March 15, 2013

Hofstra's 2013 Edition Seeks to Create Own History

by Gary Lambrecht |

Hofstra heads into St. Patrick's Day weekend with a 4-1 record and coming off its biggest win in five seasons.
© Hofstra

Sure, it's only one game in the larger, more important picture. But when 10th-ranked Hofstra hung on for a dramatic 8-7 victory over Notre Dame on Saturday, the Pride could be excused for an extended period of self-satisfaction.

You see, the Pride (4-1) had it rough in the spring of 2012. Really rough, as in tortuous. In the fall of 2011, the team lost veteran midfielder Kevin Ford, whose lacrosse career ended after he suffered serious knee and leg injuries in a car accident. That was followed by a knee injury that ended the 2012 season before it started for midfielder Brad Loizeaux.

A very young Hofstra squad then went through a 6-8 campaign that was one for the dark ages. Six of Hofstra's losses were by one goal, including four defeats that required a combined eight overtime sessions. One of those was a double-OT, 6-5 loss to Notre Dame, which ended up in the NCAA tournament semifinals.

How sweet it was for the Pride last week in South Bend, where sophomore goalie Chris Selva preserved Hofstra's one-goal win by making seven of his 11 saves in the second half.

"It was a real good one for the fellas, and it's now in the rearview mirror," said Seth Tierney, Hofstra's seventh-year coach. "We had a lot of painful injuries last year. It could have been a great year. That's what made it so rough. But it sent our guys into the summer really focused on the task at hand. Now it's up to us to make our own book and create our own history."

The Pride aims to feed off of their biggest victory in five seasons — an 8-7 win over top-ranked Johns Hopkins in 2008 — was the last. Hofstra has won three straight (Fairfield, Harvard and Notre Dame) after dropping a three-goal decision to Princeton.

The Pride opens play in the Colonial Athletic Association ("a brawling league" in Tierney's words) at Delaware on Saturday.

Hofstra represents an interesting brew of young and old. Fifth-year senior Mark Mullen and Selva form the backbone of a defense that is giving up just 6.6 goals, tops in Division I. Senior faceoff man John Antoniades is capable of taking over games. The offense needs to improve its pedestrian, 26.7 percent shooting, but is getting a huge lift from junior attackman Torin Varn (16 goals, 55.2 percent).

Bad luck Mids

Navy coach Rick Sowell sighed and delivered a familiar lament of coaches whose teams are falling on the wrong side of one-goal losses. The Midshipmen (3-4) have dropped three straight by one score, including Tuesday's 8-7 setback against Towson, which beat the Mids for the first time in six trips to Annapolis.

"We're right there. We're doing a lot of good things. We're three plays away from being 6-1, but that's our sport," said Sowell, Navy's second-year coach. "We're going after it. We're not tentative. It's not one person or one group. It's the [scoring] lapses. It's the turnover bug. It's missing nine-yarders with our hands free. It's a breakdown on defense."

One player who has been exceptional is long-stick midfielder and part-time faceoff and wing man Pat Kiernan, who has scooped 49 ground balls, caused 18 turnovers while committing just one miscue, won 12 of 22 draws (54.5 percent) and scored a goal on his only shot.

Murphy staying out of bakery

Unranked Colgate (5-2) probably won't stay below the top 20 for long. The Raiders have spanked Holy Cross and Binghamton by a combined score of 26-11, since suffering a two-game, road losing streak that got Colgate's full attention.

First, there was the 19-3 trouncing administered by No. 2 Cornell on March 2, when the Big Red lowered the big boom on the Raiders by scoring the game's first 11 goals. Three days later, unranked, improved Hobart humbled Colgate further with a 9-8 win in overtime.

Second-year coach Mike Murphy was disappointed after the close loss in Geneva. But he was so incensed by Colgate's capitulation to the Big Red that he tore into the Raiders — twice.

"Most games you don't play as good or as bad as you thought you did at first. But the way we played against Cornell was a disgrace to the Colgate program," Murphy said.

"I let my guys have it in the [Cornell] locker room. Then, we took a two-hour bus ride home, and they got it again in our locker room. Sometimes coaches in this day and age sugarcoat things. I'm the son of a Marine colonel. I don't sugarcoat things. When you stink, you stink."

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