Blogs and Commentary

posted 03.18.2013 at 10.01 a.m. by Jac Coyne

NCAA Division III Notebook

NOTE: This story was going to be in the 'Making Sense' feature block, but because of this weekend's events, it has been edited down and placed in this notebook. That's why it's a tad long.

If your son was playing five hours away from home, what would you do to see him play a couple of games in his hometown? For Dan Knapton, the answer was pretty easy. All he did was spend the last 18 months working on putting together a weekend event in Rochester, N.Y., featuring six NCAA Division III men's teams, six NCAA D-III women's teams and nine local high school programs, all while raising money for the American Cancer Society.

"My son plays on the Western New England team and I was getting to know the Coach [John] Klepacki," Knapton said. "I asked, 'What would it take you to come out to Rochester so it would save me a drive?' He said, 'I'd love to come out there, why don't you talk to some coaches and see what we can do.'"

Knapton has been a fixture in the Rochester youth lacrosse scene, and is a longtime friend of St. John Fisher head coach John Johnson dating back to Johnson's 26-year stint as the coach at Canadaigua Academy, where Knapton's son, Adam, played his prep ball. When Knapton raised the possibility to Johnson of playing two games in one weekend against some decent competition out of the Commonwealth Coast Conference as part of a 'Coaches vs. Cancer' fundraiser, it was a quick conversation.

"When Dan came to me and said he wanted to put something together, I was all in," Johnson said. "It's just a great thing to do and a very good friend of mine, Jim Satalin, runs all of the Coaches v. Cancer stuff. We had talked about that before. When Dan brought up the idea, I really thought it was an outstanding thing to do."

The conversation with RIT's Jake Coon was equally brief. With the memory of Willie Rago, a former player who passed away after battling leukemia, still fresh in the team's mind, it was a no-brainer for the Tigers.

"We are certainly 100 percent committed to it," Coon said. "We had Willie Rago a couple of years ago and we feel like this is a great way to think about him, pay our respects and give to the cause. We're definitely into it."

All of the other coaches at the schools involved -- Nazareth, Roger Williams and Endicott -- hopped on board quickly. There were some specific requests in terms of match-ups, however. Nazareth head coach Rob Randall wanted to make sure the Flyers were playing Roger Williams.

"I requested to play Roger Williams because Marty Kelly, who is the head coach there, was one of our best players ever and scored the game-winning goal in overtime against Hobart in 1992," Randall said. "I thought it would be neat for them and us to play at least one of the games."

The tournament was also helpful to some coaches. For Endicott, it allowed them to keep a little continuity in its schedule as opposed to hunting around for games.

"RIT and Endicott both needed a game last year and we said let's play at a neutral site, so we played at Harvard," said Gulls head coach Sean Quirk. "Going into that, Coach Coon and I knew it was a one-year deal, so when this came about, it was perfect because we didn't have to pick up a game. We just added another contest to our schedule with St. John Fisher. It tied in very well and the competition we're playing against is going to be great."

One of the potential stumbling blocks for the Coaches vs. Cancer event was playing two games in three days. That's certainly not an optimum scenario for a lot of coaches who like at least a couple of days to prepare for an opponent. All of the coaches involved this weekend found a way to get by it.

"For the past for years, we've played back-to-back games," Quirk said. "This year we play Bowdoin and then Nichols, which is a conference game, back-to-back. We've kind of prepared over the last four or five years, so having one day of rest and practice is not a big deal."

"We're fortunate because we get to play them both at home," Coon said. "Those other three teams have to travel. They are dealing with hotel and food and travel. For us, it's kind of a no-brainer. We play our Liberty League championship with the same format, so this is a good prep."

"Maybe I'm a high school guy at heart, but when I first started coaching in high school, we played Tuesday,Thursday and Saturday," Johnson said. "And if you had problems, you'd play a fourth game that week. Everybody else is doing it, so I have no problem. Plus, the kids just want to play."

That is sentiment that Randall echoes – "Our kids would much rather play games than practice," he said – but there is also another benefit to playing this format. Randall, who will be chair of the selection committee in 2014, said that with the tournament field possibly expanding to 32 teams next year, the men might have to adopt the women's Division III model and have a mini-region where four teams converge on one site and play a pair of games in a weekend.

Also, Randall is no stranger to the format.

"The fact that all six teams have to do it, it's really not too much of an issue," he said. "Up until last year or two years ago we had to do that for our Empire 8 tournament. We've done it before. It's certainly not great, but we've certainly experienced it."

