June 22, 2012

Coyne's All-Americans: NCAA Division II

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

Limestone's Jake Ternosky got most of the hype this season at FOGO, but in terms of consistency and proving it on the big stage, no one was better than Dowling's Louis Riley (above). That's why he got the nod on Jac Coyne's All-American team.
© Kevin P. Tucker

Compared to the other divisions – MCLA Division I, MCLA Division II and NCAA Division III – the 37 USILA All-Americans in NCAA Division II looks rather modest. But when you take into account that the division only sponsored 46 teams this spring, it still computes to an "Absurdity Ranking" of 80.4, which is even higher than NCAA Division III and its 137 All-Americans.

That's the reason I've come up with the Coyne All-America team, which features just 12 players (the standard 10 plus an LSM and FOGO), as the postseason roll otherwise has become far too long, with multiple All-American teams and honorable-mention selections. From my perspective, there can only be 12.

Without further ado:

Coyne's All-American Team

Attack – Vito DeMola, Senior – Dowling
Does the postseason count on my All-American team? Absolutely. But before you accuse me of handing DeMola this spot because of his spectacular four-goal, two assist performance in the championship game, just remember he was a Coyne All-American last spring when he didn't get a sniff of any postseason accolades. He led the way for the Golden Lions this spring again with 36 goals and 13 assists, and managed to snap out of an early-season funk to get Dowling to the Promised Land.

Attack – Riley Loewen, Senior – Limestone
Rare is the player who can amass nearly 50 goals in a season and still shoot nearly 50 percent. That's what Loewen did this season, burying 48 markers on 99 total shots and helping the Saints get within a whisper of the national championship. Loewen had plenty of help this year, but his ability to create his own shot when the situation called for it is what pushes him slightly past the strong play of partner Shayne Jackson on the Limestone front line.

Attack – Brian Scheetz, Junior – Mercyhurst
If you set the school points record in your junior campaign and you're within an overtime goal of likely winning a second consecutive national championship, you find yourself here. Some might turn up their noses at an attackman scoring just 13 goals in a season, but without Scheetz running the show (he dished out 33 assists) and drawing the attention of opponents, the Lakers' season would have been over in April. Being an attackman in the ECC is like participating in a blood sport, so the numbers aren't always going to be pretty. The good ones still shine, however.

Midfield – Jackson Decker, Senior – Limestone
With any balanced, high-powered offensive team that has its way in a relatively weak conference, sometimes the numbers start to lose meaning. And considering the prolific numbers thrown up by Loewen and Jackson, it's easy to lose Decker in the mix (he finished with 36 goals and 12 assists). A physical specimen who gave fits to opposing defensive schemes, Decker was a third option for the Saints, but many times – including the national championship game when Limestone was forced to rally – he was the guy.

Midfield – Corey Lunney, Junior – Merrimack
It's tough to find a more productive middie than Lunney, who again put up outstanding numbers in the Warriors' near-miss of the tournament. He finished with a team-leading 45 goals along with 14 assists. He was particularly effective with the man-up unit, where he scored a staggering 17 markers. More importantly, Lunney did it by drawing the top poles in the rugged Northeast-10 conference.

Midfield – Joe Vitale, Senior – Adelphi
Due to some injuries this year, Vitale became a bit more of a hybrid middie-attackman than he had been in the past, but he's made his bones as a midfielder, so he gets the nod here. (He probably could have made it at attack, too). His numbers were slightly off from years past (39g, 27a), but he still had a knack for giving the Panthers exactly what they needed – he scored five of the 13 game-winning goals this past year along with a half dozen man-up markers, which both led the team.

Long-Stick Midfielder – Chris Cudmore, Senior – Mars Hill
It's easy to get lost in the South with the strength of the ECC and NE-10, along with the primacy of Limestone, but despite not having the spotlight, Cudmore established himself as the best longstick in the country. With 81 ground balls and a team-high 36 caused turnovers, Cudmore was a huge reason Mars Hill finished with an 11-3 record and flirted with an NCAA bid this spring. The knock on Cudmore – and all players from the South – is they don't play the consistent level of competition as the other regions. That might be true, but Cudmore could be plugged into any team or region and still find his way here.

Faceoff Specialist – Louis Riley, Junior – Dowling
It was basically a coin flip all season between Riley and Limestone's Jake Ternosky for this spot, so it was only justice that the two were able to settle this conflict on the division's biggest stage. Sweet Lou won 14 of 25 faceoffs in the title game against Ternosky (after going 11-for-23 in the regular season matchup), with his advantage at the dot being one of the reasons the Golden Lions managed to pull out one-goal victory Memorial Day weekend. Riley finished with a 64.9 percent mark (196-for-302) for the season and also chipped in a pair of assists.

