March 7, 2011

Making Sense: Are These Saints Scratching Six-Year Itch?

by Jac Coyne | | Twitter

It's been six years since Limestone has been in the Division II national championship game. After the fourth-ranked Saints defeated No. 2 Le Moyne on Sunday -- helped by five goals from Riley Loewen (No. 10) -- a return trip may be in the offing sooner than some think.

"Offensively, they could be the best Limestone team that I've seen in a long time," said Le Moyne head coach Dan Sheehan, sitting in the front seat of the bus after the second-ranked Dolphins lost to No. 4 Limestone on Sunday afternoon at Georgetown Prep, 11-9.

"Their stick skills offensively are absolutely phenomenal," he continued. "They put the ball anywhere they want, when they want. They showed us a little bit of that today."

Sheehan knows a good team when he sees it. He has led Le Moyne to five consecutive trips to the NCAA Division II championship game, winning a pair of national titles along the way. Most of those Dolphin teams have been predicated on a stifling defense, so when Sheehan gives an offense its due, it's time to take it seriously.

"The game plan was to play a lot of guys and try to run," said Limestone coach J.B. Clarke. "We were just trying to attack them as much as possible."

The tip of the spear in the Saints attack is the two-headed Canadian monster of sophomore Riley Loewen and Shayne Jackson. Playing the game as if they were in a rink, Loewen (5g) and Jackson (1g, 5a) gave the Dolphin back line fits as Limestone rallied form a 5-3 first-quarter deficit.

What ultimately proved to be Le Moyne's undoing was the potent Limestone extra-man unit. The Saints were given five chances to probe the Dolphins man-down unit and were successful every time.

"I thought we played our 6-on-6 defense pretty well, but we shot ourselves in the foot when we were man-down," admitted Sheehan. "We did just about everything we could and they still went 100 percent."

"We played really well extra-man today," said Clarke. "We were 5-for-5 on the extra-man and they were 2-for-7, so you can look at that as a 10-goal swing."

The Limestone-Le Moyne rivalry has emerged as one of the better annual inter-regional clashes in Division II, but this was Clarke's first go-around. The coach at Division III Washington College for the previous 12 seasons, Clarke was basically going into this contest blind.

"I really wasn't sure because all we saw was a little bit of tape on them from their Seton Hill game," Clarke said. "I haven't been around and haven't coached against these guys before. We kind of did what we did in hopes that it would pay off. Ultimately it did. Their stars scare you as a coach, but I think we did a pretty good job on those guys."

The stars Clarke refers to are Le Moyne's All-American senior duo of attackman Jack Harmatuck and middie Matt Chadderdon. Harmatuck finished with a hat trick and Chadderdon chipped in with two assists, but neither of them took over the game.

At least neither was able to.

"We've got some talented kids, so we've got to make sure that there isn't one single guy who puts too much pressure on themselves to dig us out of this whole alone," said Sheehan. "It's going to take a total group effort on both sides of the field."

As exciting as this game was in terms of the back-and-forth nature and the high rankings – "I think the fans certainly enjoyed it," said Sheehan – this game may not have a major impact on the Division II endgame.

"The first thing I talked to the team about after the final whistle was about the quality opponent we just played, but the next thing was we have Mars Hill on Saturday and in the grand scheme of things, that's a much bigger game than this one," said Clarke.

"We've got a situation now where we control our own destiny as far getting that North region bid," said Sheehan. "Merrimack, Adelphi and a couple of others will certainly have something to say about that. It's not a time to hang our heads. The season is not over by any stretch of the imagination."

What it does clarify is Limestone's ascendancy into the role of contender for the national title.

While the Saints have a streak of 11 straight bids to the NCAA tournament intact, it has been six years since they've played in the national championship game and nine years since they won the second of their two titles. Despite a new coach, the victory over Le Moyne could be a sign that Limestone is once again ready for Memorial Day Weekend.

The Saints have Dan Sheehan sold. For now, anyway.

Game Balls
Lee Blair – Attack, Misericordia
It's probably not a game that registered much for anyone, but the junior scored six goals and dished out an assist, helping the Cougars rally from a four-goal deficit to defeat Medaille in Myrtle Beach, 16-12.

