Monday Notebook: NCAA Division II
We'll be going a little deeper on why games like the one between No. 6 Merrimack and No. 3 Limestone don't happen more often in my Making Sense column that will come out a little later today, so we can touch on the actual game itself here. The Warriors pulled the mild upset with a 12-11 victory that came with 12 ticks left in the game on a strike by Greg Melaugh.
"It was definitely a game with two teams used to playing at a high level and not giving an inch," said Merrimack head coach Mike Morgan. "That's what made that game so great."
There are no stats for the game yet (J.B. Clarke plans on going over the film on Sunday and constructing a box score out of it), but anecdotally, Merrimack held a 7-5 lead at halftime, only to watch the Saints go on a big spurt in the third quarter to take the lead. Limestone still had a lead midway through the fourth only to see the Warriors pull away.
"We didn't manage the game well," admitted Clarke. "We went ahead by two in the fourth and made some very poor decisions in transition and some very poor decisions on offense that led to the ball going back down our necks again. We just played too much defense in the first and fourth quarters, really."
Clarke thought that Limestone might have an advantage since it was the Saints' eighth game of the season and Merrimack's second, but it didn't play out that way. Morgan thinks that concept was overblown in this situation.
"Although they had a couple of games under their belt, their starters haven't been running four tough quarters against tough competition," Morgan said of Limestone's first seven games. "I figured it would be pretty even. One thing we have always done is play really tough scrimmages – Springfield, Manhattan, Dowling and Tufts. We treated those as games. We weren't behind the eight ball. That whole thing of having a couple of games under your belt wasn't going to be that big of an advantage. It was something where they get to work out the kinks, but we did that during the scrimmages."
Clarke said that his team didn't respond to the way the game was being officiated. He thought the game was called fairly – he knew what to expect because he had those officials numerous times during his stint as head coach at Washington College – but that Limestone got unlucky with catching a couple of Merrimack's smaller players with high hits.
"We thought with the players they had returning they would be very dangerous," Clarke said. "We fouled too much today. We were man down 10 times or so."
Both coaches heaped praise on the other's top players. Clarke
singled out Merrimack senior middie Corey Lunney while Morgan
saluted Limestone's attack duo of Riley Loewen and Shayne Jackson.
Both agreed that it was a game that lived up to its rankings.
"These are the games we need to make us better and we got better today," said Clarke. "We hate to lose that game, but we learned a lot about ourselves. We haven't been tested that late in the game after seven games. We learned. It hurts to lose, but we'll be ready to roll on Wednesday."
- NYIT, currently ranked ninth, had a chance to knock off No. 5 Dowling on Saturday. Bobby Calhoun tied the game early in the fourth quarter at sevens, only to see the Lions rattle off three straight for a 10-7 lead and the eventual 10-8 triumph. Next up for the Bears are a pair of games against non-conference (but regional) teams before getting back into the ECC slate with a home date with No. 7 C.W. Post.
If it wants to look on the positive side, NYIT can now say that the playoffs have started. That's pretty much where the Bears are at this point after losing to Dowling. A lot of it is determined by how the rest of the season shakes out, but it's a pretty good bet that they've used up their allotted amount of losses this season. That means they'll have to go 4-0 against the ranked teams left on their schedule, including No. 1 Mercyhurst.
- We're used to seeing the ECC dominate the weekly poll, but don't be surprised if three of the top five teams in the country are from the Northeast-10 this week...No. 10 Catawba was rolling right along in the South region, but then lost to unranked Florida Southern on Saturday...Le Moyne and Adelphi swept their Western trips. The Dolphins handled Adams State and Colorado Mesa while the Panthers cruised to wins over NDNU and Dominican (Calif.). Adelphi still has Lindenwood left today...St. Anselm looks like the real deal. They beat St. Michael's and could crack the poll soon.