February 10, 2014

#LMRanks: NCAA Division II Men's No. 7-5

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

With a deficit in scoring after the graduation of Riley Lowen, Reid Reinholdt will be a key player for Limestone. (John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com)

Lacrosse Magazine Online continues its countdown series in anticipation of the true start of the 2014 campaign. This week will mark the countdown in men's Division II. After starting with programs ranked No. 8-10, we move on to the teams slotted No. 5-7.

7. Seton Hill

First game: Saturday vs. Ohio Valley

In late April, the Griffins were 12-1 with the only loss coming by a goal on the road to NYIT. Already assured an NCAA bid, Seton Hill was hoping to use the season finale against top-ranked Mercyhurst and the conference tournament as a springboard to national tourney success. With arguably the best attackman, midfielder and goalie in the country, the Griffs had the look of a dangerous team.

And they didn't win another game.

Even though none of the losses came by more than three goals, Seton Hill lost to the Lakers (12-9) and then fell to Lake Erie (12-10) – a team they throttled in the regular season, 16-8 – in the ECAC semifinals. The season culminated with an NCAA quarterfinal loss to Limestone (16-13). So it was in Division II last year, where there were no prohibitive favorites or massive underdogs. It will be a valuable lesson for the Griffins going forward.

With senior Matt Delomico (43g, 29a), who might be the best front man in D-II, and classmate Dylan Lefebvre (40g, 17a) providing the offensive punch, Seton Hill should once again be tugging on Mercyhurst's cape in the ECAC. Finding replacements for middie James Delaney and goalie Chris Ilse won't be easy, and the schedule is daunting, but there won't be any surprises for the Griffins this spring.


First game: Friday at Tampa

The Bears have the kind of players that cause one to believe that they could easily make a push for a national championship this spring. On the other hand, they have a couple of deficiencies that could put a ceiling on how high they rise. Will guys like junior attackman Luke Miller (44g, 42a), junior middie Ryan Brunet (24g, 8a) and senior defenseman Danny McDermott (41 CTs) allow NYIT to gloss over glaring questions about its faceoffs and goaltending?

The fact that over half of the Bears' roster is comprised of freshman could be both a boon and a liability. It gives Bill Dunn a deeper roster than last year's edition, but rookies are rookies. And one of them – Alex Seltzer, Godwin Sotome or Peter Izzo – will be the starting goalie against one of the toughest schedules in the country. The entire defense is back to protect whoever gets the nod, but the ECC can be a cruel place for a greenhorn.

The first six games of the season will be on the road and all of those opponents have NCAA aspirations, so the Bears will have their hands full from the jump. However, if they get out of that gauntlet unscathed, the momentum could overwhelm the rest of the ECC and ensure another May dance invitation.

5. Limestone

First game: Feb. 8 vs. Lenoir-Rhyne (W, 18-9)

The Saints playing the role of a grinding, defensive-oriented team? That would be out of character, but not necessarily out of the realm of possibility. With the graduation of some prolific point producers, led by the incomparable Riley Loewen, and only one (lost) faceoff attempt returning, the defense appears to be Limestone's signature unit heading into the '14 season.

It often gets lost in the huge offensive stats, but the Saints have always had a good defense. You don't have the sustained success and recent championship game visits without it. But this year, the experience is definitely in the back. Senior Glenn Trovato, junior Zach Missel, sophomore Jake Wojtowicz anchor the close defense while seniors Anthony Starnino and Mike Ponzio are experienced LSMs. Patrick Sheridan (6.63 GAA, 55.3 sv%) earned three starts as a rookie and is the presumptive netminder entering the spring.

Senior attackman Todd Nakasuji (31g, 17a) and sophomore middies Vinny Ricci (20g, 5a) and Reid Reinholdt (12g, 23a) will keep the offense dangerous, but a lot more possessions will be coming via the sweat of the defense without Jake Ternosky around to dominate faceoffs. The Saints should once again be in the tournament, but how quickly the scorers catch up with the poles will determine how far they go.

Lacrosse Magazine will continue its 2014 college lacrosse preview throughout January and into February, with team-by-team breakdowns of the top teams in NCAA Division I, II and III men's and women's lacrosse. Follow the countdown at LaxMagazine.com/LMRanks and on twitter at #LMRanks.

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