Monday Notebook: NCAA Division III
The month of March was a grind for Cortland. If it seemed like every game was against a ranked opponent, it was because it was true. Or they were at least in the polls at the date of the game. It started with Union and progressed through Gettysburg, Stevenson, Middlebury, Ithaca and culminated with a midweek game with RIT.
Red Dragon head coach Steve Beville could tell that the slate had taken its toll.
"We looked a little bit tired against RIT," Beville said. "That was our seventh game against a ranked opponent, and even though a couple of teams might have been a little bit down, there's a lot of emotion and a lot of physicality to those games. I was proud of the way we responded [against RIT]. We had three-goal leads three times and RIT clawed themselves back each time. We came away with the win, but we're mature enough to guard against complacency. We have some pretty good leadership out there."
Beville has been able to rely on the defense, which is anchored by junior Mike Kaminski (69.8 save percentage; 4.80 goals against), and a strong attack unit of seniors Greg Wright (12 goals, 14 assists) and Mike Tota (14g, 6a) along with sophomore Cody Consul (13g, 8a). He'd like to see a little bit of improvement out of his midfield, however.
"We've been running more players this year than we ever have," Beville said. "We're running three offensive midfield lines and I've never done that since I've been here. That's a big plus going into the latter parts of games and later in the season. We just need more consistent production from our midfield units. Our attack has been outstanding and given us great production the whole season, but I'd like to see more consistent scoring from our midfield."
The non-conference action for Cortland isn't over yet. They still have a game Wednesday against a potent Western New England squad along with contests against Nazareth and Clarkson. The SUNYAC has also shown some punch this year. Oneonta defeated RPI and Oswego knocked off Ithaca, which has caught the eye of the Dragons.
"This year, I think some of the SUNY teams have amped it up a bit," said Beville, who watched his team dispatch Plattsburgh, 14-3 on Saturday. "Geneseo is having some struggles, but they still have some talented people there. Everyone is going to give us their best every time and it has always been that way. The early-season schedule beat us up a little bit and we were fortunate to have won all of them, but we still have a lot of real good teams ahead of us and we're approaching it that way."
- What's the more interesting story? The (formerly) No. 3-ranked team that loses a pair of games it has no business losing, or the Johnny-come-lately who manages to pull a pair of upsets in the same week? Amherst's losses to both Wesleyan and Hamilton are head-scratching, but if the Jeffs get their act together – and perhaps take a couple of days to figure out how to effectively attack a zone defense – they'll be fine. For my money the story is Hamilton.
During the preseason I went through the Continentals schedule and it didn't look like there were a whole lot of wins on the slate, especially in the NESCAC. Things didn't get off to a great start with four straight conference losses, including a one-goal setback to Colby. Conventional wisdom said Hamilton was going to be the outlier that everyone expected.
Then, in the course of a week, the Continentals have become red hot with wins over both Middlebury and Amherst. With conference bantamweights Bates, Conn. College and Williams up next, Hamilton could punch its ticket to the league tournament and shove it in the face of all the doubters.
- Amherst's week was terrible, but RPI's might have been worse. The (formerly) 15th-ranked Engineers lost to both Oneonta and Clarkson this week, meaning they'll need to win out (including wins over RIT and Union) and hope for some luck to have any aspirations of an at-large bid...Geneseo has managed to lose its fifth one-goal game of the season with the 11-10 setback to RIT. The Knights are now 0-6...Conn. College finally gained a measure of overtime revenge. After losing a five-OT affair last year to Union in Washington, D.C., the Camels beat Colby in four overtimes, 8-7...why do I have a feeling Clarkson is going to be a player in the Liberty race?
- With its 9-5 win over Birmingham Southern on Friday night, Colorado College has dispatched the only team with legitimate aspirations of unseating the Tigers atop the SCAC. Look for CC in a bracket near you...Brockport State ended Oswego's undefeated start to the season...Washington College has won seven straight. Dickinson up next on Saturday...Lebanon Valley has also won seven in a row...the Bowdoin-Trinity game next Saturday is a monster...story on Wesleyan to be posted on Tuesday.