There were plenty of weapons on this year's Merrimack squad, but the catalyst was junior middie Corey Lunney (above).
© Greg Wall

Defense – Alex Cameron-Carter, Junior – Le Moyne
The year may change, but the numbers rarely do for the Dolphins. Once again, the Le Moyne defense was on lockdown, holding opponents to a shade over four goals per game, and a big reason was Cameron-Carter. Following in a long line of stellar poles, Cameron-Carter used his athleticism to neutralize the best opponents' offensive players. He finished with 37 ground balls and a team-high 22 caused turnovers.

Defense – Jimmy Holland, Sophomore – Merrimack
Unknowing attackmen found out that trying to go against Holland was like taking on a linebacker. Not surprising, considering Holland was the fourth-leading tackler for the Warriors on the gridiron last fall. Using his strength to body up big offensive players and the quickness to stifle the jitterbugs, Holland came into his own in 2012. He finished with 35 ground balls and 20 caused turnovers as the Warriors finished up 13-3 and a game away from the NCAA tourney.

Defense – Andrew Wagner, Sophomore – Mercyhurst
The numbers don't blow your socks off – 10 ground balls and 12 caused turnovers in 14 games – but much of that can be attributed to the fact that Wagner isn't a big takeaway guy. He just simply shuts down his opponent. It doesn't help that the opposition did its best to stay away from the rugged pole. Wagner made his bones in 2011, when he was a key cog in the Lakers' run to the national championship and he once again made opponents play without the services of their top offensive player.

Goalie – Billy McGee, Senior – NYIT
As Billy McGee went, so did the Bears. There's no secret there, and NYIT head coach Bill Dunn would have told you the same thing.  NYIT suffered three losses on the season, and in at least two of them, McGee wasn't the problem. He made 14 saves against St. Anselm, holding the Hawks to six goals in a 6-5 loss and allowed just seven goals in a 7-6 setback to Mercyhurst. If the Bears offense does its part in either of those contests – or even helps out in the 10-8 loss to Dowling – this postseason might have had a very different flavor. Ultimately, they came up short, but McGee gave them a shot at every turn.

Player of the Year – Jackson Decker, Limestone

Out of the four divisions that I cover, which also includes MCLA Division I, MCLA Division II and NCAA Division III, this was the toughest Player of the Year selection. There were numerous candidates in the running, but Decker outpaced the field to earn the honor.

Decker's numbers speak for themselves – 36 goals and 12 assists out of the midfield – and he created match-up nightmares with his size and speed, even when opponents knew he was going to his right. The fact that he was able to stand out on the Saints despite the dynamic duo of Jackson (27g, 44a) and Loewen (48g, 20a) speaks to how important Decker was to Limestone's run to the brink of a national championship.

Limestone head coach J.B. Clarke will have some large holes to fill when he reloads for the 2013 season, but none will be bigger than Decker with the versatility that he afforded the Saints' offense.

Coach of the Year – Brian Novotny, Seton Hill

The departure of Mercyhurst to the South region next year will produce a sigh of relief among the ECC coaches, but considering the giant that Novotny is building down in Greensburg, Pa., Seton Hill's exit will also be a bullet dodged. Since the program's inception in 2006, the Griffins have improved every season, culminating with this season's 12-4 record and No. 8 national ranking.

Three of the four losses came against NCAA qualifiers. Seton Hill lost to national champion Dowling 11-8 and semifinalist Le Moyne 15-10. Only Limestone scored as many goals on the Dolphins. There was the 19-5 loss to Mercyhurst, but even Lakers coach Chris Ryan admitted that "it was just one of those games." There were also big wins, including road victories over C.W. Post and Chestnut Hill and a home rout of Mercy.

Seton Hill was able to do this with an incredibly young roster. Six of the top eight scorers were sophomores or freshmen and a seventh – James Delaney (28g, 33a) – was a junior. There was also just one senior on the starting defense, which was anchored by junior goalie Chris Isle (8.29 goals against average; 59.8 save percentage).

Dowling's Tim Boyle and Limestone's J.B. Clarke are fine picks for Coach of the Year, as are Le Moyne's Dan Sheehan and Mars Hills' Dave Klarmann. But for the steady growth that has occurred with his program, the outstanding season against a stiff schedule and the impending explosion onto the NCAA tournament scene next year when the tournament expands, Novotny gets the nod.

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