June 21, 2011

Coyne's All-Americans: NCAA Division II

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

Dowling junior Vito DeMola fell short of making any of the USILA All-American teams, but his performances against the top teams in the country earns him a spot on Jac Coyne's 12-player All-America squad.
© Lee Weissman

The USILA hands out 39 Division II All-America plaques and there are only 42 teams in the entire division. Seems a bit much, don't you think?

The America I believe in means only the finest players are recognized for their accomplishments during the year, not a nearly one-to-one ratio of players to teams.

As such, for the second year, I've put together my own All-America team.

It consists of 12 players – I've allowed for the addition of a faceoff middie and LSM in a nod to the specialization of the game – who I think have earned the distinction.

The 2011 Coyne Division II All-America Team

Attack – Vito DeMola, Junior – Dowling

With the graduation of two first team All-Americans (John McClure, Kyle O'Brien) off last year's attack unit, Dowling should have struggled up front. Thanks to DeMola, the Golden Lions didn't. The junior finished with 49 goals and nine assists – good for seventh in the country in points per game (3.93) and second in goals per outing (3.29). More importantly, DeMola showed up in the big games. The Golden Lions played three of the four tournament qualifiers – Mercyhurst, C.W. Post and Adelphi – and he had a hat trick against all three, helping Dowling post a 2-1 mark against those teams.

Attack – Shayne Jackson, Junior – Limestone

Although the Saints finished their tremendous season with two losses in the last three games, there is no mitigating Jackson's season. The Onondaga transfer, who was the NJCAA Player of the Year in 2010, stepped into the Limestone lineup and promptly led the nation in scoring (32g, 50a). Jackson was undoubtedly bolstered by a chemistry with fellow Canadian Riley Loewen, but he made everyone on the field better for the Saints.

Attack – Jack Venditti, Senior – Le Moyne

Le Moyne head coach Dan Sheehan called Venditti "one of the best leaders I've ever had the pleasure of coaching," and the Dolphins' quarterback also was superb on the field. He tied for the team lead in goals (26) and assisted nine others, helping Le Moyne finish 12-2 and just outside of the four-team NCAA tournament field. While he wasn't solely responsible for their success, Venditti played a part in the outstanding careers of attackman Jack Harmatuck and middie Matt Chadderdon.

Midfield – Mike Messina, Senior – C.W. Post

Messina was a matchup nightmare for opponents of C.W. Post. He either created offense himself (29g, 7a) or drew enough attention to allow other Pioneer players to get easy looks. The senior netted four hat tricks over the course of the season, including a four-spot against Dowling. Post had guys like Eddie Plompen and Nick Couric who put up impressive numbers on attack, but Messina who was the engine for the Pioneers.

Midfield – Joe Vitale, Junior - Adelphi

Vitale has the instincts of an attackman who ran with the top midfield line and delivered all season, finishing tops on the Panthers with 40 goals and 30 assists. The junior was critical to Adelphi's late-season push to the national championship game. He had three goals and three assists in the NE-10 title game against Merrimack, followed by a hat trick in the semifinal triumph at Limestone. Even in the championship contest, Vitale posted three goals and two assists in the losing effort.

Midfield – Ian Wild, Junior – Mercyhurst

Is it easy to get caught up by a performance in one game when making by All-American team? Yep, sure is, especially when it's a pivotal display in the national championship game. That's just part of Wild's qualifications for this spot. The two-sport standout has been a leader for the Lakers, even when he was sidelined all last year with a groin injury, which adds to the overall picture. Also, much of Mercyhurst's success this year has been a willingness to embrace a disciplined approach to the gameplan. Despite just 18 goals and two assists, Wild went a long way to making that a reality.

F/O – Corey Bulken, Senior – Le Moyne

It was clear that Bulken was the heir apparent to the mantle of best FOGO in the division when he went toe-to-toe with C.W. Post's All-American faceoff man Mike Cama in the 2010 title game and nearly split the draws. He backed it up this year, winning 69.2 percent (144-for-208) of his faceoffs while also adding three goals and nine assists.

LSM – Chris Cudmore, Junior – Mars Hill

The lanky, 6-foot-2 pole can do it all for the Lions. He not only led Mars Hill in caused turnovers (41), but Cudmore was a hose on the faceoff wings. His 68 ground balls were 24 more than the next player on the team. The Ontario native was also a scoring threat, finishing eighth for the Lions with six goals and six assists, including three extra-man markers.

Defense – Dan Gill, Senior – Adelphi

The national championship game was a microcosm of Gill's senior season, as he grabbed a team-high four ground balls and caused three turnovers. The Massapequa native and Nassau transfer led the Panthers with 100 GBs in 2011 and also paced the squad in caused turnovers. He even dished out four assists along the way.

Defense – Pat Moran, Senior – Le Moyne

Smart, technically sound and disciplined. Throw in some athleticism and you've got Moran, who anchored the Dolphins backline that allowed a staggering 4.64 goals per game. Moran wasn't a huge ground ball or take-away guy, but he played deft positional defense that allowed him to be left on an island against some of the better offensive players in the country.

Defense – Spencer Wims, Senior – Limestone

Limestone was the highest-scoring team in the country, but it was the defense, led by Wims, that allowed the Saints to race out to a 14-0 start to the season and climb all the way to No. 1. A punishing physical defender, Wims was a key in helping Limestone allow just 6.48 goals per game.

Goalie – Zach Nash, Senior – Mercyhurst

There were no breathers for Nash this season – he played in every second of all 16 of the Lakers' contests this spring – and he showed up for every one, even the very last tick of the season when he turned away a game-tying bid by Adelphi to preserve Mercyhurst's first title. During the previous 958 minutes and seven seconds, Nash allowed just 6.01 goals against and had a 56.6 save percentage while posting a 14-2 mark against one of the toughest schedules in the country.

Player of the Year

Shayne Jackson, Limestone

It's tough to argue with the numbers or what the Saints were able to accomplish this year with the addition of Jackson. Limestone stumbled down the stretch, but, for the most part, when defenses concentrated on the junior, he still delivered whether it was via the goal or assist.

Coach of the Year

Steve Manitta, Mercy

It'd be easy to give the award to Chris Ryan or Gordon Purdie – and both of those coaches certainly are deserving of recognition – but Manitta is the pick for what he has been able to do with the Mustangs. In just its second year of varsity status, Mercy finished 11-3 and was in the national ranking for 10 of the 12 weeks this season, reaching as high as No. 6 (the 'Stangs finished at No. 7). What makes the feat more impressive – and perhaps a little frightening for the rest of the ECC – is Mercy had just two seniors on the roster.

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