March 24, 2011

Censer v. Coyne: Alternative Competition Week

by Jac Coyne and Joel Censer| | Twitter

Will Delanoy (above) -- who leads St. Vincent with 15 goals and 17 assists -- and the rest of the Bearcats are in their first year of NCAA tournament eligibility, and will look to knock off fellow Pool B candidate Kenyon on Saturday. 
© St. Vincent Athletics

So far in this competition we've been mainstream. We've pretty much stayed with the power teams and the power conferences, and nearly all of the teams involved were ranked. Obviously, these teams provide a greater level of interest for most fans and have bigger implications for the postseason.

If there's one thing Haverford grads hate, it's the mainstream. They don't let you out the door of that bastion of anti-establishment without taking a vow of "alternative-ness." Music, dress, lacrosse, whatever -- if everybody's doing it, Black Squirrels won't have it.

In a nod to Joel's educational values, we're going to have "Alternative Week" this round. We'll check in with some of the teams that don't pop up on the grid for casual lacrosse fans. We'll touch base with the independents, the MAC, the CSAC and even the Skyline, along with a couple of teams that don't get much run in their mid-major conferences (Liberty, NCAC).

This will be a test for Censer. He rarely digs past the ranked teams on a weekly basis, so he may not know some of these teams even exist. He'll have to crunch the box scores and analyze comparative results to weed out the right picks.

Joel current holds a three-game advantage -- I went 1-4 last week to drop to 11-14, while Censer went 3-2 to improve to 14-11 -- so throwing a curveball at him isn't the worst thing for me. The only bright spot was I was able to grab the one game Joel wanted: Gettysburg-Haverford.

Before we get to the picks, I have to ask Censer: are you alternative enough?

CENSER: Let's take a walk down memory lane. It's the fall of 1990. Kurt Cobain's still alive. Pearl Jam's hit album "Ten" has just been released, and the patented Whitesnake jean jacket is quickly getting replaced by flannel.

It's also Jac's freshman year. He likes Colby, the NESCAC and the intimate feel of a small college campus. Not to mention there's Chip, Tucker and Connor down the hall. Guys, who like him, put Ronald Reagan posters on their wall, wear L.L. Bean and order lobster rolls when they're hungry.

Of course, like most first-years, Jac's still feeling his way around campus. And when a cute field hockey player asks him if he wants to go to Portland for the night and see the Indigo Girls, he obliges.

When he gets to the venue, however, all he can see are acoustic guitars and Dukakis voters. By the second song, Jac has run out into the cold Maine night, vowing never to go anywhere where 50 percent of the people aren't wearing khakis.

This didn't actually happen. But in some alternate universe, it probably would have. Regardless, are you really going to trust this guy to dominate a week he refers to as "alternative?"

I've been through the battles. I mean, I went to Haverford. Dated a couple anthro majors with some tribal tattoos and too many piercings. Read the Beatniks and Karl Marx.

So picking Farleigh Dickinson and Whittier games? This is the easy stuff.

Onto the games...

Whittier (2-2) at Greensboro (3-6) – 1 p.m., Saturday (at Haverford School)

COYNE: This game is worth a bit more than you may think. With four Pool B (independent) slots to the NCAA tournament and a paucity of standout teams to grab them, the Poets and Pride are still in the mix. Whittier is a capable team, having already defeated Ithaca, and the games are always close. Three of the Poets' four games have been decided by a goal and the fourth by two.

Greensboro will remain in the mix because it plays the toughest schedule (along with Denison) of the Pool B contenders. The Pride's biggest hurdle is staying at .500 or above, and if they lose this game, they probably won't make it. This will come down to the last minute of the game, but I have California's Team winning. Whittier, 7-6.

CENSER: I miss those dominant early-century Whittier teams with rangy long poles like Brian Kelly (now the coach) and Aaron Jaffe prowling around and a bunch of Canucks (Ryder Bateman, Kelly Hall) filling it up.

In this barnburner, the Poets will be challenged by Greensboro's Skip Jakupi (63 percent, 77 ground balls), who's a terror at the faceoff X. But the Poets have shown some fight this year (although the loss to New England College isn't good), especially at the defensive end. Keeper Robert Bazien stood on his head against Ithaca.

So I'll bet on Greensboro struggling to score on offense, and Whittier recapturing some of that old Dick Nixon mojo. Poets 8-4.

