February 18, 2013

Monday Midfielder: Without Stars, Loyola and UMass Prevail

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Loyola short-stick midfielder Josh Hawkins watched Saturday's season-opener against Delaware from the sidelines because of a violation of team rules.
© Kevin P. Tucker

The Greyhounds and Minutemen couldn't have liked what they saw on Saturday: their stars on the sidelines.

Loyola's do-it-all short-stick midfielder and Energizer bunny Josh Hawkins spent Saturday's game against Delaware on the bench wearing a warm, gray-knit cap over his trademark locks, and in street clothes instead of a helmet and pads. He was suspended for the game for a violation of team rules.

UMass attackman Will Manny, one of five Tewaaraton Award finalists last year, sported a bulky blue sling supporting his left arm while watching the Minutemen battle North Carolina at the Southern Shootout at Kennesaw State University near Atlanta. Manny is out with what the team said is a broken thumb, but is not lost for the season. (A team spokesperson on Monday said Manny's return date will depend on his recovery speed.)

But both teams prevailed Saturday with one-goal wins; Loyola winning 9-8 and UMass 12-11. It's hard to argue which victory was more important in the grand scheme of the long season. Each has an argument.

For top-ranked Loyola, an opening loss to unranked Delaware would not have set the right tone for a team coming off an unexpected charge to the school's first Division I national championship in any sport. It would be the worst way to start a sophomore slump.

Greyhounds senior midfielder Chris Layne came through with the heroics, slicing through the Blue Hens defense coming out of a timeout to score with 4.4 seconds left, just 22 seconds after Delaware tied the game on a man-up opportunity to cap a rally from a 7-4 deficit at the start of the fourth quarter.

Hawkins and the boys in Loyola green breathed a sigh of relief.

In Atlanta, it was more like ecstasy for the Minutemen. Playing without Manny, UMass trailed North Carolina until 4:16 remained in the fourth quarter when sophomore attackman Grant Whiteway scored to make it 11-11. Junior attackman/midfielder Connor Mooney netted the go-ahead goal with 3:18 left.

Meanwhile, redshirt freshman goalie Zach Oliveri made 18 saves, including four in the fourth quarter and one on a last-second attempt by North Carolina's Greg McBride.

"One thing coach [Greg Cannella] said to us, and he always says to us, is never quit," Oliveri said. "We never quit. We were down the entire game."

The win might go a long way for the Minutemen come tournament selection and seeding time. It's early yet, but for a team that went undefeated in the regular season last year and still only managed to be tabbed the sixth seed for the NCAA tournament, a February win against North Carolina (ranked eighth in the preseason by Lacrosse Magazine; UMass was 13th) is a good way to start building the 2013 resume.

Generally, so would having your star player on the field. But both UMass and Loyola got through the weekend without theirs.

Maryland women fired up for Syracuse matchup

Katie Schwarzmann and Maryland handed the Syracuse women their first home-opener loss since 2004 on Sunday.
© Greg Wall

Speaking of stars, reigning Tewaaraton Award women's winner Katie Schwarzmann had herself a day, putting in seven goals on eight shots Sunday against Syracuse at the Carrier Dome.

The Terrapins clearly traveled to central New York with an agenda, being ranked behind Florida, Northwestern and Syracuse, in various orders, in the coaches' and media polls. The prevailing thought preseason, by the rankings, was that Maryland was fourth-best.

"[The win] just proves that we shouldn't be overlooked and we're going to come out hard against every team," Schwarzmann told LaxMagazine.com's Stephen Bailey after the game. "It shows that we can compete with these top teams."

Syracuse, meanwhile, lost its first home opener since 2004.

Playing fast: Early returns

Speaking of the Carrier Dome, the best Division I men's game of the weekend was the last. Syracuse and Albany, two already fast-pace-minded teams, met each other and the new NCAA men's rules in Sunday's season-opener for both sides. The result was a 16-15 double-overtime thriller won by Albany on a Miles Thompson goal, assisted by brother Lyle.

The long run will determine which teams are best situated to adjust to the quicker pace set by the new rules, but Syracuse and Albany appear prepared to take advantage. They don't need to adapt that much.

The teams combined to take 84 shots at the end of regulation and 92 by the time Miles Thompson took the final shot of the day with 3:03 left in the second overtime.

