February 18, 2013

Making Sense: St. Lawrence Breaking Out of Cold Storage

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

The sun eventually shines on Pierson Fowler (above) and St. Lawrence, but it's usually a long time after the rest of the lacrosse world. It's one of the hazards being located a couple of miles from the Canadian border, but the Saints are doing the best they can.
© St. Lawrence Sports Information

Mike Mahoney felt that last gust of arctic air. Standing on the sidelines under the lights of the St. Lawrence turf field, which is ringed by mounds of snow, Mahoney knows that when the chill cuts through his multiple layers of clothing, it's time to call it a night. After just 45 minutes outside, the Saints coach blows his whistle and sends the kids to the locker room.

Welcome to preseason lacrosse, Canton, N.Y.-style.

"I'm not the kind of coach who needs to have us outside just for the sake of doing it," Mahoney said. "We don't need to put kids out on the field with a 10-degree wind chill. The potential for injury is greater. The turf has been cleared and we've been practicing outside the last couple of nights, but that can change in a heartbeat."

Located less than 20 miles from the Canadian border, and just a 90-minute drive to Ottawa, Canton is a place where you can always count on it being at least 10 degrees colder than where you are. It's a difficult situation for players and coaches alike, mostly due to the morale-busting potential of spending most of the preseason in a field house, but it has become the norm for St. Lawrence.

"Sometimes we'll split practices in case we need to talk, or walk through some things," Mahoney said. "We'll take care of that inside and we'll go outside, even if it's for 45 minutes, and be as productive as a two-hour practice in a field house. We try to read the guys a little bit. We try to get a sense whether the guys are getting worn down or are the injuries starting to pile up from just being inside? If so, we might give them a night off or do a workout in the fitness center. We try to keep it as a fresh as we possible can and hope for the best."

Not only does being cooped up indoors create a sense of cabin fever for lacrosse players, but it hinders many of the developmental processes that come with a 110-yard patch of turf. Forced to play 6-on-6 much of the time, St. Lawrence's clearing game is typically a little rusty early in the season and there is always a lag in conditioning. Mostly, the coaching staff can't can spend the time it needs on a lot of nuances in the transition game.

"When you have a two-hour indoor time, you're trying to get through some work and a lot of times you're working your offensive midfielders on offense, so they're not getting a taste of sprinting back to the hole and taking on a defensive role," Mahoney said. "Nothing replaces the opportunity to run on a full field. I would liken it to being a basketball coach and having your team play half-court basketball the whole time leading up to the first game. It's not the best scenario, but we try to make the most of it and the kids really buy into that."

As if the weather wasn't bad enough in Canton, freezing temperatures and lake-effect snow caused the cancellation of a scrimmage this past weekend against St. John Fisher. Scrimmages are vital for the Saints, and Mahoney says the loss of even one is a blow, especially when SLU is trying to settle on who is going to be the starting goalie and breaking in two new close defensemen.

St. Lawrence starts its regular season later than most non-NESCAC Division III programs because of the issues with weather, and there is one more scheduled scrimmage — a tri-meet with Williams and Hamilton next weekend — before the regular season begins. But once the Saints gets going, there are no breaks on the schedule until the 10th game of the season against Vassar on April 6.

It starts with Haverford on March 2 and is followed by Adrian, Nazareth, Bowdoin, Middlebury, Skidmore, Geneseo, Union and Plattsburgh. These are not teams you want to play while still figuring out basic concepts.

"We're hopeful, but I'll let you know in April whether it was a great idea or not," Mahoney said about his schedule. "In all honesty, as far as an opportunity for us to get at-large bids, we felt like we needed to ramp it up a little bit. There won't be any breathers, but we'll be battle-tested by the time we get to the league. I don't know what our record will look like, but the plan is to put ourselves in some real tough positions so by the time we hit the conference schedule, we'll be in the best shape that we can be. Hopefully that will pan out."

Fortunately, Mahoney and the Saints have a deep, experienced midfield and a solid attack unit returning this spring. St. Lawrence has always been known for its defense, and that unit will be ready to roll against the Haverford. All the the Saints need is a little more time.

And an early spring wouldn't hurt, either.

