April 5, 2011

Mercyhurst Thrives on 'Meat and Potatoes'

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Mercyhurst leaned on its senior leaders in the 16-8 win over Dowling on Saturday, including attackman Kevin Coholan (above), who scored four goals and dished out an assist.

© Ethan Magoc

With his team holding a 9-6 lead over then-No. 3 Dowling on Saturday and in possession of the ball at the start of the second half on a man-up opportunity, Mercyhurst men's lacrosse coach Chris Ryan watched an all too familiar scene unfold.

Instead of the Lakers taking advantage of a fantastic opportunity to put some space between themselves and Dowling, a reckless chance by the offense resulted in a turnover. Seconds later, Lions attackman Vito Demola cashed in to cut the lead to two and give the visitors a glimmer of hope.

"I told [junior attackman] Kyle Kallay, 'Too cute; not enough meat and potatoes out there,'" Ryan said Sunday after the Lakers went on to finish the game on a 7-1 run and take the 16-8 victory.

After a wobbly start to the season, which has seen close calls against Molloy, Mercy and Seton Hill and a stunning loss to Chestnut Hill, Ryan and the Mercyhurst players have realized they aren't good enough yet to play a loose style of lacrosse. They must roll up their sleeves every game and put in blue-collar efforts every single time they take the field.

It's not always an easy concept to grasp, especially for a team that finished the 2010 season with a 15-1 record and legitimate gripe after being left out of the NCAA tournament. The mediocre start to this season rectified that.

"It starts with the simple fact that we graduated 14 guys off of last year's team," Ryan said. "My second line midfield starting the season was Ian Wild, who redshirted last year because of a football injury, James Chayka, who was a freshman last year, and Ian Brooks, another sophomore. We had a lot of growing up to do."

That meant a stepped-up presence by the 13-man senior class. Against Dowling, the Lakers received just that.

Attackman Kevin Coholan scored four goals and dished out an assist, middie Andy Winslow had two goals and an assist, and goalie Zach Nash finished with a solid eight saves. The lynchpin, however, was close defender Matt Scherer.

"On Monday, during the film session I turned to Matt and said, 'Listen, this game rests on your shoulders. You're going to get Vito Demola and he's been scoring in bunches,'" said Ryan. "'This is going to be a one-on-one match-up that we're going to need you to win.'

"If we could win that match-up, it was going to sway the game in our favor. Matt responded and was able to keep Vito at bay a little bit. [Scherer] wasn't getting outside of what he does well, which is being a big, strong position defender, and I think it paid off for us."

It was just the kind of meat-and-potato performance to perfectly suit Ryan's figurative culinary model.

The Lakers have found the perfect menu at the most opportune time. Last year, the Chestnut Hill loss would have been a killer, but this spring all the wild card contenders have at least one loss, and the Central Region race is still wide open. If Mercyhurst sweeps the five remaining East Coast Conference games – which would include a victory at No. 3 C.W. Post this weekend – the Lakers are essentially locks for the postseason.

The challenge now is to make sure the satisfaction that comes with wiping out a talented Dowling team doesn't foster complacency among the Lakers.

"You really can't get fat and lazy off a win in the ECC," Ryan said, "because you have another team coming right at you."

There might be a nutritionist or two who would disagree, but the perfect diet for Mercyhurst to stay lean and hungry is strictly protein and carbs.

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