Blogs and Commentary

posted 03.19.2012 at 10.03 a.m. by Jac Coyne

Monday Notebook: NCAA Division II

Like many programs in the 11-team monstrosity that is the Northeast-10, St. Anselm has fought for years to get out from the shadows of Le Moyne, Merrimack and, more recently, Adelphi. After a 3-1 start to the season, which includes a road victory over No. 10 NYIT, the Hawks are certainly getting closer. St. A's has been in the conference mix before, but optimism is running higher this year.

"The program has been able to get into the tournament, surprise some people and dance a little bit in the past," said head coach Steve Gaudreau. "The long-term goal is to take the next step. We're right on the edge."

Gaudreau, who is in his third season at the Manchester, N.H., school, is uniquely qualified to speak on the history of the program. A 2003 grad of the school and captain his senior year, he kept close tabs on the program when it was run by Gerry Byrne (current Notre Dame assistant) and then Rick Senatore (current Franklin Pierce head coach).

"Everybody has played a part in progressing and advancing the program," said Gaudreau. "I still have kids on the team who are Rick's recruits. It has been a collective effort and it's involved a lot of good guys. The kids that we have are responsible, reliable, hard-working kids. They proved that they can go out and get the job done when their backs are against the wall and no one really believed in them."

After beating St. Michael's last week, St. Anselm cracked the weekly poll, checking at No. 12 this week. Gaudreau says his players couldn't care less.

"We don't even pay attention to that stuff," he said. "Obviously, we have goals like everybody else, but our immediate goal was to improve on last year's campaign. We had some success in the conference and last year get some younger guys involved and we're trying to find our identity.

"Every year when we go out to New York, it's going to be a test and a good chance to see where you stack up against in terms of talent that is usually at the top of the division. We didn't go into it thinking, 'Let's see if we can get nationally-ranked,' but we looked it as a great opportunity to build on what we've built. We're confident, and we like what we're doing and how hard we're working. It's a good group of kids we have and they've worked hard to get to this point."

- A big part of St. Anselm's success has been the play of their senior-laden close defense, but junior goalie Jonathon O'Reilly – an import from Plano, Texas – has been a revelation in his first year as the starting netminder. He has twice earned NE-10 weekly goalie honors, and is current sporting a 5.07 GAA and a 66.1 save percentage.

Gaudreau can't speak highly enough about his netminder.

"It is not easy to not see time your first two years, but his work ethic is great," Gaudreau said. "He is one of the best student-athletes we have on the team. He is as reliable a kid as you're going to find at any college. He's a leader on and off the field. His character drives him, and it's not surprising that he has had success because he is successful in everything he does. He is blowing any expectations out of the water of what people may have had. He's a good person and he works his butt off. He's getting it done."

- Adelphi head coach Gordon Purdie knew quite well that Le Moyne would be trying to control the pace of the game, slowing it down as much as possible. He remembered from last year's loss when the Dolphins had one possession that lasted seven and a half minutes, and expected the same if the Panthers couldn't keep the game fast. It didn't take Purdie long to understand that Adelphi was in for a long day on Saturday.

"We didn't get enough ground balls and then we went into desperation mode and our shot selection was not where it should be," Purdie said after the 9-6 loss. "They definitely held the ball. I would say they had a possession [ratio] of two to one. The tempo of the game was set pretty well in the first quarter and first half."

Even with the Panthers taking a 2-0 lead in the first 15 minutes, they only had three shots. Le Moyne finally broke through in a big second period and Adelphi never recovered. Now Purdie and his troops are in the unenviable position of having to chase the Dolphins for the rest of the season for the North region bid. It worked out last year, even with a second loss (to Dowling), and Purdie told his team as such.

"My message at the end of the game was we are far from out of it and we have a lot of opportunities in front of us, and it's back to work on Monday," Purdie said. "There are a few minor adjustments that we do need to make, but those adjustments are certainly achievable with a small amount of work. We had a lot of good plays that we ran and some of them were success. We have some players who aren't playing to their potential or where they played last year, and we need some players to step up."

- Obviously, the announcement that Post (Conn.) will be adding a program in 2014 is good for Division II – new additions are always welcome. However, this announcement could be a harbinger of things to come.

Post's traditional league is the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, and the CACC is also the home of Chestnut Hill and Dominican (N.Y.), which both currently play as associate members in the ECC. Most conferences reach a tipping point of sponsored programs before the league goes in as a whole, and with three schools already in the fold, the CACC could be inching toward its magic number to trigger other conference schools. In addition, the CACC already sponsors women's lacrosse with a seven-team league including Georgian Court, Wilmington (Del.), Holy Family and Philadelphia.

If the CACC does make its move toward sponsorship, that would leave Division II's white whale – the PSAC – as the next domino to fall.

- Congrats to Roberts Wesleyan, which picked up its first win in program history on Wednesday when the Raiders knocked off Cazenovia, 17-8...since starting off with consecutive losses to Le Moyne and Adelphi, St. Rose has gone on a two-game winning streak after beating Assumption on Wednesday...Mercyhurst hammered No. 8 Seton Hill, 19-5 on Sunday afternoon. Kyle Kallay led the way with five goals...Tampa halted Mars Hill perfect start to the season at nine with a 7-6 win on Saturday evening...Colorado Mesa had its attempt at a perfect run through the South trumped by Rollins, which won, 9-7...Dowling pushed C.W. Post onto the razor's edge by handing the Pioneers a 14-4 setback. Post has used up just about all of its losses.