March 3, 2014

MD2 Notebook: Mercyhurst Receives The Message

Joe Corapi (above) had two goals and an assist in Le Moyne's 12-8 victory over Limestone on Saturday in Baltimore. (John Strohsacker)

There were 52 seconds left in the first quarter and No. 3 Mercyhurst and No. 9 Pfeiffer were locked up at threes when Lakers head coach Chris Ryan burned a timeout. Pfeiffer still had possession of the ball after a shot, but Ryan needed to ask for a favor.

When the players came to the bench, Ryan approached senior goalie Mike Grace.

"Mike had a rough first quarter," said Ryan, whose goalie made only stop. "And in the way I can only express to him in a timeout, I kindly asked him - in the most Coach Ryan manner – to please stop the ball."

He only had to ask once.

Grace, who led the Lakers to the brink of a national championship last year, turned away 10 shots the rest of the way, helping Mercyhurst separate for a 12-5 victory.

"He responded to [my request] and was terrific in the second half," Ryan said. "There were a couple of point blank saves he came up with and you could feel momentum pick up off of his efforts. The goalie is always going to be the backbone of your team and Mike came through in some pretty critical situations in the second half. That game could have teetered either way for the longest of times and Mike's efforts helped to swing it back toward us."

The game was still very much in doubt until the third quarter. With Mercyhurst clinging to a 7-5 lead and the clock approaching zeroes, the Lakers finally broke the Falcons back. Jack McAndrew scored with 24 seconds left and then Brady Heseltine tacked on one of his five goals 21 seconds later to balloon the lead to 9-5. The game was effectively over at that point.

It had played out similarly to what Ryan thought would happen.

"As the game wore on, I had actually said to our assistant coaches, 'Let's let this one come back to us,' because I really thought in the second half we'd be able to string something together," he said. "Once the initial surge of adrenaline goes away, what's left? I thought we'd be in a pretty good position. Pfeiffer came out and answered with some goals and it was a good, close first half, but we were able to buckle down on some areas and create some better opportunities offensively. If we could get some possession time, we'd wear them down a little bit and that's sort of how the game played out."

Grace had the defensive end locked down, but it was Heseltine who made things happen. He even had an assist after only posting four helpers during the entirety of the 2013 campaign. "It's almost like a pink elephant went flying by when I saw that on the scoresheet," laughed Ryan. Heseltine's emergence as one of the most unforgiving finishers in Division II is a result of the dedication to getting his body ready for the season.

"Two years ago, Brady bought in really hard to things that we stress here. One of them is physical conditioning," Ryan said. "The goal right before the half, he basically out-raced two guys to the face of the net and scored. That was huge for us. Brady became a much better lacrosse player when he bought into hard work physically. I'm sure teams are going to do some things to take him away from us, so we'll have to be prepared for those situations. Right now, he is playing with a lot of confidence and his confidence mirrors what the rest of the team is doing on the field right now."

Lacrosse Magazine's Player of the Week

Brady Heseltine, Sr., A, - Mercyhurst
Squaring off with ninth-ranked Pfeiffer and still locked in a tied game with the Falcons after one quarter, Mercyhurst needed a spark. They found it in Heseltine, who notched a hat trick in the second quarter to give the Lakers some breathing room before scoring twice more and setting a third in the final 30 minutes as 'Hurst posted the 12-5 victory. "Right now he is playing with a lot of confidence," said Lakers head coach Chris Ryan.

Honor Roll
Matty Beccaris (LIU Post), Garrett Chan (Queens), Jimmy McBride (Mars Hill), Michael Melnychenko (Chestnut Hill), Luke Miller (NYIT), Billy Richardson (Dowling), Jake Rooney (Tampa), John Scheich (Catawba), Matt Shields (Mount Olive), Grant VanOverbeke (Florida Southern).

Bracket Watch

Dowling (2-0) at Le Moyne (3-0)
LIU Post (2-0) at Adelphi (2-0)
Tampa (4-0) at Mercyhurst (2-0)
Seton Hill (3-0) at Limestone (4-1)

Slides & Rides

- The contest between Le Moyne and Limestone – a pair of teams in the Top 5 nationally – was shaping up to be an old-fashioned shootout after the first quarter. The two teams combined for 10 goals in the first 15 minutes as Le Moyne held a 6-4 lead. The pace of play slowed considerably as the two teams combined for just 10 more goals over the next 45 minutes of game action as the Dolphins took home the 12-8 victory. Limestone actually took a 7-6 lead in the second quarter with three straight goals, however, over the next 37 minutes, the Le Moyne defense stiffened, allowing just one more Saints marker.

