NCAA Division II Notebook
It was a showdown, there's no question about that. It featured a pair of former conference foes now representing different leagues — Seton Hill out of the newly formed ECAC, NYIT out of the powerful ECC — that were both ranked and looking to make a statement before the calendar even flipped to March.
In the wake of the game, won by NYIT, 12-11, Seton Hill head coach Brian Novotny actually wasn't too worried about it, knowing there were important lessons to be learned.
"It's a tough place to play and Tech is a talented team," said Novotny. "Our message to the kids was that it was one game and it's just one day in the grand scheme of an entire season. At the end of the day, it was a game in February where you go all the way up to New York and you lose and there is still a long ways left. I couldn't have been happier about how the guys responded. We really challenged them on the following Monday and they responded fabulously, and have ever since. If ever there was such a thing as a good loss — and I'm not sure if I really believe in that or not — that was one of those ones that woke us up."
The key point that Novotny was hoping his team could take away from the Tech loss was both the offense and defense working in harmony. It's something that he has been preaching for years — along with most coaches — but this loss was a perfect way to illustrate the point.
"They just weren't doing a very good job of controlling the tempo," Novotny said of his offensive players against NYIT. "They were doing a great job of initiating offense, but we were settling for that first shot off of the first dodge. We'd make a defensive stand for three or four minutes, then we go down on offense and we'd beat our man, take the shot and miss the cage or the goalie makes a nice save. Then we're right back on defense for another three or four minutes.
"We really tried to talk about the tempo of the game and the pace of the game. I think with our midfield group and our offensive group, we can generate 13 or 14 yards shots on the run pretty much at will. It's working for the great shot that we've been really trying to hammer home with those guys. We've worked with the guys on that for the past two weeks and it has really paid off."
The Griffins have won both games since the NYIT setback with relative ease. They breezed to a 14-9 win over Mars Hill two weekends ago and crunched a formerly ranked Chestnut Hill squad, 16-7, on Saturday. The offensive unit, which is stacked with high end players like All-Americans James Delaney (midfield) and Matt Delmonico (attack), is now grinding down defenses with a more efficient and balanced approach.
"If you look at our games and break down the stats, our attack did really well against Wheeling, against Tech our first line midfield did well, and then against Mars Hill it was our second line midfield. And then come back to Chestnut Hill, and our starting attack group had 17 points, which is a pretty big day. We're very deep and talented on the offensive end. We've got different match-ups and different guys who we can call on."
The schedule is less than a third complete to this point for the Griffins, with pivotal games against Pfeiffer, Lake Erie and Mercyhurst awaiting. They are games that will ultimately determine if Seton Hill is among the four teams that represent the South region in May. It's not a subject that Novotny and his team shy away from.
"We put it out on the table every year, and we've been doing it for years, that our ultimate goal is to be in the NCAA playoffs and playing on Memorial Day weekend," Novotny said. "That's kind of the overriding expectation of our program. Then we talk about the process we have to use to get to that point. That's focusing on every minute of every drill of every practice. That kind of plays out in getting better every week. When you start getting into the games, we make sure our performance is better next week than it was last week."
So far so good for the Griffins.
- I understand that there is a certain migratory pattern within the coaches' poll that must be followed, but I really don't know how you can have anyone but Limestone in the top spot at this point. The Saints were the national runner-up last year, they beat the initial No. 1 — and defending national champion — this spring and just dismissed No. 4 Merrimack on a neutral field. Limestone will get another chance to reinsert itself in the consciousness of the poll voters when it meets current No. 2 Le Moyne this coming weekend, but I wonder if even a win there will be enough. Fortunately, if Limestone is deserving, they'll get their just rewards in May.
- If the first two games are any indication, Adelphi is going to be a very good team this spring that follows a familiar pattern to its victories. Last week, the Panthers raced out to a 4-1 halftime lead against LIU Post, only to watch the Pioneers score six of the next eight goals and take a 7-6 lead. Adelphi rallied late, and Sal Tuttle scored the fourth-quarter game-winner in the 8-7 triumph.
Fast forward to Saturday and No. 6 NYIT in town. Again, the Panthers jumped out to a 4-1 lead, only to see the Bears score six of the next eight goals and take a 7-6 lead. Adelphi rallied again, with Tuttle once again potting the game-winner in the fourth quarter of an 11-9 win. The repetitive nature of these contests probably isn't good for Gordon Purdie's blood pressure, but if the end result is a victory against a ranked team, he'll take it.
- Josh Peterman's six goals for Adams State against Trine is a new school record and came within a goal of the WILA single-game mark...Andrew Conley scored a career-high five goals, including the game-winner in overtime, as a Florida Tech snapped Belmont Abbey's four-win start to the season, 12-11...Abbey rebounded with a win 10-7 victory over Rollins to improve to 5-1...Florida Tech responded by getting routed by first-year program Mount Olive, 19-11...top ranked Mercyhurst trailed No. 11 St. Michael's 3-0 early in the game but managed to rally for the 8-5 win.
Wheeling Jesuit had a productive spring break, beating Rollins, Florida Southern and Shorter by a combined score of 52-20...the national ranking that Catawba earned two weeks ago has been a curse. Since that time, the Indians have gone 0-4, including a 17-10 stomping at the hands of Tampa on Saturday...Seton Hill's Matt Delmonico dropped five goals and an assist on Chestnut Hill...Walsh started its NCAA existence with an 18-8 setback at the hands of Roberts Wesleyan, which is in its second year...I've got my eye on both Lake Erie (ECAC) and Molloy (ECC) to cause some headaches in their respective conferences.