Franc Cook – Goalie, Lynchburg
The No. 11 Hornets hit the road for a tough contest against No. 17 Cabrini and it was Cook who provided the difference. The Cavs outshot Lynchburg, 45-12 in the final three quarters, but the junior made 20 saves to lift the Hornets to the victory, 9-4.

Brandon Faubert – Midfield, Stevens
Not much to see here, really. Just a seven-goal performance by the senior co-captain as No. 20 Stevens destroyed No. 18 Springfield, 18-8 on Sunday.

Joe Jacobs-Ferderbar
– Attack, Nazareth

With the Golden Flyers looking to rebound from a loss to Springfield that knocked them out of the Top 20, Jacobs-Ferderbar stepped up. The senior scored five goals and dished out two assists as Naz upset No. 13 Geneseo, 14-9.

John Goodrich – Goalie, Florida State
In a telling SELC clash against No. 14 Virginia Tech, the junior made 21 saves, helping the No. 12 Seminoles post a 13-11 victory over the Hokies.

Riley Loewen – Attack, Limestone
The sophomore from British Columbia scored five goals, leading the second-ranked Saints to the upset of No. 2 Le Moyne at Georgetown Prep.

Johnny Rodriguez – Goalie, Salisbury
Gettysburg had the worst offensive performance in eight years and a big reason was the play of the senior netminder. Rodriguez made 16 saves, including nine in the second half to keep the Bullets from gaining any momentum.

Tyler Russell – Attack, RIT
The junior's fourth goal of the game was the biggest, as Russell connected with 1:44 left in overtime to give No. 7 RIT the 10-9 victory over No. 10 RPI.

Power Fives

NCAA Division II

1. C.W. Post (6-0) – Still three weeks until the road trip to No. 5 Dowling.
2. Limestone (4-0) – Saints should be 14-0 going into the late April game with Mercyhurst.
3. Mercyhurst (2-0) – Decent southern swing for Mercyhurst with wins over Mars Hill and Wingate.
4. Merrimack (1-0) – Warriors still basking in the post-NYIT glow. At Dominican (N.Y.) Thursday.
5. Le Moyne (1-1) – Disappointing loss, no question. But it's always been about April 16.

NCAA Division III
1. Tufts (0-0) – Finally! The champs kick off the season Saturday against Amherst.
2. Cortland (2-0) – The Red Dragons defense has been brutally efficient. Union is a good team.
3. Salisbury (5-0) – Going against a defense like Gettysburg will pay dividends against Stevenson.
4. Stevenson (5-0) – The Mustangs are perfect heading into the Lynchburg-Roanoke-Cortland-Tufts quad.
5. Roanoke (3-0) – 'Noke will get a chance to show itself in the next five games against quality opponents.

MCLA Division I

1. Michigan (4-0) – Meet the new boss...
2. Arizona State (4-0) – Performing up to the level we've come to expect so far.
3. Colorado State (2-0) – That trip to the Pacific Northwest doesn't appear very threatening.
4. BYU (6-0) – The Cougars looked a little wobbly in the second half against Duluth.
5. Chapman (4-1) – The Panthers are hanging on by a thread. Could get the hook by the Buffs soon.

MCLA Division II
1. St. Thomas (4-0) – Big names coming to the Cities this weekend, but nothing the Tommies can't handle.
2. Davenport (5-0) – After the GVSU game, it's tough to think Indiana Tech will threaten the Panthers.
3. Western Oregon (6-0) – The Wolves and Johnnies clash in the Pacific Northwest next weekend.
4. Dayton (3-1) – The Flyers were idle after the North Carolina trip. Tennesse Wesleyan next.
5. St. John's (3-0) – We'll find out just how good the Johnnies are after the WOU game.

Slides & Rides
In order to tighten up Making Sense, we're going to experiment by moving the individual notes sections to a blog format. Click on the following to get your notes fix: NCAA D-II, NCAA D-III, MCLA-I, MCLA-II.

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