March 23, 2007
by Brian Logue, Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff
Embracing history was part of the allure for Lars Tiffany when he took the head coaching job at his alma mater, Brown University, last summer. That history didn't include 2006.
"I never watched one thing from last year," said Tiffany. "I wanted a clean slate."
There's no arguing with the results. Five games into his tenure in Providence, the Bears are 4-1, double last year's win total from a dismal 2-11 season, and ranked 18th in the USILA poll. After dropping their opener, 12-11, to UMBC in overtime, the Bears have won four in a row, most notably wins over Hofstra and last year's national runner-up, Massachusetts.
"I really think it's playing with passion and playing with fire," said Tiffany. "We're grinding out the groundballs; we''e riding with a purpose. I really believe that can carry you in the close games."
The Bears face their biggest test on Saturday, heading to Hanover, N.H., for their Ivy League opener against a Dartmouth team (2-3) that has won two straight, including a 7-6 victory over Notre Dame.
Tiffany has no illusion of his team being the favorite in this game, despite the records and rankings. Brown's five opponents have combined for a 7-19 mark, while Dartmouth's five opponents are 23-10.
"When you play a schedule like they have, your record may not be great, but boy are they battle-tested," said Tiffany.
Key number one will be shutting down Nick Bonacci, who leads the Big Green with 21 points.
"He might not get it because he's so far up north, but to me, he's a first-team All-American," said Tiffany. "There's nobody better at getting to the goal, and he had 34 assists last year."
Brown will counter with Dave Madeira, the senior captain who has come on strong after missing the first two games of the season with a knee injury suffered in a preseason scrimmage against Drexel.
"I didn't realize how much I missed Dave Madeira until he starting playing," said Tiffany.
After scoring a goal in limited playing time against Providence, Madeira posted back-to-back, four-goal games in wins over Bellarmine and Massachusetts last week.
Another senior captain, midfielder Alex Buckley, has played a key role the Bears, highlighted by a four-goal game against UMBC. Freshman Thomas Muldoon has also made an immediate impact, with the game-winner over Hofstra included among his seven goals. Sophomore goalie Jordan Burke has also been solid with a 64.1 save percentage.
They will all need to play well against Dartmouth. While Tiffany may not have watched it, a good portion of his players will easily remember last year's encounter, when the Big Green seized an 11-1 lead en route to a 14-6 victory.
Tiffany's advice? Forget about it, just like their national ranking.
"I happened to see the poll before I went to practice on Monday," said Tiffany. "I said, 'Congratulations, you're ranked 18th in the country. Don't think about it for another second.'"
THE TAILGATE (compiled by LMO staff)
Game highlights and predictions for the weekend ahead:
No. 18 Brown (4-1) at Dartmouth (2-3) - Saturday, 1 p.m.
Typical Ivy League. You've got No. 1 Cornell and No. 9 Princeton, followed by No. 18 Brown, and then there are Penn, Yale and Dartmouth all receiving votes in the most recent USILA poll. So yeah, this game's pretty important, given the Ivy parity. If the Big Green can stop Will Yeatman, what makes you think they won't be able to stop Dave Madeira?
LMO Predicts: Dartmouth 8, Brown 7
No. 5 Duke (5-1) at No. 7 Georgetown (4-1) - Saturday, 1 p.m.
If indeed the remaining criminal charges against the three former Duke players are dropped "within the next few days," as FOXNews.com is reporting, then there could be some added fuel for the Blue Devils. Even if not, it will be nice to see this game actually played. It was cancelled in Durham, shortly before the entire season was, in 2006. Georgetown's impact freshmen Andrew Brancaccio (game-winner against Delaware) and Craig Dowd (four goals in win over Hobart) have stepped up in the last two games.
LMO Predicts: Duke 14, Georgetown 9
No. 12 North Carolina (6-2) at No. 10 Maryland (5-2) - Saturday, 12 p.m.
More so than any game on the docket, this could determine these teams' direction. Both have been somewhat mercurial -- Maryland struggling to put away Towson as part of its four-game winning streak; Carolina getting worked at Navy a little more than two weeks ago. While a lot of attention is befalling UNC's young attackmen Gavin Petracca (16g, 10a) and Bart Wagner (12g, 11a), the key match-up will likely be at the other end, with surging defenseman Tim Kaiser attempting to shut down the Terps' ambidextrous Max Ritz.
LMO Predicts: North Carolina 14, Maryland 12
No. 5 Virginia (6-1) at No. 3 Johns Hopkins (4-1) - Saturday, 1 p.m.
Drexel and Albany? Who? Those season-opening losses for season frontrunners Virginia and Hopkins, respectively, are long forgotten. After scoring seven goals against Towson, UVA's Ben Rubeor (nation-leading 26 goals) has become a player of the year candidate, but Hopkins' young long poles have been up to snuff thus far. Could be another classic Kip Turner-Jesse Schwarzman display in the pipes. Don't expect a repeat of last year's Virginia double up. A one-goal game at Homewood sounds about right -- and the Blue Jays are 26-6 in one-goal games during Dave Pietramala's tenure.
LMO Predicts: Johns Hopkins 9, Virginia 8
No. 4 Navy (6-0) at No. 16 Bucknell (6-1) - Saturday, 1 p.m.
According to an LMO fan poll, Navy has an 18-percent better chance than No. 1 Cornell of finishing the season undefeated. Bucknell's decisive loss to Fairfield takes some of the shine off of this game, but if anyone can play spoiler, it's the Bison. Surprisingly, Navy has not missed a beat defensively in the absence of Matt Russell. Goalie Collin Finnegan's 4.11 goals against average is tops in the nation.
LMO Predicts: Navy 13, Bucknell 9
Division II/III Tailgate
No. 2 RIT (5-0) at No. 9 Stevens Tech (5-1) - Saturday, 1 p.m.
Stevens Tech will be seeing a different level of offense on Saturday, when Eric Pritchard (13g, 12a), Scott Farress (18g) and the RIT attack visit Hoboken. Alas, the Ducks probably heard the same thing three weeks ago when they entertained another Empire 8 bruiser, Ithaca, prior to lashing the Bombers, 17-9. Stevens won't be intimidated, but it will need its best defensive effort of the season, and Duck goalie Jack Dunderdale has to rob the Tigers of at least three goals. There's a good match-up on faceoffs: RIT's Jacob Brunner (69.7 percent) and Stevens Tech's Steven Suggs (69.6 percent) rank 12th and 13th, respectively, in Division III.
LMO Predicts: RIT 12, Stevens Tech 9
No. 15 Tufts (3-0) at No. 3 Wesleyan (5-0) - Saturday, 1 p.m.
Tufts opened some eyes in D-III with the road victory over Roanoke on Tuesday, but they will make a lot of jaws drop if they are able to clip the Cardinals on the road. Wesleyan has been its typically stingy self, and Charlie Congleton (5.00 GAA, .721 sv%) is not disappointing in his final season as the backbone of the zone defense. Still, the early schedule has been pretty soft for the Cards, with only Endicott considered a quality win. The Jumbos rallied to beat a wounded, but dangerous, Roanoke team. They have also subdued Eastern Connecticut. Tufts has the offensive patience to wait out the zone, but won't be able to match-up in the midfield.
LMO Predicts: Wesleyan 8, Tufts 6