March 6, 2014

Morning Jac: Small College Midweek Report

by Jac Coyne | | Coyne Archive | Twitter

"Matt Lalli gets the game ball," said Florida Southern head coach Marty Ward after his freshman goalie (above) made five of his 12 saves in the fourth quarter, helping the Mocs upset No. 9 Lake Erie, 12-10, on Wednesday night. (Florida Southern Athletics)

Game of the Midweek

Collars were starting to get a little tight on the Florida Southern sideline. After mugging Lake Erie for the first 18 minutes of the game and building a stunning, 10-1 advantage against the ninth-ranked Storm, the Mocs were finding the sledding a little tougher in the second half.

Conversely, the game was going a lot smoother for Lake Erie, which had methodically trimmed the lead to 11-9 halfway through the third quarter. The balance of the game was tipping heavily against Florida Southern, but fortunately for the Mocs, their rookie goalie wasn't about to let the contest slip away.

"Matt Lalli gets the game ball," said FSC head coach Marty Ward after the game. "As a freshman in the pipes for your team, sometimes you can only ask them to manage the game the best they can. But some games the goalie has to steal it for you, and he did that in the fourth quarter."

Lalli made five of his 12 saves in the final stanza, holding the Storm to just one goal and allowing the Mocs to post a 12-10 victory – a win that keeps them in the NCAA tournament hunt.

The Florida Southern defense certainly helped their goalie. The high-powered Lake Erie offense was stymied for large periods of the game and Trevor Tarte – who scored the most goals in Division II last spring – could not find the net.

"[Senior defender] Brad Gysin was the reason he did not score," Ward said. "He did a great job shutting [Tarte] off and we played 5-v-5 the rest of the way."

The late game sweats shaded the early dominance showed by the Mocs. Dane Sorensen scored all five of his goals in the first 15 minutes, including four straight over a 3:35 stretch. Dan Krispinsky's work at the dot – he won 19-of-24 faceoffs on the evening – was a contributing factor in the skein.

"The 9-0 run really came down to execution and swarming the ground balls on second chance opportunities," Ward said. "We were very unselfish and moved the ball well. It also helps when you win almost every faceoff, with Krispinsky coming up big at the X."

Wednesday's victory evened the Mocs record at 2-2, and keep them in the discussion for one of the South region bids. They have a huge game with archrival Tampa in 10 days that will go a long way in determining just how far the Southern team can go.

For now, it's all about the contest against Shorter on Saturday.

"We have a motto on our team: celebrate the win as you walk off the field, and in the locker room after that it's on to the next opponent," Ward said. "This is a long season and you have to be able to maintain consistency, be ready to go for every game and respect every opponent. Our goal is to win a championship, so every game and everything matters."

Wesleyan in Familiar Spot

On the bus ride back from Troy, N.Y., on Wednesday evening after Wesleyan's win over RPI, Cardinals head coach John Raba understood the arc of this season has a familiar ring to it.

"This is the recipe for heartache," he said, with a small chuckle. "We get highly ranked and all of sudden we're playing Bates on Saturday. It's like, 'Oh, man.'"

For the past three seasons, Wesleyan has entered their game against conference rival Bates with an undefeated record and a national ranking. In 2011, they were 6-0 and the past two seasons it has been 2-0, and each time it left the game against the Bobcats with a blemish and a ticket out of the polls. The Cardinals are now 2-0 and Raba's 16th-ranked crew is hosting Bates this weekend.

As if to highlight the Cardinals' troubles against the Bobcats, heading into its final year this Wesleyan senior class has beat every other NESCAC team expect for one.

"We have a little motivation that way, anyway," Raba said.

In the dramatic, season-opening win against Hamilton – the Cardinals needed a two-man down goal with four seconds left to win it – the defense allowed an uncharacteristically high 11 goals, but the offense was able to bail them out.

Florida Southern faceoff man Dan Krispinsky won 19-of-24 draws against Lake Erie, playing a huge role in allowing the Mocs to build a big first-quarter lead and hang on for the win.

"It's an upperclassmen offense and it looks like it," Raba said, complimenting his experienced attack unit. "Usually we're waiting for the offense to catch up with the defense. Now, it's the other way right around a little bit."

That the defense would struggle in the first game isn't a complete surprise. Wesleyan lost three All-American defenders off last year's backline, meaing some new faces at key spots. The brutal weather in New England that has retarded the cohesion of most teams, along with the steep learning curve learing the Wesleyan zone, hasn't helped.

"It's going to take us a little time to get ready," Raba said.

Holding RPI to three goals was certainly a good sign, but now it's time for Bates. There have been a lot of good vibes crushed by the Bobcats in the past. Raba will bring up the Cardinals' futility, but not until Thursday.

"I want them to enjoy this [RPI] game, but they know. In the back of their mind, they know it's coming and they are excited," he said. "It's a big game. These games are so criticial. Last year, one game probably cost us an NCAA bid, so we're trying to be very careful with every game. We'll let them rest their mind and then tomorrow we'll talk about Bates, history, and what we need to do."

Another Gritty Win for Endicott

With 11 minutes left in the season opener against Stevens, it looked like Endicott was ready to collapse. They had been staying a step ahead of the Ducks for much of the game, but a 12-9 lead at the beginning of the fourth had been trimmed to just one, 12-11, and Stevens had all the momentum.

"That was kind of the breaking point in the Stevens Tech game," admitted Endicott head coach Sean Quirk on the drive back from Conn. College on Wednesday evening. "The guys took it among themselves and said, 'Let's go.' They didn't fold. Fast forward to tonight. We jumped on them early and were up three, and then they came back. Conn. or any good team is not going to quit against you and our guys just said, 'Let's stick to the game plan and let's play disciplined and we'll grind this one out too.' And they did. Coming off the Stevens Tech win, I felt good and my coaches felt good that we were going to do it again. The guys are definitely believing."

The Gulls subdued the Camels, 9-6, while outscoring them, 4-1 in the second half. The ability to put away close games is a hallmark of a more experienced team, according to Quirk.

"The last couple of years we've been pretty young, and now we have more of a veteran team with juniors who have been playing a lot since they were freshmen," he said. "With this win and against Stevens Tech, we're in tie games or up by one and the guys are playing more like veterans and playing disciplined, which helps win those big games."

Quirk admits that this year feels a little different than past seasons.

"We go into practice every day – and my assistants and I have been talking about it – and they are practicing 100 percent every day. We know come game time they are going to be ready to go. They feel confident and we feel confident going against really good teams."

The Gulls now enter a trap game this weekend against a talented Eastern Connecticut squad that is 2-0 and bringing back nearly everyone from last year. This might be Endicott's biggest challenge yet.

Slides & Rides

Division II: Matthew Michael had three goals and four assists in Queens' 11-10 win over Coker...Brevard's Andrew Reilly made 29 saves in a 13-3 loss to Belmont Abbey...John Scheich had four goals and two assists in Catawba's narrow, 9-6 triumph over Wingate...congrats to Kevin Arabejo for picking up his first varsity win as head coach at Notre Dame de Namur.

Division III: UMass-Dartmouth off to a 2-0 start after a surprisingly comfortable win over Wheaton...Roanoke wrapped up their Texas swing with a 15-2 rout of Southwestern to even its record at deuces...Marymount is now 4-0...Casey Jackson had six goals and an assist in RIT's 18-11 win over Brockport.

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