The result doesn't move the needle much. Both teams are still locked on their track to the NCAA tournament and the result could play a small role in seeding, if any, considering what both teams have left. It is a nice benchmark for both squads as they move closer to their regional and conference slates.

"This has developed into just a fantastic rivalry," said Le Moyne head coach Dan Sheehan to "It's one of those games that both coaches and teams love to play. Being a non-region game, there is not the weight of the world on your shoulders and you can come out and play."

- Heading into Saturday's game with Molloy, Dowling head coach Tim Boyle succinctly described what he expected against the Lions. "Every ECC game is like a street fight," he said. It looked like an accurate description at halftime with Dowling clinging to a 7-6 advantage, but the dynamic changed in the second half. Boyle's defense, anchored by 13 saves from goalie Frank Sommers, shut down Molloy while outscoring the Lions, 8-1, over the final 30 minutes for a comfortable, 15-7 victory.

The win gives the Golden Lions a boost of confidence as they prepare for their grueling four-game, two-week stretch when they face Le Moyne, Merrimack, NYIT and Mercyhurst in consecutive contests. Dowling still has another warm-up game with Bentley this weekend before the grind starts, but dispatching a team with as much firepower as Molloy should have Boyle and his legion feeling good about their prospects. Billy Richardson was particularly impressive in the win with two goals and six assists for Dowling.

- Seton Hill took care of Chestnut Hill in the battle of the Griffins, 14-12, and now Brian Novotny's crew turns its eyes toward ECAC rival Mercyhurst and next weekend's heavyweight bout that will very likely determine who gets home field advantage for the conference tourney. Lakers head coach Chris Ryan believes it will be a compelling game when the two square off in Erie.

"It's going to be a very interesting game because you've two teams that are playing with a lot of confidence right now," Ryan said. "It has turned into a very good rivalry. It is a good rivalry for the ECAC, it's a good rivalry for the region and I think it's a good rivalry for Division II as a whole. I know Brian [Novotny, Seton Hill head coach] is working very hard to get those guys ready. We always have good games with them the last couple of years. Brian has done a really nice job of growing that program, so this will be the next chapter."

- In the grand scheme of things, Colorado Mesa's canceled trip to Missouri to face Rockhurst and Lindenwood will have little bearing on where the Mavs end up this season. Mesa will have to win all of its games – most importantly their March 26 tilt at Tampa – and probably need some help to realistically be in the NCAA tournament hunt. A sweep in Kansas City wouldn't have changed that. Still, every game is important for western teams, if only to build the program and have more than a 12-game schedule. Here's hoping they don't lose anymore dates.

- When T.J. DiCarlo was a sophomore at Mercy in 2011, he was named USILA's goalie of the year. On Saturday, DiCarlo was on the same field as Mercy, but this time as a graduate student for LIU Post. He was a big reason the Pioneers posted a 14-7 victory over the Mavericks, making 13 saves. The game didn't start great for DiCarlo, with his former team scoring on its first two shots of the contest and still leading 5-4 lead midway through the second frame. DiCarlo made 12 of his 13 stops in the first half, keeping things close and allowing Post to open things up in the second half. Matty Beccaris was the man for the Pioneers with five goals and three assists.

- NYIT moved back to the .500 mark with a comfortable, 12-4 road victory against St. Michael's. Luke Miller had two goals and five assists in the win. The Bears next challenge comes next weekend with an ECC road game against Chestnut Hill...Dowling senior attackman Matt Crough was benched for the first 90 minutes of the season by head coach Tim Boyle, but he finally earned his first playing time in the second half against Molloy and promptly netted a hat (Monday) marks the start of the Lynn (Fla.) lacrosse era as the Fighting Knights play their first game against Wheeling Jesuit. It will be Wheeling's first game of the season and the inaugural game for head coach Kevin Dugan. The game is slated for a 7 p.m. start.

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