As the games played out on the men's side, RIT and St. John Fisher were the big winners, sweeping their opponents. Nazareth and Western New England split while Roger Williams and Endicott both suffered a pair of defeats. However, all of the reports say that it was a great success and raised money for the American Cancer Society's "Hope Lodge" in Rochester, which is modeled after the Ronald McDonald House, and allows patients being treated at local hospitals and their families to stay free of charge.

Big sponsors of the event were the NLL's Rochester Knighthawks, which donated a portion of ticket sales to Coaches vs. Cancer, as well as Canadaigua National Bank, which helped with seed money to start the planning. While nothing is cemented at this point, this could become a yearly event.

"We're calling it inaugural, so we're hopeful it keeps going," Knapton said. "We'll have to get some more people on the committee and find more volunteers, but we're kicking around the idea of doing it out East or maybe we could have two locations going at once. One of my goals this weekend is to speak with the coaches and see what ideas they have for keeping this going."

The lengths fathers will go to have their son home for the weekend.

- This week was a tale of three teams: Cortland, Stevens and Tufts. It started on Tuesday, when Tufts played its final game with a short roster, losing to Conn. College by a goal. It was a loss that set the Jumbos two games in back of the field in both the NESCAC and the at-large race (if necessary). This was followed on Wednesday when Cortland and Stevens staged the best game nobody saw, as the two quarreled in Virginia Beach with no video feed, before the Red Dragons pulled out a dramatic, 12-11 victory in overtime.

The midweek action was followed on Saturday as Tufts and Stevens tangled in Hoboken with the Jumbos finally playing at full strength. It showed, as they raced out to a commanding early lead against the Ducks and coasted home for the 18-14 triumph. Meanwhile, Cortland toyed with No. 13 Cabrini, 10-7, in another non-conference tilt. What did this tell us?

First, there is no one on the Cortland team that takes your breath away, but they are just a bunch of cyborgs that always seems to prevail in the end. The Dragons will get their next big test when they play Skynet, Jr. (RIT) on March 27. Second, Tufts at full strength is still a beast, and the elephants will be putting up big numbers against everyone. However, if they are getting dominated by Stevens on faceoffs, they've got a massive Achilles heel. Third, aside from actually winning the games, the Ducks got all they could have hoped for from those two games. They had two face two very different teams in the span of days – just like May – and showed they could run with both. As with all three teams, there is still work to do.

- The 17-5 loss to Salisbury will end Roanoke's tenuous grasp on the Top 20 poll...Wednesday's game between St. John Fisher (6-1) and RIT (4-1) is one to keep an eye on...very nice win for Colorado College over Babson, 7-2. Salisbury and Dickinson await the Tigers this week...Aurora outscored its two conference opponents by a combined score of 57-3 this week...old friend Middlebury should be back in the polls this week...good to see some fire out of Williams. The Ephs knocked off No. 16 Trinity, 11-3...York's 9-7 win over F&M shouldn't be overlooked. The Spartans are 5-2...Birmingham-Southern (3-5), Greensboro (3-5) and Whittier (3-4) need to kick it into a different gear to stay eligible for the Pool B bid.

Keep an eye on the midweek game between Plattsburgh and Conn. College this week. Platty is 6-0 and looking dangerous behind Brendan Damm (18g, 9a), Joey Kramer (17g, 5a) and Gordie Gehring (69.2 sv%; 3.23 GAA)...Centenary (N.J.) senior Robert Nuzzolese recorded his 100th goal in a 24-0 victory over Penn State-Abington...Bates won its third straight game over Wesleyan, taking down the 17th-ranked Cardinals, 7-5...Shenandoah's welcome to the ODAC was a rude one. Virginia Wesleyan thumped the Hornets, 17-3...if Dickinson doesn't clean up its penalties, it will have a postseason ceiling.

Bethany goalie C.J. Studnicky made a school record 32 saves in an 18-5 loss to Hope on Friday. The mark is the highest in the NCAA this spring...Colin Gallagher tied the Alvernia record for goals with six against Rosemont...congratulations to Beloit (Wis.) for picking up the first win in program history, a 16-1 defeat of DePauw...congrats to Jason Archbell for picking up his first win as Bowdoin head coach. The Polar Bears beat St. Lawrence in D.C., 9-6...Gettysburg's Robby Maddux scored six goals and dished out an assist against Eastern. The Bullets needed every one of his points in a 12-11 overtime win over the Eagles...Brockport finally picked up their first win – a 7-6 triumph over Elmira – after a four near misses against some quality opponents.