February 17, 2011

Coyne v. Censer: New Year, New Foe

by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | Coyne Archive | Twitter

It's good to have Joel Censer on board for this year's MD3 pick 'em contest, but a word to the wise: Censer is a huge homer. His love affair with all things Haverford and an undying allegiance to Squirrels head coach Colin Bathory (above) may get awkward at times.
© Kevin P. Tucker

It was a complete fluke. C'mon, Dave Zazzaro beating me in a Division III pick 'em contest? Get serious.

Sadly, that's what happened last year in "Competing the Z," where the former Colby and Colorado College head coach went head-to-head with me each week to pick winners of select NCAA Division III men's lacrosse games. Zazzaro crushed me like a grape, pulling wins out of a hat pretty much all year. Heck, he even rode his former team, Colorado College, for a bunch of ridiculous wins (Check my archives for a postmortem).

So what was Z's reward for giving me the business? I cut him loose.

My pick 'em ego is as big as they get, and I can't stand for some Drew University graduate infringing on my elite NESCAC status.

So Z gets the gate.

In his place, I've signed Joel Censer to be my competition this year. A former All-American pole for Haverford during the Black Squirrels' non-descript years in the mid-2000s, Censer is a sweet kid with a gift for the keyboard. He has put together enchanting stories such as "Death of the Dodging Attackman" and "Thinking Inside the Box, College Coaches Find Parity in Pairs," among other tales from a certified hipster lax bro.

I first met Joel in person last Memorial Day in Baltimore for the NCAA championships. He has the quasi-urban gravitas of someone who grew up in a plush section of Washington, D.C., combined with a starry-eyed perspective of a youngster indoctrinated by an uber-liberal arts institution such as Haverford.

In short, he was the perfect mark.

But I don't want to completely spoil the surprise. I'll let Joel give you a taste of what is to come this spring:

: Thanks Jac. I'm thrilled to be a part of this year's pick 'em contest. I'll skip the part here where I take potshots at you for "watching" games from your office in Wisconsin, or flex my Centennial Conference bonafides. Instead, I'll channel my best Crash Davis Bull Durham impression to give everyone some idea about what I "believe" D-III lacrosse is all about. (Last time I checked though, Jac bears little resemblance to a sultry Susan Sarandon).

"I believe in high pressure defense, quality post-game spreads, Max Hjelm's lefty rip, Richie Ford's through-the-legs shot, D.J. Hessler's vision and that Roanoke's Chris Keating and Jon Mason were the best offensive players I ever played against. I believe Stevenson's roster is too big, Swarthmore's too small, and that Geneseo can't get a turf field fast enough. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing leggings, the Pool B, and starting practice any earlier than Feb. 1. Not to mention the whole DI vs. DIII debate. Finally, I believe that the Centennial is always the top conference (even when the all evidence points to the contrary)."

Onto the games...

No. 3 Stevenson (0-0) at No. 7 Haverford (0-0) – 1 p.m., Saturday

COYNE: Joel's blind spot all season is obviously going to be his alma mater, Haverford. You can bet he'll choose the Black Squirrels in every game that pops up on the schedule, which will happen with some frequency, I'm guessing. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as the Fords should be a very good team this season.

His allegiance will hurt him in this game, however. The Squirrels have jumped out to slow starts the last two seasons. In '09, it was Cabrini putting a 15-3 beatdown on Haverford, and then last year, Colin Bathory's squad started the season 5-5 before catching fire down the stretch. So opening the season with Stevenson – even at home – will not end well.

As odd as it sounds, I think the Stevenson attack will be more dangerous without Steve Kazimer. Instead of the ball being swallowed on certain possessions, Jimmy Dailey and Richie Ford will be able to create a bit more. That's going to cause problems for a youngish Haverford backline, even with the imposing presence of Joe Banno in net. I don't think it will be indicative of their season, but Haverford is going to get stampeded by the Mustangs, 14-5.

CENSER: Look, Jac can talk about history all he wants, but this game is going to come down to faceoffs. Stevenson's Ray Witte (63 percent) is a workhorse, and UVA longpole transfer Kyle Menendez will be a major force on the wings. Not good news for a Ford squad that struggled at the "X" last year. Still, my guess is the Squirrels will win enough of them, and can beat Stevenson enough in the half-field (losing the younger Rossi to injury is a big loss for the Mustangs) to win.

Coyne, from his comfy Wisco' confines, can doubt Haverford's defense all he wants, but sophomore Scott Chanelli might be the best 1-on-1 guy in the Centennial. Throw in rangy long stick Dillon Hamill (second team All-Centennial), steady senior Scott Kelley and keeper Joe Banno, and I think the Fords can keep the talented Vill...er...I mean Stevenson attack combo of Ford and Dailey in check. 11-10, Squirrels.

No. 2 Salisbury (1-0) at No. 10 Lynchburg (0-0) – 1 p.m., Saturday

COYNE: Looking at the score of last year's game between these two schools, it would appear that Lynchburg acquitted itself relatively well in the 14-9 loss, but it was really a story of two halves. Salisbury rocked the Hornets in the first half, leading 12-2 at the break. Lynchburg figured something out at halftime to make it interesting. If Steve Koudelka can figure out what was missing, there's the potential for the 'Burg to pull off the upset at home.

