March 21, 2011

Making Sense: Egos on Line Wednesday

By Jac Coyne | | Twitter

Kevin McCormick (above) had five goals against Colby in a slow-down affair with the White Mules. What will the junior get in a high-tempo affair between top-ranked Tufts and No. 2 Stevenson on Wednesday? A lot of people will be watching to find out.

Wednesday's game will be all about ego.

When No. 1 Tufts visits No. 2 Stevenson this week, it will feature a pair of teams who dare their opponents to play their high-octane, fast-tempo brand of lacrosse. Will there be scouting reports and player recognition? Sure, but if either team altered its approach to this game by, say, stalling out possessions or creating a junk defense, it would be a concession that it was not good enough.

That's not something either coach is willing to concede.

"I watched Tufts all summer," said Stevenson coach Paul Cantabene. "I saw all Coach Daly's lectures, and he said they don't care who they play, they push the tempo. They want to be the fastest team in the game, and we feel like we play pretty fast, too, so we'll see who is the fastest on Wednesday."

"We're not going to change who we are," said Tufts coach Daly. "We didn't up in Cortland last year and we didn't against Salisbury last year. We're going to keep focusing on us. We're not really too concerned about Stevenson. Certainly we're going to prepare and certainly we're going to try to give our guys as many tools as they possibly can have. At the end of the day, it comes down to which team throws and catches and which team executes a little bit better."

Oddly enough, as tough a game as this is going to be for each team to win, it comes as almost a reprieve from their games Saturday.

Stevenson watched Cortland try to grind the game down, keeping the Mustangs' stable of offensive horses standing idly on the other end of the field while trying to tire the Stevenson defense. It nearly worked, but a couple of timely goals by some unlikely sources – freshman Tony Rossi and faceoff man Ray Witte – provided a 10-8 win for the Mustangs.

"I thought we gave Cortland too much respect at the time," Cantabene said. "We kind of got out of the way we played a little bit. Offensively, I thought we could have attacked them a little bit better and finished a little bit better. I thought defensively we could have gotten after it a little bit more. I thought we gave them a great deal of respect, and that kind of changed the way we played."

Tufts tangled with a Colby team that was inferior in talent, but compensated with one of the best faceoff men in the country (Craig Bunker, who went 18-for-26) and a stall tactic. The Jumbos were able to use a couple of extra-man chances to go on a five-goal run in the second quarter, and monster games out of Kevin McCormick and Sean Kirwan (five goals apiece) to roll to a 14-9 victory.

"From the first possession on, they held it and got a lot of stall warnings," Daly said. "It was a situation where, thankfully, we had some man-up opportunities and converted them, and that really was the difference in the game. That got us a little bit of a lead. They were a classic Colby team. Tough, hard-working, scrappy and would never go away."

All of that is in the past. Now the teams stand face-to-face ready to find out which is better, if only for a day. As much as each wants to win, this game is more about testing themselves so they can be ready for the postseason.

Stevenson has been hoarding top-10 teams on its schedule like Halloween candy to make sure there are no surprises come May. With the bulk of the NESCAC season still ahead, Tufts wants to find out where its weaknesses are in the fourth game of the season, rather than the last.

"With the league we play in, that's why we want these games. We'll find out what we're made of," Daly said. "Whatever mistakes we make, Stevenson will make us pay for them. It'll just be a great measuring stick for our program."

Tufts and Stevenson will also concentrate on their own styles more than their opponents' out of necessity as much as desire. While the Jumbos have made numerous southern forays over the years, they've never met Stevenson, and have limited information other than what they see on tape. Likewise, because NESCAC coaches are not allowed to provide scouting information on league rivals to third parties, the Mustangs are flying blind other than video.

"So we really don't know much about them," Cantabene said. "We know who their players are, obviously, and their hands. But I don't think it's going to be a huge Xs and Os game. Both teams want to push the tempo and get goals in transition, so we feel that we're pretty good in that situation. We'll see which team is better at it Wednesday."

Games Balls
Nick Billy – Attack, RPI
The senior scored six goals and dished out an assist, leading No. 12 RPI to a comfortable, 12-2 victory over previously undefeated Elmira.

Noah Gibby – Attack, Roanoke
During the Maroons' epic run of nine goals in 5:57 in the fourth quarter, the senior scored three of his game-high four goals, allowing Roanoke to leave Lynchburg with a 14-11 victory.

