sr., Midfield – Dayton
The Flyers beat both No. 8 SCAD and No. 19 Kennesaw State in the same day, thanks to 11 combined points from Gehling. He had four points (2g, 2a) against the Bees and seven (1g, 6a) versus the Owls.

Nash Golon, Sr., Defense – Seton Hill
One of the striking parts of the box score from the Seton Hill-C.W. Post game is zero shots and no goals from Eddie Plompen – first team All-American and ECC Preseason Player of the Year. That would be because of Golon.

Ryon Lynch, Soph., Attack – Springfield
The Pride headed to Nazareth, which has been a house of horrors in the past, and scored five goals and dished out three assists to lead Springfield to a comfortable, 15-7 victory.

Trevor Tarte, Soph., Attack – Lake Erie
Last year, Lake Erie lost to Pfeiffer, 18-1. This year, thanks to five goals from Tarte, The Storm knocked off the No. 10 Falcons, 11-8 for the first win over a ranked opponent in program history.

James Whalen, Jr., Goalie – Babson
The Beavers opened the season with a gritty, 8-6 upset of No. 20 Skidmore thanks to Whalen, who turned away 13 shots as Babo trumped one of the Liberty's top teams.

Power Fives

NCAA Division II
1. Mercyhurst (1-0) – Sophomore Brady Heseltine's three goals against Wingate shows that Chris Ryan has another gun in the holster this season on the offensive end.
2. Adelphi (0-0) – It's looking more and more like the Panthers will be tested at least once during their three-game stint in St. Louis in a couple of weeks.
3. Limestone (3-0) – The Saints' search continues for an opponent that can stay within 10 goals of them. It may have to wait until Merrimack on March 10 in Baltimore.
4. Dowling (0-0) – That road game against Seton Hill next weekend is looking a lot more intimidating than before. At least now the Lions will know what they have in store.
5. Le Moyne (1-0) – The Dolphins are looking a lot better now after knocking off Seton Hill on the road. The postponement of the St. Rose game has no impact.

NCAA Division III
1. Salisbury (3-0) – The South region teams appear more than willing to roll over for the Gulls, so it will probably take a confident northern squad to stop the repeat.
2. Tufts (0-0) – The losses by Dickinson and Roanoke give the Jumbos some breathing room at No. 2 for a week or so. The Fives better be impressed with the opener against Hamilton.
3. RIT (0-0) – I understand why these two teams would play at Harvard, but wouldn't the atmosphere actually be better in Beverly in front of a packed house?
4. Stevenson (2-0) – Some might crow that that the Mustangs should be higher, but they've beat two sub-.500 teams so far. They could rocket up quickly in the next three games.
5. Cortland (1-0) – The 9-5 win over Widener didn't exactly 'wow' The Fives, but with 'Noke and Dickinson gone, the Dragons angle themselves into premium billing.

MCLA Division I
1. Cal Poly (4-0) – Mustang coach Marc Lea even said that CSU should probably be ranked ahead of CP, but when it comes to The Fives, SLO is clearly on top.
2. Colorado State (3-0) – Can't ask for anything more out of the Rams on their first weekend. They'll get a crack at Poly in a month if they don't move up before then.
3. Brigham Young (5-1) – With all due respect to those remaining on the schedule, there is probably only one more potential loss on the regular season docket for BYU.
4. Boston College (3-0) – If the Eagles' go 3-0 in SoCal, not only will they be the No. 1 team in the country, but they could swing the entire MCLA spectrum eastward.
5. UC Santa Barbara (4-0) – For old time's sake, we'll plug the Gauchos into the Fives because there's a bit of a vacuum. They get a chance to prove it on Wednesday against Poly.

MCLA Division II
1. Davenport (1-1) – Honestly, I think I'd have Davenport in the MCLA Division I Top 20 if the Panthers were playing up this year. They were idle this week.
2. Dayton (5-0) – The Flyers get a little bit of a bump after the lights went on Friday and they had to play (and beat) two Top 20 teams in the course of eight hours.
3. St. Thomas (2-0) – After outscoring their first two opponents by a combined 46-5, the Tommies get three weeks to prepare for Davenport in St. Louis.
4. Westminster (3-0) – The Griffins get a delayed bump after their solid performance in Vegas. The mid-week trip to St. Mary's is looking more daunting.
5. Grand Valley State (0-0) – If you stay idle long enough, there's going to be some dropoff. GVSU stays in the poll; St. John's gets the gate.

Monday Notebooks

NCAA Division II: Seton Hill head coach Brian Novotny has an enjoyable seven-hour bus ride.
NCAA Division III: St. Mary's hopes to build on Dickinson upset; Springfield steals one.
MCLA Division I: Cal Pol not where they want to be yet; Clemson gets over FSU hump.
MCLA Division II: Dayton once again has issues in the South, but still wins two games.


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