Blogs and Commentary

posted 04.15.2013 at 10.00 a.m. by Jac Coyne

NCAA Division II Notebook

If Dowling is sitting in its present situation in any of the previous Division II seasons, the prognosis is pretty simple: the Golden Lions would be dead and buried. Three losses — and two regional setbacks — in the former Central region with the four-team format is one, and sometimes even two, too many to be honestly talked about in the postseason discussion.

But this is a new D-II. And while they aren't in the catbird seat by any means, the Lions are still alive, helped this past weekend by losses from LIU Post and Adelphi. Despite the new paradigm, Dowling coach Tim Boyle is taking a very similar approach to how he would have handled the situation under the old system.

"It's pretty simple where we are. You have to win out and you might need some help," he said. "If we don't do our job, there's not much we can take out of it. If it turns out that we win out and we have a chance to go the NCAAs and we do, we'll learn from our lessons. If it turns out we win out and we don't get a chance to go to the NCAAs, we'll sit back and do the same thing. Learn from what we did wrong. And if we have another loss come up in the next couple of games, the same thing again."

With the exception of Merrimack, Adelphi and Molloy — the latter of which Dowling just picked up a head-to-head win — every team in the North has at least two regional losses, the same number as the Lions. Unlike those other teams, Dowling may be rounding into form at the most important time of year.

"We started out not playing the best lacrosse, but now we're starting to find ourselves," Boyle said. "We've been asking the guys all year long, 'Who are we?' There have been times during games when we said, 'Guys, we're not sure who you are right now.' We have to go back out and be the team we're supposed to be and good things will happen."

Finding itself has been a task for the Lions because they entered the '13 campaign as a relatively inexperienced team. They had a stud at faceoff in Louis Riley, who is still dominating (63.5%), but every other level of the field was dotted with youngsters.

"We've had some gut-wrenching games that are building character in the young men," Boyle said. "This team is trying to learn how to win because all those guys from last year are gone and there are now some young guys. We're still trying to figure out how to win. They're learning. They're working hard. They are starting to build that character you like to see — that never die, never give up attitude. Sometimes that takes a little while to develop. But we were happy to gut out a 38-hour win."

The two-day victory Boyle jokes about is the triumph over previously unbeaten and No. 9 Molloy. The contest started last Wednesday, but was postponed a day because of lightning, and resumed on Thursday. It wasn't a big deal schedule-wise, as the Lions had this weekend off, but a loss to Molloy, which held a 6-5 lead when the contest was suspended, would have been lights out.

When the team vans returned to campus, Boyle used the delay to his advantage when he addressed his troops.

"We've seen what we've done wrong, but we don't have to wait until the next game to fix it. We have the same game to fix it," Boyle said. "We showed up [the second day] and didn't play very well. We had three more turnovers in that five minutes before the half, which gave us 15, which is ungodly and unacceptable. Then we limited it to four in the third and two in the fourth. We were able to compose ourselves."

The Lions eventually went on to win the game 11-9, helped by a handful of new contributors. Sophomore James Tucci (3g, 1a), rookie Brian White (2g, 4a) and junior transfer Matt Crough (3g, 1a) led the way while newcomer Myles Harvey made 12 saves, including one that encapsulates the Dowling season so far.

"We had the late goal and then we had a big save by Myles," Boyle said. "It was point blank, maybe six yards, from [Molloy's big gun Joe] Leonard, low to high, no one on him, and [Harvey] just popped it up. It was great. You love that to happen to one of the new kids. He's trying to figure out who he is in the Dowling program. He figured it out last night."

- There's still plenty to be hashed out this season and LIU Post is still looking good for a bid to the dance, but if, for some reason, the Pioneers are left out of the postseason, they'll know exactly when it happened. Leading No. 1 Mercyhurst (which is a regional game because it is in a neighboring state), 13-10, with nine minutes left in the game, Post watched as the Lakers scored four unanswered goals — including a pair of man-up markers — to win 14-13.

On the positive side, John Jez can take some solace with a couple of things. First, his team is now two goals away from being undefeated against one of the toughest schedules in the nation. Also, Brandon Bertone (17-for-24) was excellent on faceoffs and Joe Costello — who is doing his graduate year at Post after being named the MCLA D-II Player of the Year at St. Thomas (Minn.) — broke out with a four-goal, two-assist game. If those performances continue and the Pioneers learn how to finish games, the postseason is a lock.

- Adelphi's stunning, 11-9 loss to St. Michael's confirmed what we found out about the Panthers last year — for whatever reason, they are a completely different team on the road. That's what makes this weekend's game against Merrimack a monumental one for the Panthers. If Adelphi can fend off 'Mack, they will likely have first dibs on home field advantage in the NE-10 tourney if St. Mike's falters twice down the stretch (the Purple Knights still have MC and Le Moyne left). If the Panthers lose, they are all but assured to be on the road for at least the conference championship game, which could have huge consequences.

- Today's Making Sense column features Adelphi's FOGOs Greg Puskuldjian and Rashad Cureton. When Cureton was a sophomore at Onondaga Community College, his backup was Jake Ternosky, Limestone's FOGO and the reigning Conference Carolinas Player of the Year. The two still keep in touch. "I've been talking to him all year. We argue with each other and I let him know when I'll see him," laughed Cureton.

- Limestone wrapped up the top seed in the Conference Carolinas tournament with a 12-10 victory over No. 10 Pfeiffer. The four-team tournament will take place next weekend in Burlington, N.C., and will likely feature the Saints and Falcons again in the title game...Ohio Valley picked up its first ECAC victory with a win over Alderson-Broaddus, 13-10. AB (0-10) is still searching for its first-ever program victory...Dominican (Calif.) officially wrapped up the WILA championship with a 20-6 shellacking of Adams State on Friday. Cam Evangelho (6g) and Cody Bernstein (1g, 5a) led the way for the Penguins...NYIT played in the "Jack Kaley Day" doubleheader with St. John's and Villanova, and the Bears did their old coach proud, rocking Dominican (N.Y.), 21-5.

- Catawba won the Deep South Conference championship with a 10-9 overtime victory against Tampa. Tom Cullop scored the game-winner with 22 ticks left in extra time, dealing UT what could be a death blow in terms of their NCAA chances...Lake Erie (8-2) assured itself of a winning record for the first time in program history after finishing the last two seasons 7-7. In the Storm's 16-7 triumph over Walsh, Keegan Bal set the school record for points in a game with nine (4g, 5a)...Wheeling Jesuit christened its new field, the James LaRosa Complex, in style with a 14-5 victory over Roberts Wesleyan.