March 1, 2012

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Coyne v. Censer: Using Scheduling to Recruit

by Jac Coyne and Joel Censer | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Brian Estes (above) and the rest of the No. 11 Endicott squad are playing a neutral field game against No. 7 RIT on Saturday evening. The two teams chose to play at Harvard, in part because it's located in the middle of a burgeoning lacrosse hotbed. But does playing a game closer to a large recruiting base really pay off for teams that choose to do so? 
© Endicott Athletics

From a coach's standpoint, the concept is perfectly logical. If I can't get all of the prospective student-athletes I want from a certain area to come to campus to watch my team, I'll bring the game to them.

It appears this is slowly becoming a tactic used by Division III coaches who may not necessarily have the recruiting budget to visit hotbeds on multiple occasions or perhaps don't have the institutional notoriety to attract a high-end player from a top program for a visit. Money's tight for both public and private schools, so utilizing the travel budget to indirectly supplement the recruiting funds is ingenious.

We've seen it the last couple of years when Gettysburg and Cortland scheduled their contests in Massapequa, N.Y., which is essentially the geographic epicenter of the Long Island lacrosse scene. Teams regularly schedule games in Baltimore, the latest being last weekend's game between Dickinson and St. Mary's – two schools only separated by a four-hour bus ride – which was held at the St. Paul's School in Brooklandville, Md.

In March, Amherst and Marywood will meet in Uniondale, N.Y. – another Long Island enclave – and this weekend we'll see No. 7 RIT face No. 11 Endicott at Harvard.

In fairness, creating a recruiting day was not the primary objective in the latter game. When I spoke with RIT coach Jake Coon earlier this week, he said they were looking for a neutral field because this game is a one-year deal. As such, they agreed upon Cambridge, Mass.

With that said, if they were looking for just a neutral field, they could have played the game in Williamstown, Albany or any number of locations between Rochester and Beverly. Coon admitted that there was a recruiting component involved, since Greater Boston is a growing hotbed and he has interested players.

I have no problem with this phenomenon. As I wrote earlier, it's logical. What I want to know is: does it really work? Does playing a neutral field game in Boston or Massapequa or Baltimore actually pay off with increased interest among the prep players in that region? Will the number of applications go up?

A lot of coaches would probably say, "It won't hurt," and that's true, but is this tactic quantifiable?

Joel, from your recruiting experience, and what you know of prospective Division III lacrosse players of this era, is setting up neutral field games an effective enough method to make it the new "home visit?"

CENSER: Well, I doubt kids are a choosing a college because the lacrosse team played a game in close proximity. And if the kid was interested in Haverford it definitely had more to do with academics than gameday. But you're right Jac, it probably didn't hurt. At the very least, it took recruits away from campus, where we weren't competing with poetry slams and interpretative dance shows for fans.

As a player, I liked playing at neutral locations. They were never poorly attended. If we wanted to battle Geneseo mid-week we definitely didn't want to bus the six hours to Rochester (but Williamsport, Pa., wasn't too bad). Ditto for the Roanoke game we played in Towson. Personally, the match-up I looked forward to the most every season was when we would face Hampden-Sydney in Northern Virginia, where I grew up.

Nothing said home like strip malls and heavy traffic.

As an alumnus, I like it even more. This Saturday, all the former Black Squirrels living around New York will get to see the Fords vs. Caldwell Rohrbach-less St. Lawrence in Bronxville. The Washington, D.C., contingent will be treated the next weekend to the Squirrels battling Denison in Alexandria.

Of course, we may have to watch two 4-3 games, but that's another story for another day...

To the games (Jac enters the week 8-2; Joel is 6-4)....

No. 12 Union (0-0) at No. 3 Cortland (1-0) – Saturday, 1 p.m.

COYNE: The steady rise of the Union program under Paul Wehrum has been fun to watch. When I spoke with Wehrum in the fall of '08 after his first season, he admitted there were times he was a little unsure of himself even after all of the success he had at Herkimer. But once he got back to using the techniques that made him a Hall of Famer, Wehrum started to see success.

It culminated last year with the Dutchmen's first visit to the NCAA tournament, where they blew out Nazareth and scared the heck out of Tufts in the second round before falling, 6-5. Expectations are even higher this year, with Sean Aaron between the pipes and balance all over the field. What better way to find out how good you are than a road game at Cortland (where Wehrum was a three-time All-American in the early '70s)?

I think there's a pretty decent chance that Aaron could steal one for Union, and I think the Dutchmen will be a bear in May, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to make that leap of faith on the road against the Red Dragons. Beville's Bunch, 9-7.

CENSER: Goals are going to be at a premium this one. With Aaron patrolling the pipes, the Red Dragons aren't going to be pumping 'em in.

But Union's going to have to score as well. I think Cortland is better suited for the slow-down, half-field grinder than people think. Sophomore midfield phenom Joe Slavik, quarterback Greg Wright, and crafty southpaw Mike Tota find net enough to pull this one out. Dragons, 11-6.

No. 19 St. Mary's (1-1) at Franklin & Marshall (2-1) – Saturday, 4 p.m.

COYNE: Chris Hasbrouck knows the Seahawks need this game. As the St. Mary's coach told me on Sunday, his program has won some big games in the past, but it has struggled to string them together. As such, they've been lost in the CAC wilderness when Selection Sunday rolls around. Franklin & Marshall is a mid-level team from a power conference, so it'll count as an important win for the Seahawks if they can bank it.