Nick Johnston – Goalie, Oregon
The Ducks are trying to claw their way back into the at-large picture and needed a win over Minnesota-Duluth on Friday night. The senior made sure it happened, making 16 saves to allow a 7-6 lead to stand up for the win.

Chas LaDue – FOGO, Florida Southern
The junior from East Syracuse won 16-of-21 faceoffs for Florida Southern, helping the Mocs stick with No. 7 Mars Hill during regulation and eventually upset the Lions, 9-8, in overtime. He didn't have any points, but LaDue helped FSC control the tempo.

Kevin McCormick – Midfield, Tufts
The junior scored four of his five goals in the first half, allowing the Jumbos to build a six-goal lead that would translate into a 14-9 victory for the champs. "He set the tone," said Tufts coach Mike Daly.

William McGee – Goalie, NYIT
If the Bears were going to upset No. 3 Dowling, they'd need a big game out of their goalie and McGee delivered. The junior finished with 21 saves and stood tall during the 14 extra-man chances the Golden Lions had, allowing only two EMO markers.

Tony Rossi - Midfield, Stevenson
The rookie scored a team-high three goals for the Mustangs in the 10-8 victory over Cortland, including two huge goals late to allow Stevenson to rally from a one-goal deficit. "Toni Rossi was the best player on the field Saturday," said Stevenson coach Paul Cantabene.

Marc Singer – Goalie, Illinois
The 24th-ranked Fighting Illini went to one to toughest fields in the country -- No. 21 Cal's -- and handed the Bears a 10-9 loss, thanks to the junior. Singer made 20 saves to give Illinois a chance to spring the mild upset.

Power Fives
NCAA Division II
1. C.W. Post (9-0) – Eddie Plompen has been playing high-level lacrosse from the first whistle of the season.
2. Limestone (7-0) – Wake me when it's April. The Saints are on cruise control until the Pfeiffer game April 9.
3. Merrimack (3-0) – Catawba and Pfeiffer are more than capable of beating the Warriors this week. The 'Mack better be ready.
4. Le Moyne (3-1) – The Dolphins have outscored the opposition 40-6 since the loss to Limestone.
5. Pfeiffer (8-1) – Dowling and Mercyhurst could be here, I guess, but the Falcons have momentum.

NCAA Division III
1. Tufts (3-0) – The Jumbos defense hasn't been spectacular of late, just good enough. Could mean trouble.
2. Stevenson (8-0) – The Mustangs could be in the top spot, but we'll let this play out organically.
3. Salisbury (7-0) - It's not often that Salisbury plays Roanoke and it is not the marquee match-up on that particular day.
4. Cortland (4-1) – The Red Dragons go on the road, play No. 2, and lose by two? Yeah, Cortland definitely sticks in the Fives.
5. Wesleyan (5-0) – The Cardinals beat Bowdoin on the road and No. 5 Middlebury at home. I'd say they've earned it.

MCLA Division I
1. Michigan (6-0) – Neither Boston College nor UC Santa Barbara appear to much of a threat this coming weekend.
2. Arizona State (6-0) – The Sun Devils test themselves against some Top 10-quality competition this weekend for the first time.
3. Colorado State (4-0) – We'll finally get the game we thought we'd have in the national semifinals on Friday.
4. Chapman (6-1) – Weekend in Utah is looking a lot less difficult now. Panthers should post a 3-0 week.
5. Michigan State (4-1) – If Sparty hadn't laid that egg against Sonoma State, they could potentially be No. 1.

MCLA Division II
1. Grand Valley State (7-0) – The Lakers will sleep-walk through the next month until the Dayton game on April 16.
2. St. Thomas (6-1) – Tommies are on a three-week "stay-cation" after their trial in the Twin Cities.
3. St. John's (6-0) – Next big test for the Johnies will come on April 8 against Davenport.
4. Western Oregon (8-1) – Book it: the Wolves will finish up with a 14-1 record and have a Top 5 seed in the national tournament.
5. Dayton (7-1) – Davenport might have a claim to this spot, but beat-downs have consequences.

Monday Notebooks
Men's Division II: Three reasons why NYIT beat No. 3 Dowling.
Men's Division III: Don't ever, ever count out Gettysburg.
MCLA Division I: Is Minnesota-Duluth in trouble? What about BYU?
MCLA Division II: North Dakota may get a look in May.

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