Players of the Week

NCAA Division II
Riley Loewen, A, Sr., Limestone
With the Saints clinging to a 4-3 lead at halftime on the road against Tampa, Loewen exploded for two goals and three assists in the second half, helping Limestone roll to a 17-5 rout of the Spartans. Loewen ended with six points (3g, 3a) and his trifecta of markers came on four shots. Loewen followed up that performance with another hat trick in the Saints too-close-for-comfort 7-5 win over Saint Leo on Sunday.

NCAA Division III
Max Voumard, A, Sr., Lynchburg
The Hornets pulled off the first big upset of the season thanks to Voumard. The New Jersey product scored four goals and dished out an assist in Lynchburg's 13-12 victory over Salisbury.

MCLA Division I
Jack Farr, A, Sr., Stanford

I have no idea what he did against Oregon State, but according to the Stanford twitter account (welcome to the nebulous world of MCLA statistics), Farr buried eight goals against No. 7 Oregon on Sunday afternoon at the Pac 12 Shootout in a 14-7 victory. The Cardinal is undefeated and is looking like a Top 5 team thanks to Farr.

MCLA Division II
John Michael Coon, M, Soph., St. Thomas
With the Tommies facing No. 7 Concordia (Calif.) and No. 3 Westminster less than 24 hours apart, the midfield would have to big threat. Coon did his part, scoring two goals and setting up two others in the 14-7 win over Concordia before potting a pair in the 11-10 triumph over the Griffins.

Power Fives

NCAA Division II
1. Dowling (0-0) – It'll be Dowling vs. Limestone, but the battle between Jake Ternosky and Lou Riley is the best subplot.
2. Limestone (2-0) – The Saints looked like their old selves in the second half against Tampa. Not so much against Saint Leo.
3. Merychurst (0-0) – Think Chris Ryan will be ready to celebrate St. Patrick's day after an 11-hour bus ride back from Missouri?
4. Le Moyne (0-0) – End results aside, it's pretty impressive that Le Moyne has been picked first in six-straight NE-10 preseason polls.
5. Merrimack (0-0) – Now that UMass-Lowell is adding a D-I program, how long will the Warriors take to finally make the jump?

NCAA Division III
1. Lynchburg (1-0) – Most teams wilt when Salisbury storms back from a deficit, but the Hornets held their ground until the end.
2. Cortland (0-0) – Can Steve Beville judge talent? Well, he was on the U.S. National Team selection committee in '98 and '02.
3. Stevenson (1-0) – Scoring 17 goals was a good sign, but giving up 11 markers to Nazareth was very un-Mustang-like.
4. Cabrini (0-0) – Bobby Thorpe is going to get a lot of attention this year, so an as-of-yet unknown player is going to get solid numbers.
5. Salisbury (1-1) – Most other teams would get bounced out of The Fives this early, but I'll give the champs a discount.

MCLA Division I
1. Colorado State (0-0) – MCLA-II Westminster is definitely not the worst team on the Rams' docket. They should get a test.
2. Arizona State (2-0) – It took the Devils five games to get 34 goals last year. They've already netted 33 in two contests to open '13.
3. Stanford (3-0) – The Cardinal appears to be gaining confidence with every game. What's this team's ceiling? Appears to be pretty high.
4. BYU (1-0) – Looking forward to seeing what this BYU (and Chapman) team is all about on Friday night in Vegas.
5. UC Santa Barbara (2-1) - Close call between the Gauchos and Oregon here. Went with UCSB because of Stanford scores.

MCLA Division II
1. St. Thomas (3-0) – The Tommies received a test from two very different types of teams and passed both exams.
2. Grand Valley State (0-0) – Lakers have tightened up their roster for the '13 run. They've gone from 43 in '12 to 30.
3. Westminster (2-1) – The one-goal loss to St. Thomas proves what we all suspected — the Griffins are the real deal.
4. Dayton (0-0) – The Flyers will have to lean on All-American faceoff specialist JP Hewitt to lead the squad while the offense gets acclimated.
5. North Dakota State (0-0) – You can bet the Bison will be trying to get their hands on the St. Thomas-Westminster game film.

Notebooks

NCAA Division II: Despite a roster thinner than most seasons, expectations haven't changed for NYIT.
NCAA Division III: Lynchburg's Steve Koudelka on the three key plotlines from the win over Salisbury.
MCLA Division I: The Texas job came to him rather suddenly, but Andy Garrigan and the 'Horns are making it work.
MCLA Division II: Florida Gulf Coast is just in its second year in the MCLA, but the Eagles are aiming high.


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