June 10, 2013

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Coyne's All-Americans: NCAA Division III

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

His 112 points are impressive enough, but Cabrini's Corey Elmer produced against the best teams on the Cavaliers' schedule this spring.
© Kevin P. Tucker

Division III is about inclusion. It's about playing for the love of the game, as opposed to embracing the sport because of a financial windfall to offset tuition. Student-athletes ostensibly choose the school first and athletics second. But inclusion does have its limits.

Inclusion doesn't mean that All-American certificates need to be handed out like halftime orange slices. The USILA handed out 146 All-American accolades this year, meaning that for every four teams that sponsor the sport in Division III, three All-American honors were doled out. That's seems a bit much.

This is not to say that any of the 146 are subpar players. They all stood out in their own way, but almost all of them received all-conference honors, meaning it's not necessary to also shoehorn them into the All-American ledger. And while I understand the importance of the position, were there really more short-stick defensive middies worthy of honorable mention than FOGOs and LSMs combined?

This is why I come up with my All-America team: to find the 12 guys who deserve to have their name on the marquee. With so many outstanding players in the division and different metrics used to evaluate them, there will never be a consensus, but these are my selections for Coyne's Division III All-Americans:

Attack — Corey Elmer, Jr., Cabrini
During his sophomore spring, Cabrini head coach Steve Colfer said Elmer was a bit of a practice hero. He was electric when the lights weren't on, but it never translated to game time. This year was a completely different situation. Elmer put up computer game numbers (57 goals, 55 assists) along with six game-winning goals, helping the Cavaliers charge into the quarterfinals. Cabrini's numbers are always somewhat inflated with the immaturity of the CSAC, but Elmer produced against the top non-conference opponents. Lynchburg (3g), Gettysburg (1g, 4a), Cortland (3g), Union (3g), Denison (7g, 2a), Springfield (4g, 4a) and RIT (2g, 2a) all had a hard time containing Elmer.

Attack — Richard Lachlan, Sr., Roanoke
A month into the season, the Maroons were 3-3 and appeared headed toward an underwhelming season, but then Lachlan got hot, and 'Noke didn't lose another game until the second round of the tournament. In the 12-game winning streak, Lachlan averaged nearly a hat trick a game, propelling Roanoke to a second seed in the South bracket. He finished with 53 goals and 13 assists for a team best 66 points. One of his best games came against eventual national champion Stevenson when he scored four goals and dished out an assist with his final goal of the day being the overtime game-winner in the Maroons 14-13 victory.

Attack — Bennett Cord, Sr., Washington College
The re-emergence of the Shoremen on the national scene over the past two seasons has been on the back of Cord, who has been a steady presence on attack despite drawing the most attention from opposing teams. Playing with a physical attacking style, Cord led Washington College with 33 goals this year, but also set up his teammates for an additional 31 assists. He had a point in every game, and notched two goals and six assists in a pair of contests against Dickinson and added three dimes in the second round loss to Stevenson.

Midfield — Kyle Aquin, Soph., RIT
Releasing my All-America team after the NCAA tournament affords me the full breadth of the season to evaluate, and there's no doubt that Aquin's record-tying seven-goal performance in the championship game factored in. But it was more confirmation than anything else. Running on a high-powered offense — RIT had five guys with 58 points or more — Aquin (team-leading 65 goals, 10 assists) was the lead dog. He's always quick to credit his teammates for his individual successes, which is probably one of the reasons he's a captain as a sophomore, but it's actually Aquin who makes life for his peers easier by working with high efficiency (45 shooting percentage) on the crease.

Midfield — Nicolas Phillipi, Sr., Stevens
Phillipi was the lead man on the Ducks' powerful first midfield line that, along with Rich Durpas and Harrison Dorne, would have to be considered the best unit in the country this season. Phillipi notched at least three points in all but three games this season on his way to a 74-point (54g, 20a) effort. In the eight games that Stevens played against NCAA tournament competition, Phillipi had 22 goals and five assists, including a six-goal outburst against Tufts during the regular season. On a lot of other teams, he could have been a 70-goal guy, but Phillipi's ability to play within a structure that maximized the potential of a number of players (Dupras and Dorne, specifically) accentuated his value.

Midfield — Joe Slavik, Jr., Cortland
If the Red Dragons were to go deep into the tournament, they'd need Slavik to not only produce, but also mentor a couple of youngsters on the first midfield line. He did both. He was second on the squad with 59 points (33g, 26a) and also nurtured sophomores Matt Rakoczy and Mike Cantelli, who were big components in this year's 19-1 run. He can do the little things in the background, but when the team needs a spark, he's not afraid to seize the moment. With Cortland trailing RIT, 6-1, in the third quarter of the semifinals, Slavik scored all three of his goals, including the tying marker midway through the fourth. The Dragons' comeback eventually fell short, but it never would have happened without Slavik.