And there's no doubt that the Hornets have the talent to give the Gulls a run. However, Lynchburg would have been better served with a complacent Salisbury team entering the game after a championship run. Unfortunately, Jim Berkman's troops should be hungry and ready to punish the second contender on the schedule. I like Salisbury by the same margin as last year, 15-10.

CENSER: The two guys who were playing best for the Gulls in May (faceoff guy Ryan Finch and LSM Connor Burgasser) both graduated, and I'll say this up front about Salisbury's defense: there are no longpoles in the mold of Eric Martin, Jeff Bigas, Kyle Hartzell, Chris Heier or Chase Caruso patrolling the backline. So I'm interested to see how things shake up on that side of the field.

Still, I think Salisbury will beat Lynchburg. Despite the Hornets having their best team in the post-Cranston era, I can't see them running and gunning with the Gulls for an entire 60 minutes. I'm also intrigued by Salisbury attackman Tony Mendes. The former Maryland/Syracuse stud transfer had a nice debut for the Gulls (two goals, two assists in a 25-2 rout of Greensboro) and should give a shot in the arm to a team that had plenty of troubles in half-field offense by the end of last season. Gulls, 17-11.

No. 5 Roanoke (0-0) at No. 20 St. Mary's (0-0) – 1 p.m., Sunday

COYNE: St. Mary's has picked up a little buzz heading into this season, and it's not too hard to see why. The Seahawks lost only three players off last year's team that finished 10-6 and played close with Denison (10-7 loss), Dickinson (7-6) and CAC rival Stevenson (13-10 on the road). It's not unreasonable to think they might snag an 11th win this spring with a virtually identical schedule.

But lost in all that is St. Mary's got waxed by Roanoke in the season opener, 22-7. The game was tied at three with five minutes left in the first, but the Maroons scored 12 of the next 13 goals. Goodnight. Conventional wisdom would say the Seahawks are better and Roanoke will still be searching for some pieces after losing last year's graduating class. But is there enough to believe there could be an eight-goal swing? I could see the Seahawks pulling an upset or two this year, but it's tough to buy in for the season opener. 'Noke, 14-8.

CENSER: Remember in 2006 when St. Mary's smacked Roanoke 9-5 at the beginning of the season? I have a feeling coach Bill Pilat and the Maroons might be feeling a little déjà vu in 2011. First having to rebuild your entire defense is no joke, and long-time backline staples like Simmons, Love and Dorsey all have to be replaced. Some patchwork also has to be done on offense, where finishers like Pat March and Matt Quinton graduated as well. Finally, the Seahawks are no slouches, and have plenty of talent returning on both ends of the field. So I'll bet on St. Mary's holding off Noke in an up-and-down 12-10 slugfest.

Censer's Pick

Wittenberg (0-0) at Washington & Lee (1-0) – 1 p.m., Saturday

CENSER: I watched Washington & Lee scrimmage last Saturday, and saw the kind of team we've come to expect from the Generals. They don't give up easy goals (Joe LaSala and southpaw Austin Wernecke are both top-notch, All-American caliber defenders), they can sting you in transition, and they aren't particularly explosive on offense.

Wittenberg, under the leadership of former Harvard assistant George Harris, seems primed for the upset. The Tigers have carved out a nice role as NCAC upstart and return almost everyone significant from last year. Still, I'm going conservative here (it is W&L) and sticking with the Generals, who will be stout enough on defense to grind out an 8-7 nailbiter.

COYNE: Joel's off to a good start. I like this game. Wittenberg is fresh off an NCAA appearance, however brief, while Washington & Lee is still searching for some year-to-year consistency. One would think they'd meet in the middle, but I don't think so.

First off, W&L handled the Tigers last year, 10-4, and the Generals should be better than their '10 version. Second, and perhaps more importantly, I've always felt W&L coach Gene McCabe telegraphs the type of team he has with the schedule he puts together. The fact that he has traded in Birmingham-Southern and Sewanee from last year's slate for Salisbury and Denison leads me to believe the Gennies could be a sleeper this year. I like the Generals comfortably, 12-6.

Coyne's Pick

Carthage (0-0) vs. La Roche (0-0) – 11:30 a.m., Sunday (at Pontiac, Mich.)

COYNE: Hey, it's still early, and there aren't a whole lot of marquee games out there. Since this will be a way to sneak in a squad from my (current) home state, we'll give Carthage (Kenosha, Wis.) a crack at the rundown. The third-year program will be taking on a start-up, La Roche (Pittsburgh), in a neutral site game, which at first glance might seem like a mismatch. But I'm not so sure.

The Redhawks, under the watchful eye of former Robert Morris assistant Anthony Stamapotoulos, are, by all accounts, off to a strong recruiting start, including a lot of our friends from North of the Border. I'm not sure if I'd call it an "upset," per se, but can La Roche take it to a more established program? I think it will. Redhawks, 11-10.

CENSER: When's the last time Carthage was in something competitive? When Hannibal and Scipio were duking it out on elephants? (Sorry, couldn't pass up the mindless fifth-grade social studies jab.) But I'll play contrarian and take Carthage 13-10. This whole Green Bay–Pittsburgh rematch has too many parallels to a couple weeks ago, where Jac's Cheeseheads reigned supreme. Wisco' kids by a field goal.

COYNE: Go, Pack, Go!

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