May 12, 2013

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MD3 Second Round Tournament Impressions

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

Lynchburg's Pat Ohrem (left) and Stevenson's Kyle Holechek will exchange pleasantries once again on Wednesday night when the Hornets travel to Owings Mills to face the Mustangs in the quarterfinals.

Salisbury is still alive. For all of the Sea Gulls' faults this year – the uneven offense, the five losses, the missed chances – they are still just two wins from playing for yet another national championship after grinding down Washington & Lee on Saturday, 7-4.

That should be unsettling for the rest of the field.

Not to say that any of the seven remaining teams are afraid of Salisbury, but you can bet they have a healthy respect for the Sea Gulls and what they can do on any given day. This is especially true considering what Salisbury did to W&L.

The Generals appeared to be a rotten match-up for the Gulls in the second round. With its grinding style and opportunistic offense, W&L had the same look as the other teams that have handed Salisbury setbacks this spring (with the possible exception of St. Mary's). With its propensity to sputter when faced with bruising backlines, Salisbury's ability to score enough goals was definitely in question.

Well, the Gulls only scored seven, but the Salisbury defense was nearly flawless. Goalie Alex Taylor made 11 saves, and was his usual opportunistic self on adventures outside the crease, and it took W&L over 20 minutes to find the back of the net. The Generals were obviously hurt by not having leading scorer Cameron Dabir in the line-up, but the Gulls held Mac Means, Joe Wood, Cooper Brown and Garrett Paglia – the next four on the W&L scoring list – to just two goals and an assist.

To cap it off, long pole Knute Kraus went end-to-end for a spectacular man-down goal in the second frame that proved to be the game-winner.

Salisbury was technically the underdog on Saturday, but that was basically a coin flip. On Wednesday, when the Gulls travel to Dickinson, they will be massive underdogs – the first time in a long while that Salisbury has worn that label in the tournament. The Red Devils are 17-0 against one of the toughest schedules around, and are one of two favorites to win the national championships.

But even with all that, until someone beats them, the Sea Gulls will never feel like underdogs.

The Promise of Tufts-RIT

Just looking at the box score from last year's quarterfinal game between Tufts and RIT is fun, never mind that the Tigers and Jumbos put on one of the better shows in the tournament in 2012, with Tufts pulling out a 15-13 victory. Combined, there were 15 players with multi-point performances, 92 shots and just five 30-second penalties. As we prepare for another installment of this rivalry on Wednesday, it's not unreasonable to think we might get treated to an even more entertaining game.

In their respective second rounds victories, both teams showed that they doing the same things they were last year. Tufts and Stevens combined for 100 shots in the Jumbos 14-9 win, while RIT teamed up with Cabrini for 88 shots in the Tigers' 22-13 triumph. Seven different players, led by Eddie Kiesa's eight-point performance, registered multiple points for RIT while Cole Bailey (4g, 3a) led a four-person Tufts contingent. And there was a grand total of four penalties for three minutes between the two teams.

I'll do my breakdown of the game itself later, but just on the surface, this contest should have everything we look for in a lacrosse game.

The Quiet Contender

Take a look at the remaining teams and which one sticks out to you? Seven of the eight teams have appeared in the Top 5 of the weekly poll at least once, seven of eight have at least 15 wins, and seven of the eight have no more than five losses. Even if you go to LaxPower, you'll find seven teams bunched up in the Top 8 of the ratings, with the eighth team wallowing down in the No. 33 spot.

Who's this outlying eighth team?

It's Western New England. The Bears haven't advanced past the quarterfinals of the tournament (they've made it three times) and they don't have the shiny records like some of their other peers at this point, but they are a gritty bunch of kids that well represent the hard-nosed, Springfield, Mass., ethos. And while they might be the great unknowns of the tournament from a fan's perspective, every coach left in the bracket knows about them.

Cortland coach Steve Beville knows what he's up against. In his first season with the Dragons in '07, Beville squeezed by John Klepacki's bunch, 12-10, on their way to the national championship game. Two years later, Cortland played in only a single one-goal game all season on their way to the national title, and it was a 6-5 victory over WNE in the quarters.

Western New England may not beat Cortland this time, either. But the Golden Bears didn't arrive at this point by accident. They may not be wearing the prettiest dress to the party, but they can dance.

Thoughts...

Definitely did not see Stevenson and Washington College combining for 30 goals in their clash. And while I thought it would definitely be a physical game, I didn't envision the teams combining for 26 penalties and 20 minutes in the bucket...another workmanlike effort from Cortland, with 10 players accounting for all of the goals in the 14-8 win over Aurora...speaking of Aurora, the Spartans proved themselves worthy of the big stage. They can take extra solace in knowing they are one of five teams to score eight goals against Cortland this spring – Plattsburgh, RIT, Ithaca and Stevens. That's pretty good company...not to pick at an old scab, but Lynchburg seems to more effective as a tourney underdog than favorite.

Saturday's Results
Dickinson 20, Adrian 7
Western New England 15, Nazareth 12
Tufts 14, Stevens 9
Salisbury 7, Washington & Lee 4
RIT 22, Cabrini 13
Stevenson 17, Washington College 13
Cortland 14, Aurora 8
Lynchburg 12, Roanoke 9

Quarterfinals
Tufts at RIT
Salisbury at Dickinson
Western New England at Cortland
Lynchburg at Stevenson


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