March 17, 2010

Bentley's Got the Wheels to Go All the Way

By Chris Gentilviso | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Senior goalkeeper Andy Collette has 31 saves in No. 5-ranked Bentley's two games, an upset of NYIT and narrow loss to No. 1 C.W. Post.

© Bentley

In his 18 seasons at the helm of Bentley men’s lacrosse, coach Jim Murphy has developed multiple criteria for his players to earn a spot on the field.

Among the points not on that list -- class year.

“You’re a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior in the classroom,” Murphy said. “Down here, you’re a lacrosse player. The ones who give us the best chance to win are going to play.”

With seniority posing no weight on his coaching shoulders, Murphy instead used the earliest segment of his schedule to discover a host of worthy faces on his roster.

Back in September, the Falcons learned that their season would commence with road dates against the 2008 national champion -- then-No. 4 NYIT -- and the 2009 national champion -- No. 1 C.W. Post.

“My thought was, let’s see how good we are right away,” Murphy said. “At that point, it gives us an opportunity to get into our league schedule and know where we stand.”

After an upset 11-10 win over NYIT and narrow 7-4 loss to C.W. Post, Murphy learned that his club can battle with the best. He also learned that two Western Massachusetts players -- once high school rivals and now teammates -- are ready for hefty roles in the Falcons’ 2010 plans.

For three seasons, senior goalkeeper Andy Collette waited for his chance to earn a starting spot in the cage. Behind recent graduate Kris Dambach and his string of 27 consecutive starts, Collette studied the tools necessary to lead on and off the field.

Entering the season, Murphy noted that goalkeeper was one of the biggest position questions on his mind. Beyond Collette, juniors Zack Paz and Mike O’Neil were returning to the roster. Freshman Nate Billings was also brought in to round out the corps.

About a week before the NYIT game, Collette learned from Murphy that he was starting. The senior seized the opportunity, stopping 15 shots in the Falcons’ nailbiting win over the Bears last Wednesday.

The South Hadley, Mass. native added 16 saves against the top-ranked Pioneers last Saturday, keeping his team within reach at a 4-3 deficit entering fourth-quarter play.

“Our defense kept strong,” Collette said. “They kept giving me the shots that I wanted to see.”

After watching Collette manage that pair of top-five opponents, Murphy’s questions were put to rest.

“He stood up to the challenge,” Murphy said. “He did a fantastic job in both games and really opened our eyes. For somebody we’ve seen for four years, as well as the amount of practices we’ve had, it was great to see that from him.”

Collette’s success in the NYIT opener was aided by a fast start on offense. The Falcons jumped out to a 7-2 lead over the Bears. Three players entered halftime with two goals apiece, including freshman James Reardon.

But five unanswered goals by NYIT over the end of the third and start of the fourth quarters helped the home favorites to a 9-8 lead. That’s when the Falcons’ offense returned, running off a late three-goal spurt that was capped by Reardon’s score with 2:23 remaining.

After leading Longmeadow (Mass.) High School to a state championship in 2008, Reardon left lacrosse to begin college at the University of Vermont. Away from competitive action for more than a year, Reardon arrived at Bentley in January, reunited with his neighboring-town rival Collette.

“When I found out James was coming, I knew he could play,” Collette said. “I knew he could make a huge contribution to our team and he showed it in that first game. He's definitely a big addition to our offense.”

Behind the weekend efforts by Reardon, Collette and the rest of the roster, Bentley catapulted itself from No. 9 to No. 5 in the USILA Division II men’s poll.

With more than a week off before its March 24 home opener against Assumption, the club will also have ample time to make several improvements from its grueling weekend on Long Island.

Among the points not on that list -- rankings.

“It mentally refocuses us in terms of what’s at stake and that what’s behind us is behind us,” Murphy said. “Talk to us come the month of May. At that point, we’ll let you know what those polls mean.”

Division II News & Notes

On the women’s side, an early matchup of top-five teams went to No. 3 Lock Haven, as it edged No. 4 Limestone, 11-10, last Sunday. Limestone (6-1) fell short in its bid to become the first team to reach seven wins. Lock Haven (2-0) has scored a combined 34 goals in its wins over Limestone and Queens (N.C.) … On the men’s side, C.W. Post senior midfielder Mike Cama was a big reason why Bentley came up short against the No. 1 Pioneers. Cama won all 15 faceoffs he took against the Falcons in the 7-4 win, while grabbing a game-high 15 ground balls.

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