Faceoff — Sam Ozycz, Sr., Endicott
There were a couple of slam dunks for the All-Coyne team, and Ozycz was definitely one of them. Coming back for his postgrad year — he's on pace to pick up his MBA — Ozycz was dominant at the dot. He finished second in the NCAA in faceoff winning percentage (76.1) and was tops in ground balls (13.8 per game). More impressively, against teams that competed in the NCAA tournament — Stevens, Eastern Conn., RIT, Tufts and Western New England twice — he registered a 72.6 faceoff mark along with 15.6 ground balls per outing. His most thorough game came in the regular season finale against archrival WNE when he won 27-of-28 draws and snagged 26 ground balls.

Long-Stick Midfield — Brandon Palladino, Sr., Dickinson

Salisbury goalie Alex Taylor saw over 100 more shots than he did last year, but he was up to the task, making him the goalie pick for Jac Coyne's All-American team.

The Red Devils were a complete team as their undefeated regular season record and top seed would attest, but Palladino was at the tip of the spear from his long-stick midfielder spot. He was his dominating self on the faceoff wing (57 ground balls), while also finishing second on the team in caused turnovers (38). Taking advantage of the new rules this spring, Palladino also finished with five goals and 11 assists for a career-high 16 points. He finished his stellar career with 275 ground balls, ranking him sixth all-time at Dickinson.

Defense — Kyle Holechek, Jr., Stevenson
The Mustangs were a fun-loving, hard-hitting, talented bunch this spring on their way to the national championship and Holechek exemplified that. Drawing some of the toughest assignments, he started in all 24 games, finishing fourth in ground balls (74) and second in caused turnovers. While he didn't have the flash of linemate Callum Robinson, he was rock steady in the back — an important key in helping rookie netminder Dimitri Pecunes develop over the course of the season.

Defense – Matt Callahan, Sr., Tufts
The numbers didn't jump off the page — 46 ground balls and 24 caused turnovers — for Callahan this spring, but he was critical in the Jumbos shrugging off a self-inflicted early-season slump and rally for the NESCAC title. Tufts was one of two quarterfinalists that had a sub-.500 faceoff percentage, which put additional stress on the backline, but thanks to Callahan, who was tasked with monitoring the entire defense for much of the year, the Jumbos were able to get the ball back to their prolific offense more often than not. Callahan did his part on the offensive end, too, with three goals and three assists.

Defense — Peter Zouck, Sr., Dickinson
Palladino stands out on field with his end-to-end ability, but Zouck was a huge presence in holding opponents to fewer than eight goals per game. He paced the Red Devils in caused turnovers (44) and finished second in ground balls (74), and turned the ball over just seven times the entire season. While doing his best work locking down the opposition's top offensive threat, he also chipped in with a goal and two helpers.

Goalie — Alex Taylor, Jr., Salisbury
What immediately catches your eye about Taylor's game is his sometimes seemingly reckless forays outside the crease, but he has an amazing feel for when to leave his perch in the Salisbury cage, and it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on an offense. This year, Taylor combined his athleticism with being a true ball-stopper. Facing over 100 more shots than he did in '12, he posted a 61.5 save percentage along with a 5.50 goals against average. All things considered, the Sea Gulls had no business being in the tourney semifinals this year. A lot of it had to do with the defense as a whole, but Taylor was the backbone of that unit and had a year that can't be overlooked.

Rookie of the Year

Luke Wooters, Nazareth
The Golden Flyers were sitting at 6-4 at the end of March and looking like a team destined for a short season, but thanks to Wooters, Nazareth advanced all the way to the second round of the tournament. He finished with 64 goals and 29 assists for a 93-point inaugural campaign and was especially impressive in the postseason. In the two Empire 8 tournament victories, Wooters averaged five goals and two assists, including a seven-goal outburst versus Ithaca in the conference title game. He also scored five goals and dished out nine dimes in a pair of NCAA tournament games. In just his first year, he broke the single-season school record for goals.

Coach of the Year

Ryan Cavanagh, Plattsburgh
It was a record-breaking year for the Cardinals. They set the single-season wins total (14). They earned the highest SUNYAC tournament seed (2nd) in program history. They entered the weekly Top 20 ranking for the first time ever and had the most all-conference selections (7). Cavanagh, a graduate of the school, will gladly pass along the accolades to his players, but he has been the catalyst for the Cardinals emergence on the national stage, and he's doing it in just his second year. Every SUNYAC school labors in the large shadow of Cortland, but Plattsburgh's success this year provides a reason to believe that the Red Dragons run will not extend into perpetuity. For that alone, Cavanagh has set himself apart from the rest.

Player of the Year

Nicolas Phillipi, Stevens
There was no clear-cut favorite for player of the year as in season's past, but the honor will stay in the midfield for a second consecutive year. Brandon Palladino won the USILA's version of this award, and there's no knocking that pick as he's one of the best around. But if you take Palladino off the Red Devils, does it change anything? Without Phillipi, the Ducks probably miss the tourney. If you're into hairsplitting, this argument will sound like one for an MVP as opposed to player of the year, but that's just semantics from my perspective. Phillipi brought the most to the table this spring.


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