May 10, 2011

Bucknell Won't Bask in Glow of NCAA Bid

by Chris R. Vaccaro |

Billy Eisenrich's breakout game against Lehigh in mid-April gave the junior the confidence to become a versatile threat out of Bucknell's midfield.

Even with a 14-2 overall record, an undefeated 6-0 run in conference play and a Patriot League title under its belt, the Bucknell men's lacrosse team remains underrated heading into Saturday's the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse tournament first-round game at seventh-seeded Virginia (Sunday 3 p.m., ESPNU).

"I'm glad," said Bison coach Frank Fedorjaka. "If we can keep it that way it'll be terrific. We keep plugging away, and the good thing for us as coaches and a team is we continue to get better each week. I think we're playing our best lacrosse at the best time of the year."

Down 7-1 at one point against Lehigh during the regular season, Bucknell managed a comeback of seismic proportions and beat the Mountain Hawks 12-11 in mid-April.

Junior midfielder Billy Eisenreich scored a career-high eight points in that breakout game, four goals and four assists.

"He has really come on this year," Fedorjaka said. "He was a little bit up and down through his first two years."

Sophomore defender Michael Huffner, who joined an already strong defense after being hurt as a freshman, is another player whose development Fedorjaka cited.

"He's been our stopper, our best defenseman," he said. "He takes out the other team's best player."

There's a list of core players -- including leading scorer Ryan Klipstein (30g, 19a), Mike Danylshyn, Charlie Streep, Todd Heritage, Alex Lyons, John Collett and Kyle Feeney -- who have started all 16 games and have played the type of consistent lacrosse needed for the kind of run the Bison are on.

Fedorjaka thought he had a special group as early as its preseason scrimmage against, yes, Virginia at the start of the year. Bucknell went mostly unscathed during the regular season and finished off the Patriot League in convincing fashion with a win over Colgate.

Even with the two losses – 8-6 to Penn and 7-5 to Robert Morris – the Bison were able to pinpoint problem areas and rebound quickly.

The Bison have won more games in 2011 than in any previous season. This season marked the school's third time in the Patriot League championship game – they beat Colgate with ease, 10-3 – and it was the first time the Bison have won it all. Bucknell's only other NCAA tournament appearance came in 2001. It ended in a 12-7 loss to Notre Dame in the first round.

"If we win in the first round [this year], it will be the best season in school history," Fedorjaka said. "I can assure that."

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