March 17, 2014

MD2 Notebook: Queens Snags Signature Win

by Jac Coyne | | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Casey Hock (above) had three assists in Queens' upset victory over Mercyhurst on Saturday. Will Hock and the Royals be able to build off the victory? (Mike Slade)

In the third game of the 2006 season, Queens beat Limestone, which finished No. 10 in the country that year, by a score of 13-5. It was a huge win for program trying to break into the next level.

But what happened next?

The Royals posted two consecutive losing seasons and haven't been better than 9-4 in the past seven years. Now that Queens has picked up its second signature win with its stunning, 8-7 victory over No. 6 Mercyhurst on Saturday in Myrtle Beach, it's time to learn from the past.

"We snapped Limestone's 64-game conference winning streak, but never capitalized on it," said Queens head coach Jim Fritz of the '06 win against the Saints. "We need to do that with this win."

The Royals breezed to that triumph over Limestone, but they had to scrap against the Lakers. With a 7-3 lead at halftime, methodical Mercyhurst had Queens right where it wanted, but Fritz's guys wouldn't go away. They slowly picked away at the Lakers lead while blunting the 'Hurst offense.

Midway through the fourth quarter, the game was tied at sevens.

"It was just correcting a couple of mistakes we were making," Fritz said of turning the tide. "We thought we had a pretty good handle on them. And as coaches have been saying through the ages, we just wanted to one goal at a time."

As resilient as the offense was, the Queens' defense held Mercyhurst scoreless for the final 30 minutes, setting the stage for the upset.

"We didn't really make any adjustments, but we did zone them just a little bit to mix it up," Fritz said. "Our goalie, Eric Dolan, played great, as well.

Fritz estimates that Dolan finished with 12 saves (the game was at a neutral site, and stats weren't available as of Sunday) in addition to picking off a fourth-quarter pass to neuter a Merychurst extra man opportunity. Fritz did know that Garrett Chan had four goals to pace the Royals offense, aided by three assists from Casey Hock and two markers by Evan Farkas.

Queens scored the eventual game-winner with about two minutes left in the contest during a man-up opportunity and then thwarted one last Lakers possession to pick up the victory.

"Obviously, it was a little stressful," Fritz said.

The victory keeps Queens very much in the discussion for an NCAA berth in the South region. The losses to Limestone and Tampa – two teams presumably near the top of the regional pecking order – won't hurt too mcuh, and it may come down to a rescheduled road game with Pfeiffer on April 8 before the picture is clarified.

But that's six games away. A loss any time before then and the Mercyhurst victory will be just gossamer in the wind.

"Our kids came into the game with the whole idea of we're tired of losing these close games, and it's time to turn the corner," Fritz said. "That's what they did. After the game, I told them I was proud of the job and that we turned the corner and made the next step, but now we have to build on it. We can't just be one and done."

Limestone Passes Stiff Road Trip

Driving back to South Carolina after Limestone's surprisingly comfortable, 13-7 victory over Seton Hill on Saturday afternoon, Saints head coach J.B. Clarke sounded tired.

"It'll be nice not to get on a bus for a while," he said.

"It was hard for Seton Hill to mount any kind of run, and when we needed a run, Kevin was able to get us the ball. Ground ball after goal is the biggest thing for me, and Kevin did that today." - Limestone head coach J.B. Clarke on the play of rookie FOGO Kevin Reisman. (Brian Kunst)

Over the past three weekends, Limestone has made round trips from Gaffney, S.C., to Bethesda, Towson and Pittsburgh to play three of best teams in the country. It forced the Saints to be on a bus for 2,928 miles – or the equivalent of a trek from Hartford, Conn., to Wichita, Kan., and back – but now Limestone has a three-game home stand and won't leave the Carolinas until the postseason.

More importantly, the Saints are 7-1 and appear once again ticketed to the NCAA tournament.

"We've been on the road four weeks in a row and we've played some real lacrosse games the last couple of weeks," Clarke said. "We've be getting consistently better and some of it showed today. We had good practices. We competed real hard against Merrimack and we competed for almost three quarters against Le Moyne the week before that. [Saturday], we were closer to putting a full game together. I'm really proud of how we played."

The offense did its part. Mike Messenger scored four goals and set up a fifth while Vinny Ricci posted a hat trick and Todd Nakasuji added four points (2g, 2a). It was the defense, however, that played a defining role. Anthony Starnino kept Seton Hill standout Matt Delmonico relatively quiet (2g, 1a) and the group as a whole limited the high-flying Griffins to just 10 shots on goal.

"The Delmonico kid is as good as anybody out there, quite frankly," Clarke said. "Starnino did a good job. When we needed our defense to step up to the challenge of their attack, and they did. Ten shots on goal? That's a heckuva day for a defense."

The defense was aided by the play of freshman Kevin Reisman, who did his best Jake Ternosky imitation by winning 18-of-22 faceoffs. Clarke doesn't give out game balls, but his seniors do.

"They gave it to Kevin today for his performance in the middle and winning all of those draws," Clark said. "It was hard for Seton Hill to mount any kind of run, and when we needed a run, Kevin was able to get us the ball. Ground ball after goal is the biggest thing for me, and Kevin did that today."