Assuming Stu Wheeler can produce another solid performance in goal and the continued emergence of John Dehm as a playmaker, this game is St. Mary's to lose. Seahawks, 10-7.

CENSER: Ever since Todd Cavallaro took over at Franklin & Marshall for the 2007 season, the Centennial Conference has been waiting with bated breath for the Dips to regain some of the chutzpa from the Dave Webster era. There's been some signs of life (notably a 11-9 win over Gettysburg in 2008), but F&M's last trip to the conference playoffs was still back in 2005 (back when Steve Welsh was cutting up guys from behind and a freshman named Tommy Kehoe was roaming between the stripes).

This year's Diplomat squad returns everyone from last year's 8-6 team that was a couple of bad bounces away from breaking through. This includes an attack unit of Tristan Miller, Billy Kempner and quarterback Colin McKew (who never met a shot he liked), and Andrew Setian, probably the premier face-off guy in conference (70 percent!).

St. Mary's showed me something taking down Dickinson and playing Roanoke close. The Dips, meanwhile, seemed more than happy to continue to wallow in conference mediocrity after an 11-4 smackdown at Lynchburg last Saturday. But I think when it's all said and done, F&M will be a tough out in the Centennial and get the conference some of its mojo back here. Diplo, 10-9.

No. 7 RIT (0-0) vs. No. 11 Endicott (0-0) – Saturday, 6 p.m. (at Cambridge, Mass.)

COYNE: Time will tell just how many recruits are lured in by this game, but that aside, I think it's time for my first upset of the weekend. RIT is going to be a player for both the Liberty League AQ as well as an at-large spot, but they are replacing key players from every level of the field – Bob Tonnessen in net, MJ Kiekebelt at LSM, Jordan MacIntosh in the midfield and Kelso Davis on attack. I'm not sure if it's reasonable to expect them to find cohesion amongst the newbies in the first outing.

Plus they are going against an Endicott squad that RIT head coach Jake Coon aptly described as "scrappy." The Gulls certainly have a couple of holes to fill on their end, but Sean Quirk seems to churn out these hard-nosed, cookie-cutter kids every season to fill the void. I'll take Endicott in an oddly lopsided game, 14-9.

CENSER: RIT will be the favorite in the Liberty League. Tyler Russell can fill it up with the best of them, and their entire starting defense returns.

But Jac sugarcoated the Tigers's graduation losses. Kiekebelt, MacIntosh, Davis and Iric Bressler will go down as some of the best players to don the Orange, Black and White.

While Endicott had their fair share of rebuilding to do too (defensemen Robert Crossett and Andrew Pochebit, and attackman Jack Curtis among others), they still return some legit offensive weapons and face-off technician Sam Ozycz (65%).

At "Hahvahd," we'll find out if the Tigers are built to last. RIT in a bruising slugfest, 11-9.

Jac's Pick

Keene State (0-1) at Rensselaer (1-0) – Saturday, 1 p.m.

COYNE: Joel knows that I can get sucked into putting too much stock in a program just because I do a story on them. I was all set to hop on the Keene State bandwagon after writing the story on senior attackman Matt Schairer a couple of weeks. Owls' head coach Mark Theriault was talking up his team, even with the loss of Griffin Meehan, and I was soaking it in, ready to ride KSC to the win.

Then the Bates game happened last night, and the Owls were shut down by the Bobcats in a 7-6 overtime loss. Give all the credit to the boys from Lewiston for looking tough on the backline, but RPI has a better defense. I'm not completely off the bandwagon, because I think Keene will still win the Little East and be a thorn in someone's side come May, but that's two months away. I like goalie James Manchester and the Engineers defense to carry the day. RPI, 8-6.

CENSER: The Engineers lose their top three leading scorers (including superstar Nick Billy).

Keene State has never had much success outside the comfy confines of the Little East, and just got taken down by NESCAC bottomfeeder Bates.

If the Owls could only put up six against the Bobcats, don't expect too many more against Manchester, defenseman Scott Stolzenberg, face-off man Brian Larkin and the rest of the RPI buzzsaw. Engineers, 9-5.

Joel's Pick

Ursinus (1-0) at Messiah (1-1) – Saturday, 4 p.m.

COYNE: I was all set to take the Falcons, especially after they played reasonably well against Gettysburg, hanging eight on the defensive-minded Bullets. But Wednesday's result between Ursinus and Widener has altered my perception.

The Bears scored 14 goals on the Pride – a notoriously stingy team that held No. 3 Cortland to just nine markers days prior – in a comfortable win. In addition, Jamie Steele is an excellent coach, and he's now entering his third year with Ursinus, and that's the timeframe when things start to take form for a program. I'm not sure if UC is ready for primetime at the top of the Centennial, but it'll improve to 2-0 against the Mighty MAC. Bruins, 15-12.

CENSER: Ursinus is my sleeper team of 2012, even if its artificial turf – a home-field advantage and a place where knees generally went to die – has been replaced.

If a regional bragging rights game against Widener is any indication, the Bears will be better in 2012. For the past couple years, the Bears have asked midfielder Jeff Ocampo to carry most of weight on offense. But on Wednesday, the reigning Centennial Conference Player of the Year was held to a single goal, while a couple of freshmen (Tim Stratton's younger brother, Mark, dropped five) stepped up.

Even with the graduation of midfielder J.J. Miller, Messiah has a lot of talent trending towards the offensive side of the field. But this game will be all UC. 12-7, Da Bears.

Coyne v. Censer Archive
Week Two: The State of the Shoremen
Week One: Starting with a Must-Game


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