"Today, probably both," Syracuse coach John Desko said when asked whether the new rules or Albany or Syracuse's gameplans led to the type of game that unfolded. "[Albany] coach [Scott] Marr has committed to play fast. I don't think he jumped into a zone at all today or tried to stall the ball. I think there was maybe one stalling call in the game. It's a combination of the rules and both teams' willingness to play a faster pace."

You have to consider the Great Danes in the category of teams that might benefit most from the new rules, mainly because of the Thompson trio — Iroquois relatives Miles, Ty and Lyle, three starting attackmen who combined for 18 points on Sunday. It was very apparent while watching the Iroquois U19 national team, of which Lyle was a member, at the FIL World Championships last summer in Finland that defensive units from many teams, including the U.S., had trouble defending the Nationals in the circumstances using international rules.

The updated NCAA rulebook is more like the international set, with no horns and quicker restarts, both of which benefit crafty, quick attackers.

"It was tough off the restarts, they were able to pick it up and run their offense," Syracuse long pole Brian Megill said Sunday.

Over the first two weeks of the season, more than one coach has said the new rules put more decisions in the hands of the players, and less of the coaches. The theme played right into Marr's plan with the talented Thompsons.

"These guys have such a great feel for lacrosse and for each other," Marr said. "It makes it really easy for us to say, 'What's working? What do you want to do?' We put it in their hands basically."

Lyle, who played midfield last year but now plays attack, is the quarterback (two goals, six assists Sunday), and Miles and Ty are more off-ball players, although each can handle feeding or finishing. Miles had three goals and two assists, including the double-OT winner, and Ty finished with five goals.

"Their attack was really special," Desko said. "I almost questioned moving Lyle down from the midfield to the attack when I had heard that they had done that. I thought, 'They're going to lose some faceoffs now and not have the punch that they did up top.' But he really played well. You could tell by the number of assists he had, it was a great move. He obviously plays well with his brother and his cousin. They were spectacular tonight.

"It's amazing how [Lyle] can dodge and get underneath to his right and still make a feed with a defenseman all over him and another sliding to him. It shows how comfortable they are. The three of them, without looking, almost know where the other one is."

Odds and ends

Kudos to Shannon Smith, who won her first game as a Division I women's lacrosse coach. Hofstra beat New Hampshire 13-12... Gina Oliver also won her head coaching debut at Cincinnati, as the Beacats beat first-year program Coastal Carolina 13-8 on Friday night... Coach Lindsey Munday and USC picked up their first program win on Friday, beating Presbyterian 24-4 at McAlister Field in Los Angeles... The Marquette women earned their first program win, beating Coastal Carolina 12-11 in overtime on Sunday. Freshman Hayley Bass had the winner... Ohio native Nikki Boltja came up big for Louisville in the Cardinals' matchup with Boltja's hometown team, Ohio State. She scored three goals, including the final two in a 12-11 upset of the Buckeyes.

Lafayette men's coach Jim Rogalski won his first game with Leopards, a victory that came at the expense of another coach in a new place, first-year Georgetown coach Kevin Warne. Lafayette beat Georgetown 11-10 in overtime... The Penn State men upended Denver 15-12 at the Moe's Southwest Grill Classic at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla. This Penn State alum picked against the Nittany Lions, which either worked out poorly or well (bulletin-board material), depending on your perspective. Either way, the Nits looked sharp. Check back to LaxMagazine.com for more on the event from Evan Washburn, who manned the sidelines for NBC Sports Network's broadcast of the doubleheader. Ohio State beat host Jacksonville 9-6 in the second game... Colgate was tied at 5 with Vermont at halftime, but pulled away for a 13-7 win. Reigning Tewaaraton winner Peter Baum is three goals away from tying the Patriot League career record... Maryland has won its first two games by an average of 15.5 goals, waxing Mount St. Mary's (23-6) and Hartford (16-4). The Mount knocked off Bucknell 12-11 on Sunday, giving more credence to the Terps win over them last Tuesday. It figures to get tougher for Maryland on Saturday against Loyola at the Greyhounds' Ridley Athletic Complex.

More coverage from the weekend

* MD1: Notre Dame Pounds Duke on Snowy, Cold Day
* WD1: Transfer Bocklet Brings Instant Impact to Virginia

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