Blogs and Commentary

posted 03.26.2012 at 10.02 a.m. by Jac Coyne

Monday Notebook: NCAA Division III

Most coaches would prefer not to have them, and if you need them, they come during a victory. But sometimes 'learning moments' can only be truly utilized in the form of a loss. That was the case when then-No. 3 Dickinson ran up against unranked St. Mary's in the second game of the season and got chewed up by the Seahawks, 12-9.

"We want to learn and make progress from success and hopefully we don't have those situations," said Dickinson head coach Dave Webster. "But it was absolutely a teachable moment there and it kind of galvanized some things for the team and got everybody on board with our mission."

The Red Devils were leading 4-3 at the half, but inexplicably surrendered nine of the next 11 goals to fall into a 12-6 hole they could never dig out from.

"St. Mary's outplayed us, and I'll leave it at that," said Webster. "What we said very clearly in the locker room right after that game was that this loss was not going to define our season, but how we respond to the loss would."

So far so good. The Devils have rattled off seven consecutive wins after bouncing Ursinus on the road, 11-4, and have climbed back up to No. 8 in the country with an 8-1 mark.

"We've made progress in every game and that has been the goal," said Webster.

One of the startling scores was a 19-3 defeat of Skidmore, which entered the season with a national ranking. Dickinson likely had payback on their mind after losing to the Thoroughbreds last year, but Webster believes he has a coaching talisman.

"I'll give credit to our assistant coach, Tim Marshall, who was with Skidmore last year and now's with us," he said with a chuckle. "That must be the difference."

The Red Devils faced Ursinus on the road and now have another tough conference road game at Haverford this coming weekend. While away games occasionally provide a mental hurdle to overcome, Webster's not buying it.

"I don't think that factors too much into the equation," said Webster, who gave himself a grade of B- for his coaching so far this season. "For me it doesn't. Home or away, we know we'll have to battle and all of these games are competitive and all these teams are well-coached. We're all well-scouted and we know each other. So it comes down to the little things: ground balls and faceoffs."

The latter has been a big key for Dickinson this year after struggling mightily last year. Chip Murray, the Devils top faceoff man, is fully healthy after suffering an ACL injury while wings Brandon Palladino and Ward Gruppo have been superb.

It's one of the key factors in the Devils success, but as Webster well knows, you're only one learning moment away from starting all over again.

- Standing outside a rest stop on the Mass. Pike near Worcester on his way home from beating Hamilton – and winning his 219th game to become the school's all-time wins leader – Bowdoin head coach Tom McCabe wasn't interested in talking about individual accolades. Rather, he more interested in combining the notoriety with the man he surpassed, Mort LaPointe.

"The two of us together have more wins than any two coaches at a Division III school. That's the thing I'm most proud of," said McCabe, whose Polar Bears beat the Continentals, 13-9. "I think the world of Mort and he's been a very good friend. He's been a great addition to my life, and I'm just proud to be in his shoes."

McCabe, who will be retiring at the end of this year, said LaPointe traveled on 15-straight spring break trips with Bowdoin at one point – not as an assistant coach, but more of a mentor. "He was just always there for us over the years," said McCabe. "He would come along and just hang out and be a positive influence."

McCabe continued LaPointe's tradition of crafting hard-nosed, hard-working teams that don't try to fool anybody, and this year has yielded another solid squad.

"I think we have a pretty good group," McCabe said. "When we put our ducks in a row, we're tough to beat. I like the group of kids and we had a great game with Amherst [which Bowdoin lost, 14-12]. I think we've yet to put together a full game, but that's the good part. We're still improving. It's a really neat group of kids who are working hard. As I said, I think we can beat anybody."

Before ringing off, I asked McCabe what team he beat for his first win (it was Colorado College).

"I have no idea," he said. "One of the kids made an announcement after the game and congratulated me, and I said, 'Thank you, but the only one that counts is the next one, and we have Springfield on Tuesday.'"

- Congrats to Matt Cannone for moving into third place on the Salisbury all-time goals list with seven against York. He surpassed Dave Cottle. After five goals against Frostburg, he's now 13 shy of Dan Boyer for second place...congrats to sophomore middie Mikey O'Neal who set the Otterbein record for points in a game with three goals and five assists in a win over Mt. St. was a great first quarter for No. 18 Ithaca against No. 3 Cortland. The Bombers out-shot the Dragons 11-7 and held a 1-0 lead after the first 15 minutes. Unfortunately, the Dragons scored the next nine over the following 33 minutes, as Cortland won, 9-3...St. Lawrence is now 5-0...Middlebury better figure things out quickly, because the schedule ain't getting any easier...Washington College has won six straight after handing F&M its second loss, 11-8...Goucher improved to 9-1 on the season...Lebanon Valley has won six straight games...Oswego State upset No. 18 Ithaca in triple overtime on Sunday.