April 7, 2014

MD2 Notebook: Adelphi Wins Round One

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

Nick Watson (above) scored three goals and was part of coach Gordon Purdie's "two quarterback system" along with Sal Tuttle, who chipped in with four goals. (Brian Ballweg)

For an Aussie, Adelphi head coach Gordon Purdie loves his American sports metaphors.

Sitting at the front of the bus as the Panthers made their way back from Syracuse after upending defending national champion and No. 1 Le Moyne, 13-11, with one of the Batman movies blaring in the background, Purdie littered his breakdown of the win with them. It started while assessing Adelphi's ability to score 13 goals – the most Le Moyne had given up all season – with its two-headed offensive monster of Nick Watson (3g) and Sal Tuttle (4g).

"The interesting thing about this team is we seem to have two quarterbacks on the offense and 12 wide receivers," Purdie said. "Those wide receivers go out and create, opening up opportunities for those quarterbacks to hit home runs."

As the game wound down and it appeared that Adelphi was going to make amends for its losses last year in both the Northeast-10 championship game and the semifinals of the NCAAs to Le Moyne, the beginning of the game was nearly forgotten.

Alas, this game started out like it might be all Dolphins again.

When Kevin Kelly opened the second quarter with his second goal to give the champs a 4-2 lead, there were some red flags rising on the Adelphi sidelines.

"We had been down that road before against a very good Le Moyne team, so at 4-2 you do get a little bit worried," Purdie admitted. "But at that point I didn't think we were playing very well and we still had a lot to offer."

The concern was compounded by the fact that Greg Puskuldjian, the best faceoff man in the country who was running at 72.3 percent entering the game, lost the first three draws of the contest.

"He got called for going early on the first one and Greg is always very honest with me when he comes off the field," Purdie said. "I said, 'Greg, what's the deal?' 'I didn't go early.' At that point, I'm thinking we might have some issues because Greg is so quick in response to the whistle, if the referee was not able to handle that, we could be in some trouble."

The worrying was premature, as Puskuldjian won 12 of the next 13 draws, helping Adelphi rally for an 8-6 lead with five minutes left to go in the third quarter.

"I have full confidence in Greg and I told him that before the game and even after he lost a few, as well," Purdie said. "Greg getting us so many possessions in a tight game like that was a huge key to the game."

When the lead finally got pushed to three goals on Tuttle's fourth with just four seconds left in the third quarter, it appeared the game was in hand for the Panthers. When Watson opened up the fourth to increase the bulge to four, 12-8, certainly there were some signs of relief on the Adelphi sidelines, right?

"Never," Purdie shot back. "Le Moyne is a great program with a great coach and you can never let down against a great team. They showed it when they did come back and started to press us. And we did respond with big goals from [Brandon] Goodwin and Watson and Sal. I personally was anxious on the sidelines until the whistle went."

While Merrimack and perhaps Bentley will have something to say about it, there's a sense that, like last year, this was the first of many meetings between these two foes.

"That was just round one, just to throw another American sport, boxing, at you," Purdie said with a laugh. "Last year, we went three rounds and we'll probably go three rounds again. And we want to make sure that we win round three. That was what was said to our boys: although the win felt good, it is not what this season is about for us."

Mount Olive Announces Its Presence

Mike Murphy had a tough decision. He had managed to get his Mount Olive team into overtime against a ranked Pfeiffer team on the road this past Wednesday when Dan Shields scored with five seconds left in regulation. But his top faceoff man, James Demartino, had blown out his ACL five minutes before. That left either sophomore Tyler Feniello, or perhaps an LSM to take the draw for defensive purposes because Pfeiffer was getting some pretty clean picks.

Dan Shields (above) scored the game-tying goal against Pfeiffer on Wednesday with five seconds left and then set up his younger brother, Matt, for the game winner in extra time. (Mount Olive Athletics)

"We looked at Tyler Feniello and said, 'What do you think about the face?'" said Murphy. "He looked at me and said, 'I have this.' Just by the way he looked at me, I could tell he was going to win it. And he won it."

The Trojans worked it around for a minute or so and then called a timeout. Out of the break, Dan Shields set up his younger brother, Matt, for the game-winner that gave Mount Olive its first-ever victory over a Top 10 team.

Throw in the fact that, combined with the win over Belmont Abbey on Saturday, the Trojans will likely be the No. 2 seed in the Conference Carolinas tourney, and it would only be natural for the players to walk around with a little strut.

Murphy sees it more of an affirmation.

"It's finally realizing what they are capable of," he said. "When they beat Pfeiffer in overtime, it's not something that was the greatest thing they've ever done. It's something they expected to do. They are starting to expect to play at a high level to beat some of these better teams. It's good that it's not arrogance, but they're definitely starting to get more confident."

Mount Olive is now 11-2 with one non-conference game against Walsh remaining before the conference tourney begins. It would probably take a Conference Carolinas championship (and wins over both Pfeiffer again and Limestone) for the Trojans to realistically enter the mix for an NCAA tournament bid, but they are still doing some impressive things for a second-year program.

They probably would be 12-1 at this point if some of the inexperience hadn't showed in a triple overtime loss to Wingate in which Mount Olive had an eight-goal second half lead.

"Unfortunately, when you have a younger program and they get out to a good lead, they kind of shut the engine down and start coasting a little bit," Murphy said. "When you are that inexperienced, it's really hard to fire that engine back up. Wingate did a good job and jumped us. In the second half, their faceoff guy pretty much owned us and they had the ball the rest of the way. We had a couple of looks in overtime, but we just couldn't convert."

Still, from a preseason perspective, this is about as successful as most would have guessed for the Trojans.