St. Vincent (4-3) at Kenyon (2-3) – 1 p.m., Saturday

COYNE: This is an interesting matchup between a pair of teams on the fringes of Pool B candidacy. Kenyon is part of the NCAC cabal that runs a Pool B racket, and it plays a tough non-conference slate including Dickinson (L, 15-6), Cabrini (L, 15-7) and W&L (L, 13-7). St. Vincent is a true independent in its first year of NCAA tournament eligibility featuring a schedule that is built for Pool B consideration.

Both teams have played Christopher Newport, each picking up a one-goal victory. As such, I like Kenyon's tougher schedule and the home field advantage. Lords, 10-9.

CENSER: What happened to Kenyon? Three years ago it was an NCAC upstart, knocking out Roanoke in the regular season and making the postseason. Now, we're wondering if it will beat a St. Vincent squad that used to toil in D-II obscurity.

I think St. Vincent is better than people think. With former 'Noke assistant Carl Haas leading the way, it plays up-tempo and faces off well (the kind of stuff you'd expect from a former Maroon coach).

But with freshmen attacker Will Lowe leading the purple and white charge, the Lords will still rule the day here. 11-9, Kenyon.

Elizabethtown (3-2) at FDU-Florham (3-2) 1 p.m., Saturday

COYNE: Let's check in with the Middle Atlantic Conference, shall we? Widener is the defending champ from the MAC, but these two teams will be two of the biggest obstacles if the Pride has designs on repeating. Elizabethtown is a team on the come. The Blue Jays finished 12-4 last year, including regular season wins over FDU-Florham and Widener. Greg Kenneally gives E-town an offensive punch.

The Devils were the MAC champs in 2009 -- the year they nearly beat W&L in the first round of the tournament -- and they have always been a strong defensive unit under the tutelage of Pat Scarpello. They have the same look this year. FDU-Florham kept Haverford under 10 goals (admittedly, no great feat), but may struggle scoring goals. As such, I think that gives E-town the edge. Blue Jays, 9-8.

CENSER: FDU is a pretty good team. Yes, it misses graduated lefty sniper Kevin Shadiack and freshman phenom Brian Gill on offense. But the Devils, like Jac said, are built from the backline up.

While Elizabethtown pumped in a lot of goals against lightweights Neumann and Immaculata, I can't see it breaking the five-goal mark against Rob Novak and the rest of this "Fairly Ridiculous" group. 8-5, FDU.

Coyne's pick

Gwynedd-Mercy (2-5) at Centenary (3-1) – 1 p.m, Saturday

COYNE: Let's check in with the Colonial States Athletic Conference, shall we? The CSAC is currently under ownership by Cabrini -- Censer's second favorite team -- and will be for the foreseeable future. And Marywood has a firm lock on the second spot. But these two teams are relatively equal despite the fact they won't sniff the NCAAs for a while.

The knee-jerk reaction is to write off Gwynedd because of the record, but the Griffins have played a far more difficult schedule than Centenary. The teams have one common opponent so far, and the Griffins beat Richard Stockton, 10-5, while the Cyclones won, 11-5, so not much to take from that. The home team would be the normal pick here, but I'm going to buck that trend and take Gwynedd-Mercy, 12-11.

CENSER: For Gwynedd-Mercy, it's a two-hour drive from East Pennsylvania to the smack middle of New Jersey. I think the Cyclones take advantage of the Griffins' bus fumes with a couple Robert Nuzzolese goals, and hold on to win. Centenary by a deuce, 11-9.

Censer's Pick

Vassar (2-4) at Farmingdale State (2-4) – 2 p.m., Saturday

COYNE: Vassar was so looking forward to the new-look Liberty next year with the addition of Bard (along with No. 5 RIT), because the Brewers would no longer be the whipping boys. Now that the Bard program went belly-up this spring (it's unsure whether it will be ready for 2012), it appears it will be another year of looking up from the bottom of the rankings for Vassar.

This tilt will be close for a quarter, maybe two, but the Brewers' 20-man roster will ultimately get ground down. Farmingdale has shown via its schedule, which is considerably stronger than Vassar's, that it can run with some decent programs, including No. 13 Wesleyan. The Brewers will have a terrible time trying to contain Wes Hubschmitt, who is just as strong dishing the ball as he is scoring. Farmingdale in a walk, 18-6.

CENSER: I've always rooted for Vassar. Maybe it's the whole "Haverford North" thing it's got going on. But playing with three substitutes isn't a quick way out from the bottom of the Liberty. It doesn't help that head coach Joe Proud is taking the spring off either.

So as much as I'd like to say long stick Zach Beauchamp and the Brewers are going to put the clamps on Farmingdale, I'll take the Islanders. 11-4, 'Dale.

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