March 24, 2016

MD2 Notes: Westminister Thriving in Move From MCLA

by Shane Mettlen | | Twitter

So far the debut season in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference is going quite well for Westminster (Utah), which is off to a 3-1 start this season and has won each of its first two conference games.

But while the Griffins may be new to the RMAC and NCAA Division II, they are hardly an inexperienced expansion team. Under head coach Mason Goodhand, the Griffins have been one of the western powerhouses in the club ranks, going 20-13 the past two seasons in MCLA Division I.

This season has been something of a transition with the schedule a mixture of NCAA foes and old MCLA rivals. Though they've officially only played four games so far for NCAA purposes, that doesn't count four impressive victories against club teams from Utah Valley, San Diego State, Arizona and Arizona State.

The MCLA portion of the schedule hasn't always been treated like a regular game, but it has allowed the Griffins to get almost everyone on the roster quite a bit of playing time in preparation for a run toward the RMAC championship.

"We got some reps for our young guys," Goodhand told the Deseret News after the 13-10 victory versus Arizona State on March 10. "It was great to see some freshmen get in the scoring column. We were fortunate ASU rested some of their first-line players ahead of their (MCLA) game at BYU. I completely agree with that strategy and was impressed with their depth and young talent."

Of course Westminster has some young talent of its own. Sophomore attackman Thomas Sarjeant is leading the team with 16 points, including a team-high 11 assists. Freshman Cole Flinders is tied for the team lead with 11 goals in NCAA play and first-year goalie Philip Cannell is getting most of the time in the cage, starting all four NCAA games and stopping 60 percent of the shots that have come his way.

But Goodhand also has experience on his side. Senior Josh Holland has had at least three goals in three of the four Division II games the Griffins have played.

Westminster defeated Rockhurst 9-7 on March 19 for their second RMAC victory in program history and after a long break, will take on Rockhurst again on April 3 as part of the conference's double round robin format.

YOUNG HARRIS ON A ROLL: Playing in the independent ranks meant Young Harris opened the season with a challenging three-game stretch against Florida Tech, Rollins and Florida Southern. That early February part of the schedule left the Mountain Lions 0-3, but they've since reeled off six consecutive victories and coming off a 16-9 triumph over Colorado State-Pueblo, Young Harris gets an opportunity to prove just how far it has come this weekend against a solid Lynn team.

A major reason for the Mountain Lions' success could be attributed to Connor Leies, a freshman who leads the team with 29 goals. Leies scored two goals total in the three losses, but has since exploded, scoring in every game and putting up at least six goals on three separate occasions.

NORTHEAST 10 TEAMS RACKING UP POINTS: Few people would argue the Northeast 10 is one of Division II's best lacrosse conferences, but it still might come as a surprise to see just how prolific teams in the league are scoring goals. Four of the five highest scoring teams in the country are members of the Northeast 10, including St. Anselm, which leads the nation at 21.67 goals per game.

Defending national champion Limestone, out of Conference Carolinas is No. 2 at 21.1 points per game, but the Northeast 10 takes up the rest of the top five with Le Moyne (18.0), Merrimack (16.83) and Adelphi (16.71) rounding out the list.

Of course, some of those averages could take a tumble once conference play gets into full swing. Le Moyne is also No. 1 in scoring defense, allowing just 5.83 goals per game while St. Anselm checks in at No. 8 in the nation, giving up eight goals a contest.

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