"As a coach, you look at the schedule and think, 'Where should we be?' When you look at a group of three or four teams, you think we should win three out of four or two out of four in this grouping. To be at [11-2], it's a little bit better than we expected, but that shows that the hard work that our kids are putting in is paying off."

Lacrosse Magazine's Player of the Week

Matt Crough, Sr., A - Dowling
A strong Chestnut Hill squad with talent that belies its record traveled to Dowling in hopes of pulling an upset, but Crough would have none of it. The senior scored four goals and dished out four assists, allowing the Lions to breeze to a 20-11 victory over the Griffins. Six of his points came in the first half as Dowling was building its 13-4 lead.

"Matt's playmaking ability has been amazing this season," said Dowling head coach Tim Boyle. "His ability to get free in tight spaces and finish under tremendous pressure has really sparked our offense this season. On Saturday, we got off to a really fast start versus Chestnut Hill and a big part of that was because of Matt and his tremendous ability to finish in transition and at times to manufacture transition with his off-ball movement."

Honor Roll
T.J. Bicknell (St. Michael's), Bryce Brochu (Wheeing Jesuit), Chris Caiazza (LIU Post), Robbins Clay (Dist. Columbia), Tim Cobb (Bentley), Tyler Feniello (Mount Olive), Dylan Gelven (Seton Hill), Jay Goldsmith (Lenoir-Rhyne), Reagan Harding (Lake Erie), Brady Heseltine (Mercyhurst), Ryan Jurek (Lake Erie), Matt Kristiansen (Shorter), Ian Mack (Assumption), Luke Miller (NYIT), Connor Morgan (Adams State), James Peters (St. Anselm), Greg Puskuldjian (Adelphi), Tim Ryan (Coker), Ryan Sage (Mars Hill), David Solomon (Colorado Mesa), Dane Sorensen (Florida Southern), Brandon Stuebing (Lindenwood), Tim Towler (Merrimack), Sal Tuttle (Adelphi), Nick Wynne (Florida Tech), Tom Yancheski (Dist. Columbia).

Bracket Watch

The mock brackets got shook up this week with several impactful contests. The biggest game of the week was Adelphi against Le Moyne, but all the Panthers' win did was swap the chairs at the top of the North. Dowling solidified its station at No. 3 and Merrimack eased into the fourth spot after beating LIU Post midweek. The Warriors are in good shape right now, but they haven't created enough separation with NYIT to feel comfortable.

Limestone has the South on lockdown with only Pfieffer (which will likely play the Saints twice) holding a realistic chance of unseating them. Via Mercyhurst's rout of Tampa, the Lakers sit at No. 2 with the Spartans right behind them. Pfeiffer was hurt badly by a midweek loss to Mount Olive, but Seton Hill let the Falcons off the hook by losing to Lake Erie on Sunday. It's a tentative spot for Pfeiffer, as the Griffins could slip back into the final position if the Falcons stumble down the stretch or don't make the Conference Carolinas championship game (they'll probably head into the tourney as a third seed behind Limestone and Mount Olive).

The wild card right now is Queens. The Royals play Pfeiffer on Tuesday and a win there could vault them back into the discussion. Without the losses to Dominican (Calif.) and Catawba, Queens would be on easy street.

North
No. 4 Merrimack (6-3) at No. 1 Adelphi (10-0)
No. 3 Dowling (6-2) at No. 2 Le Moyne (9-1)

South
No. 4 Pfeiffer (8-2) at No. 1 Limestone (11-1)
No. 3 Tampa (11-2) at No. 2 Mercyhurst (7-2)

Slides & Rides

- Tampa might be able to chalk up their 14-7 loss to the cool weather, but the Spartans definitely got a wake-up call against Mercyhurst. UT was able to hang with Limestone in their 8-5 loss earlier this year, but it got its doors blown off by the Lakers. Merchurst held Tampa to just one goal over the first 35 minutes of the game and stifled the Spartans prolific attack unit, building a 10-1 lead that went unchallenged. UT was without the services of Nick Ferriero, the top faceoff man and offensive middie for Rory Whipple, but it's tough to think he would have sparked a seven-goal swing in this one.

On the bright side, the Spartans should coast to wins in their last two regular season games and easily win the first-ever Sunshine State Conference title. If they achieve that, they'll head into Selection Sunday with a 15-2 record and more than enough juice to earn the program's first bid to the NCAA tournament.

- Left for dead after the 0-3 start to the season, including setbacks to South region contenders Tampa and Florida Southern, Lake Erie announced that it's not buried yet. The Storm rolled into Greensburg and whacked Seton Hill, 18-13, on Sunday to improve to 5-3. The Seton Hill victory is by far the best for LEC, and the Storm will have to run the table in the regular season – which means a win over Mercyhurst in the finale – and then make a trip to the ECAC championship game to have a shot at returning to the NCAAs, but stranger things have happened.

- Florida Southern junior Dane Sorensen set the single-season record for goals in program history by netting his 45th in the Mocs 19-1 rout of Lynn on Wednesday night...NYIT's Luke Miller dropped an 11-spot on Roberts Wesleyan (6g, 5a) in the Bears 19-3 win...Brandon Stuebing tied the Lindenwood school record for goals in a game with six against Walsh and his seven points was one shy of the Lions single-game mark in that category...Merrimack avoided its fate from 2012 by avoiding the upset loss to Southern N.H. The Warriors took down the Penmen, 15-6, but a dangerous Bentley squad awaits this week...still five teams in the hunt for four spots in the ECC tourney...it is not in the best shape right now, but if LIU Post runs the table in its final three games – Mercyhurst, NYIT and Dowling – they'll have a pretty good case for the selection committee.


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