April 4, 2013

WD2 Notebook: Adelphi's Simple Mission to Keep Winning

by Mark Macyk LaxMagazine.com

“At the end of the day they’re seeing what we’re seeing,” Adelphi coach Rob Grella said. “‘Just handle what you can handle. Just keep winning.’"
© Adelphi

Rebuilding is a relative term at Adelphi. In Rob Grella’s second season as head coach, the Panthers (9-0) are only beating teams by an average of 13.5 points. Maybe that’s why they’re still only ranked No. 5, even after beating Stonehill 12-5 on Saturday.

Or perhaps it’s because Adelphi’s second-leading scorer is a freshman. Rachel O’Brien has been a revelation in her first season, piling up 26 goals and 13 assists thus far.

“If she continues she’s gonna roll that same path Erica Devito went down,” said Adelphi coach Rob Grella.

Not a bad road to follow. Devito was a four-time All-American and Adelphi’s all-time points leader.

Or maybe folks still doubt Adelphi because senior Meg Brown is out for the year with an injury. It certainly seemed like the Panthers would struggle when Brown went down. The Panthers were cruising past Molloy in the second game of the season, leading 10-2, when Brown, who had scored four goals in the first game, left the game. Adelphi held on to win 17-12.

“I was wondering if were were going to be able to get through the season,” Grella said. “[Brown]’s all heart, all soul. You lose someone like that you think, ‘Man, this whole thing is gonna come falling down.’ The other two captains stepped up. Players came off the bench. ”

Adelphi has already overcome adversity, found new players to step up, and beaten a Top 10 team, but, for whatever the reason, after years of leaving no doubt as to their dominance, the Panthers still find themselves needing to prove something. 

“At the end of the day they’re seeing what we’re seeing,” Grella said. “‘Just handle what you can handle. Just keep winning.’ It’s kind of what we’re sticking to, because we don’t really have anything else to tell them.”

That’s why, one year after winning the Northeast-10 tournament only to find out they’d be playing their first-round NCAA tournament game on the road at C.W. Post, Adelphi is hoping to take the guesswork out of everything.

“I tell them: 'One loss and we’re out,'” Grella said.

The Panthers are looking to take on Division II the same way the only way they know how, by winning every game. 

Just don’t try telling them they aren’t playing a tough schedule. It’s true the Panthers are not playing LIU Post, and their trip to Florida didn’t line up with Rollins, but like all NE-10 teams, they have some of the country’s toughest teams built into their schedule.

“We’re playing Le Moyne,” Grella said. “We’re playing New Haven. We’re playing Bentley. We’re playing Stonehill. I’m not sure how many more North teams we could have played.”

And they’re treating each opponent equally. During a week when a winless team knocked off Dowling, the Panthers know that no foe is easy.

“You go to the next big one,” Grella said. “The next big one is Southern New Hampshire.”

In truth, Adelphi’s league schedule is tough enough that they likely could withstand a loss or two and still make the NCAA tournament. The Panthers just don’t want to leave anything to chance.

“Division II just got so much better,” Grella said. “I don’t think you’re gonna see dominant teams like you used to. It’s up for grabs this year.”

Dominant is another relative term. This may not be your older sister's Adelphi, but, regardless of what the rankings say, the Panthers look pretty dominant so far.

Games of Last Week

New Haven 15, Bentley 4
Merrimack 10, Dowling 9 (OT)

On the final Saturday of March a couple of fringe Northern playoff competitors refused to go out like sacrificial lambs and pulled upsets that shook up the NCAA picture.

Natalie Lieberman had five goals and three assists and Nicole McKee had four goals to lead New Haven past Bentley, a team which beat the Chargers twice last season.

With losses to LIU Post, Dowling and Stonehill already, New Haven (4-4) faces an uphill battle to reach the NCAA tournament. But after Saturday’s shellacking of Bentley, the Chargers still have a chance, thanks to the built in schedule advantage of playing in the NE-10. They’ll still get shots at Le Moyne and Adelphi, plus the NE-10 tournament, to boost their dark horse candidacy.

But New Haven shouldn’t look past Merrimack, which it hosts on April 13.

After opening with six straight losses, including three rough NE-10 games at Assumption, Saint Anselm and Southern New Hampshire, Merrimack (1-6) might have played itself out of the playoff conversation, but, with five Top 15 matchups remaining on their slate, the Warriors could have as big of an impact as the NCAA tournament as any team.

That started on Saturday as Mia Rapolla delivered the game-winner in overtime to help Merrimack stun Dowling, one game after Dowling defeated Bentley. Dowling’s April 20th game at Stonehill now looms as a must-win.

Looking Ahead

No. 6 Pfeiffer at No. 3 Limestone, Saturday

Pfeiffer has been the surprise success story of the early season, but this is the Falcons chance to prove they're for real. Two years ago Limestone, beat Pfeiffer 7-6. No Conference Carolinas opponent has come within a goal of beating the Saints since.

Both teams are undefeated in the South Region. With at least two PSAC teams expected to earn bids to the NCAA tournament, Pfeiffer will likely need to beat Limestone to be considered for the NCAA tournament. The Falcons’ victories over Le Moyne and New Haven can’t be considered when picking postseason teams. Limestone’s victory over Rollins has the Saints in decent postseason shape even if Pfeiffer pulls the upset. There also exists a good chance for these two teams to meet again the Conference Carolinas tournament.

Game Balls

Natalie Lieberman, New Haven: Lieberman, a senior out of Eastport South Manor High School (N.Y.), had five goals, three assists, six draw controls and four groundballs in the Chargers’, 15-4, shocking of Bentley on Saturday. Lieberman, who leads NHU with 37 points (26 goals, 11 assists), followed that up with a game-high five goals and one assist in Wednesday’s, 16-11, loss to Le Moyne.

Kayla Minner, Mercyhurst: Minner scored the game-winner off an assist from Anna LeGrett with two seconds remaining as the Lakers upset Bloomsburg, 11-10, on Saturday. Minner, who had three goals and one assist against Bloomsburg, is tied for tops on Mercyhurst with 23 goals and 18 assists. The No. 14 Lakers (8-1) have only lost to Limestone and a successful PSAC season could have them contending for an NCAA tournament spot.

Jessica Pandolf, Lock Haven: Pandolf scored five of her seven goals during a 10-goal second half as Lock Haven pulled away and sink Slipper Rock, 17-6. The senior out of Sachem (N.Y.), is second on LHU in goals (28) and first in ground balls (22) and draw controls (32).

Miscellaneous

Rollins still rules the Sunshine State. The Tars headed over to Lakeland, Fla., and defeated Florida Southern, 12-10, on Wednesday. Rollins, which was led by Caroline Lamere’s three goals, rallied from a 7-5 second half deficit. The Tars will head to No. 2 West Chester for a rematch of the 2012 South Region final next week...  No. 7 Le Moyne continues to roll. Victoria Niles had four goals on Saturday as the Dolphins won at No. 13 New Haven, 16-11... Senior Alex Lodovici became IUP’s all-time leader in goals and points during Tuesday’s 18-9 win over Shippensburg. The Crimson Hawks (8-0) will likely move into the Top 15 if they’re still undefeated after Friday’s game at No. 15 Bloomsburg... Lindenwood (11-0) has the inside track at another WILA championship. The Lions went 4-0 during a trip through Colorado, including a, 15-13, win over Regis.

Mark Macyk has covered NCAA Division II and III women’s lacrosse for Lacrosse Magazine since 2011. He can be contacted at markmacyk@gmail.com.


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