There won't be much of a let up for Limestone. They face an improved Wingate team on Wednesdsay and then entertain an undefeated Tampa squad on Saturday in what could very well be a battle to determine the No. 1 seed in the South. None of the hype will alter the Saints approach, however.

"We'll just keep doing what we do," Clarke said. "We don't make a lot of changes week to week. We're trying to progress and get better at the fundamentals. When you are playing a Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday, you can try to game plan, but if you don't have it in heading into that week, you probably aren't going to be very good at it on Wednesday or Saturday. We're a little banged up, so probably a lot of rest between now and Tuesday."

And no buses in sight.

Lacrosse Magazine's Player of the Week

Garrett Chan, Soph., A - Queens
Queens posted just the second victory over a Top 10 team in the history of the program on Saturday when the Royals toppled Mercyhurst, 8-7, in a game played in Myrtle Beach, S.C., thanks to Chan. The British Columbia native scored four goals to help Queens rally from a 7-3 halftime deficit and post one of the biggest upsets of the season.

Honor Roll
Perry Booker (American International), Ryan Burke (Saint Leo), Paul Curran (Assumption), Jack Dever (Rollins), Cutler Dimond (Bentley), Mike Jenkins (Le Moyne), Hayden Kirk (Pfeiffer), Anthony Malcolm (Mars Hill), Mike Martiello (Coker), Mike Melnychenko (Chestnut Hill), Shawn Murphy (NYIT), Matt Quinones (Dominican-NY), Greg Puskuldjian (Adelphi), Kevin Reisiman (Limestone), Tucker Schwarz (Merrimack), Matt Shields (Mount Olive), Ryan Slane (LIU Post), Ben Taylor (Dist. Columbia), Ryan Vogrig (Wingate), Conor Whipple (Tampa).

Bracket Watch

LIU Post (4-1) at Le Moyne (6-0)
Dowling (3-1) at Adelphi (4-0)

Mercyhurst (2-2) at Limestone (7-1)
Tampa (7-0) at Seton Hill (4-1)

Slides & Rides

- It will be interesting to see if Dowling's overtime loss to Le Moyne lingers. The Lions were in great shape with an 11-9 lead at the 10-minute mark and still had a one-goal advantage with under a minute. Alas, Le Moyne's Joe Corapi scored with nine seconds left to tie the game before Mike Jenkins won it a minute into extra time. It's a loss that stings, but Tim Boyle and his troops can't afford to dwell on it too much with a critical regional game against Merrimack on Wednesday and then a monstrous conference tilt with NYIT on Saturday. From the glass-half-full perspective, the Lions just played the top team in the country on the road (although technically neutral) and the defending champs had to escape them.

- There's no denying that Mercy junior Jesse Wood is a special talent, as his 6.0 goals per game average attests. His 54.3 shooting percentage and 32 ground balls (second on the team) speaks to great skill and determination. Alas, access to individual postseason accolades is forged through crucible of high-end competition. In the two games the Mavericks have played against ranked teams – LIU Post and this past weekend against NYIT – Wood's numbers have been solid (3g, 2a combined), but not near the output he's had against weaker competition.

This phenomenon is not limited to Wood. Robert Wesleyan's Dom Cianfarano was averaging nearly seven points per game before facing LIU Post on Saturday. He managed one goal in that contest – the first game for the Redhawks against a team with a winning record. Do Wood and Cianfarano deserve ECC recognition if they keep on their current pace? Sure. But until they produce against the very best, they can't be considered in the same class as guys like Matty Beccaris (LIU Post), Matt Crough (Dowling), Luke Miller (NYIT) and Mike Melnychenko (Chestnut Hill) in the conference. On the bright side, both have at least a year to go (Cianfarano is just a sophomore), so they could be the future face of the league.

- Mount Olive improved to 6-1 on Friday with a win over Ohio Valley, and the Trojans' only loss came in triple overtime to Wingate. It's come against a relatively soft schedule, so we'll see what UMO is all about against Saint Leo on Tuesday...Tampa had little trouble dispensing with Florida Southern, beating the Mocs, 12-6 behind six points (2g, 4a) from Conor Whipple...freshman Dom Madonna got the start in net for Merrimack in the Warriors' 11-5 victory over St. Michael's and junior Morgan Green came in for the second half as coach Mike Morgan transitions to a goaltending platoon. "They are really pushing each other and making it tough on us," Morgan said.

- Congrats to Scott Urick and the University of D.C. for earning the first win program history after just four games. The Firebirds downed ECC opponent Dominican (N.Y.), 11-6, helped by five goals from junior attackman Ben Taylor....with the loss to Dominican (Calif.) on Sunday, Lindenwood dropped to 0-4. The Lions get a wounded Mercyhurst team on Saturday...that's probably a wrap for Lake Erie. After losing to Pfeiffer, it would take two wins over both Mercyhurst and Seton Hill to get back in the discussion, and that's almost an impossibility (in terms of seeding in the conference tourney)...Chestnut Hill's win over Molloy was a big one in terms of ECC tournament possibilities.

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