March 8, 2011

Tuesdays with Corey: Tierney Tailors the Hofstra Pride Approach

by Corey McLaughlin |

Even without Steve Serling -- the Lafayette transfer and Hofstra's top midfielder who left Saturday's win over Harvard with an undisclosed injury -- the Pride offense appears to be tuned up for a big season.

© Joe Rogate

At one end of the table, coach Seth Tierney sat and talked, sounding as if Hofstra had perhaps lost the game it just won Saturday afternoon against Harvard.

He tried to put a good face on his mood by saying flatly, "I'm certainly thrilled that we won," during his opening statement of the post-game press conference. But that only preceded comments about everything the Pride should have or could have done better.

They had too many turnovers. They played hard, but not well. They were sloppy at times. Spoken like a coach trying to cool any big thoughts the players sitting next to him may have had about their 15-9 win. The victory moved Hofstra to 4-0 and allowed it to be ranked No. 4 nationally in the latest coaches and media polls.

"At times, it looked right and at times, it just didn't feel right," Tierney said. "We never really got into a good flow."

You could sense what he was talking about. Several goals came in transition off Harvard turnovers or on broken plays.

But coach, 15 goals? And without one of your best offensive threats, midfielder Steve Serling, who left the game with an undisclosed injury? (Serling's status for Sunday's game versus Air Force is unknown. Hofstra had no further information Monday).

"Just because we got 15 doesn't make it the exact performance that we wanted," Tierney said. "I enjoyed watching a bunch of the goals out there, but it's a never ending puzzle that you have to figure out to keep the chemistry going."

The three players sitting to Tierney's left as he spoke at the front of the theatre-type room -- attackmen Jamie Lincoln and Jay Card and midfielder Ian Braddish -- certainly didn't sound as worried.

Out on the field, they had chemistry. Lincoln scored five goals, including three in the first quarter. Card had six points with three goals and three assists. Braddish, playing in his fourth game at Hofstra after transferring from North Carolina in the offseason, added two goals and provided midfield depth when Serling left after being hit on a shot attempt in the first half.

The players joked about if Braddish's second goal was incorrectly attributed to him, and whether Card should have gotten credit.

"I think Jay deflected that a little bit," Braddish said. "But I'm going to say it's mine."

Braddish, a West Islip (N.Y.) native, is one of several members of Hofstra's transfer class this year, coming back home to Long Island after two years in Chapel Hill. Serling, the 2010 Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year at Lafayette, is another newcomer, but not to Long Island, having grown up in nearby Rockville Centre.

They are two key offensive threats added to an already stacked group that includes four-year starting attackman Card and Lincoln, another transfer, from Denver circa 2009. Stephen Bentz, who had three assists Saturday, completes the starting attack.

That group leads what Tierney said is the deepest team in his five seasons as Hofstra coach.

On the other end of the field, Short stick defensive midfielder Steve DeNapoli is one of the best around at his position. He jumpstarted the Pride's second goal of the game, scooping a ground ball in the Hofstra zone, clearing and feeding to Bentz, who found Lincoln quickly to put them up 2-1.

Hofstra has an experienced and tested goalie in junior Andrew Gvozden, who was in and out of a starting role a year ago but has solidified the job this season. He started 13 games as freshman. He had 15 saves Saturday.

And throw in faceoff man John Antoniades, an All-CAA rookie pick last year. Nice complementary pieces to go with an offense that has the potential to carry Hofstra to perhaps a CAA championship and beyond.

"It's awesome," Braddish said about playing in the offense. "You have the opportunity to throw the ball to a lot of great scorers like Jay, Jamie, just so many people, so many options, so many people that can finish it. It's make life easier for people like me who like to dodge. Throw the ball to them and let them do the rest."

Finish they did on Saturday. The Pride scored 15 goals on 31 shots, many from in close.

"We work on it," Tierney said. "The coaches and I, we try to break down a game where, 'What are we actually doing?' Are we practicing efficiently? Are we practicing this just because everybody's supposed to practice this? Or are we going to get some decent looks hopefully from Jay, Jamie and Stephen Bentz from in tight? We have to practice those in tight shots and we have to practice some shots on the run. We need to practice the feeding from the midfield and some of those things. We've tried to work on those parts. Today it happened to work. Hopefully it continues."

Judging by Tierney's earlier postgame comments, they'll continue to work on it.

High Five

Last week's column featured the story of Siena junior attackman Bryan Neufeld, who holds the nation's longest point scoring streak in men's Division I, now at 39 consecutive games after a one-goal, two-assist performance in a 10-9 win over Hartford Saturday. In the interest of fairness, here are five players with the next longest point streaks.

Like Neufeld – who has 85 goals and 27 assists for 112 points during his streak -- four of these five are Canadians. I Googled the other one, Rob Pannell, just to make sure he hadn't turned Canadian himself in the offseason.

1. 38 Games. Rob Pannell, Cornell, Jr. A
Goals, assists, points during streak: 62-102-164
Streak started: Feb. 21, 2009
Next Game: March 9 vs. Canisius

2. 34 Games. Trevor Moore, Robert Morris, Sr. A
G-A-P: 76-45-121
Streak started: Feb. 14, 2009
Next: March 9 at Jacksonville

3. 32 Games. Kyle Buchanan, Robert Morris, Jr. M
G-A-P: 20-35-55
Streak started: Feb. 27, 2009
Next: March 9 at Jacksonville

4. 31 Games. Adam Jones, Canisius, Sr. M
G-A-P: 71-23-94
Streak started: April 26, 2008
Next: March 9 at Cornell

5. 31 Games. Jay Card, Hofstra, Sr. A
G-A-P: 72-37-109
Streak started: Feb. 21, 2009
Next: March 13 vs. Air Force

Note: If a player does not appear in a game, his streak remains intact.

Quote of the Week

"We haven't lost sight of first place. We also haven't lost sight of last place." – Washington Stealth coach Chris Hall on his team, the defending National Lacrosse League champions who are 5-5 and in third out of fifth place in the NLL's West Division. The comment was made leading up to Washington's 18-10 win over Colorado this weekend.

Interesting Press Release Note of the Week

In the game recap for Ohio State's 6-5 triple overtime win over Penn State provided by the Buckeyes athletic department, the win was said to have secured the unofficial "Big Ten Championship" for Ohio State. Penn State and Ohio State are the only two Big Ten schools to sponsor Division I men's lacrosse.

We're still waiting on you Michigan. Make it at least a three-way race.

Final Thought

Take a gander at the polls Monday morning and what do we realize: Hofstra and UMass are both top five teams?

After a weekend that included losses by top 10 teams Maryland, Cornell and Johns Hopkins (and Virginia, too, but the Cavs are still clearly No. 1a in the country) two CAA schools find themselves sitting in the top five of the coaches and media rankings.

As Gary Lambrecht pointed out in an LMO column a few weeks ago, the CAA is getting stronger – and the deepest league in country, according to him. But who would have guessed three weeks into the season that the CAA would have more top five teams than the ACC?

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