June 22, 2011

Coyne's All-Americans: NCAA Division III

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Did Tufts senior attackman make Jac Coyne's All-American team for Division III? Of course. Was he able to grab player of the year honors? Not quite.
© Greg Wall

The USILA hands out 115 Division III All-America plaques, which is nearly the equivalent of honoring 10 full teams. Seems a bit much, don't you think?

The America I believe in means only the finest players are recognized for their accomplishments during the year, meaning there can be just one squad.

As such, for the second year, I've put together my own All-America team.

It consists of 12 players – I've allowed for the addition of a faceoff middie and LSM in a nod to the specialization of the game – who I think have earned the distinction.

The Coyne 2011 Division III All-America Team

Attack – Jimmy Dailey, Senior – Stevenson

Dailey finished off his spectacular career in Owings Mills in style, leading the nation in scoring (5.62 ppg) after netting 60 goals and dishing out 58 assists. The Mustangs were the most prolific offense in the country, and Dailey was the engine of the machine. Whether feeding finishers like Neal Barthelme or Tyler Reid or using his stunning ability to change directions, Dailey had the complete package. He was clutch, too, scoring the game-winning goal in a third of Stevenson's games.

Attack – D.J. Hessler, Senior – Tufts

Considering the names that have come before him in the conference, the fact that DJ Hessler has to be considered among the best players in history of the NESCAC stands alone as a testament to his accomplishments. This past season, when Hessler broke his own school record for points with 38 goals and 57 assists, was a fitting coda on his career.

Attack – Tyler Russell, Junior - RIT

As much as Dailey and Hessler contribute while operating from behind the cage, there's something to be said for a cold-blooded finisher. Russell was the best in the country at it in 2011. He had 131 shots this season and 69 of them (52.7 percent) found the twine. Russell's 3.45 goals per game average was good for sixth in the country. Was he clutch? He had 10 goals and an assist in the Tigers three tourney games, including a five-spot against Tufts.

Midfield – Sam Bradman, Junior – Salisbury

It's funny how things work out sometimes. Last year, Sam Bradman was the CAC player of the year and the USILA midfielder of the year and lost in the national championship game. This year, Bradman won neither of those awards despite being a more complete player than he was in 2010, and ended up walking off with the championship. Ask Bradman which year he liked better. His father certainly enjoyed the travel this spring.

Midfield – Chris DeLuca, Senior – Cortland

The numbers are there again for DeLuca this year. There are the 27 goals and 17 assists out of the midfield, along with the ridiculous 72.2 faceoff percentage (114-for-158) and the team-high ground ball total (61). Still, with all of the digits comes DeLuca's leadership, which has been a key reason why the Red Dragons have been found among the top eight teams in the country for the past four years.

Midfield – Justin Tuma, Senior – Roanoke

Steady. It an adjective that doesn't grab the headlines, but it's one of the more underrated traits. So when I call Tuma steady, I'm not damning him with faint praise. Whether it was at the faceoff dot, where he was 257-for-428 (60 percent), on the defensive end, where he was one of the premier shorties in D-III, or on the offensive end, where he consistently put up numbers (54 points this year), Tuma was always there.

F/O – Craig Bunker, Senior – Colby

Without Bunker, Colby is a speedbump on the NESCAC schedule. With Bunker, the White Mules were a frightening team that drew the attention of every opponent on the schedule. Behind his 71.4 winning percentage (205-for-287), Colby won three one-goal conference games, including an upset of Bowdoin. It also played within a goal of Amherst, Wesleyan and Trinity, while spooking Middlebury in the conference semifinals when Bunker went 14-for-23 with nine ground balls.

LSM – MJ Kiekebelt, Senior – RIT

Rare is the player who has serious impact in all three zones of the field, but Kiekebelt managed to accomplish that feat about as well as you can in this era of specialization. Starting with the typical role of the LSM, Kiekebelt was a monster on ground balls (team-best 131) and even took 90 faceoffs for the Tigers. On the defensive end, Kiekebelt caused 57 turnovers and helped RIT post a 8.37 cumulative GAA. Lastly, on offense, he finished eighth on the team in scoring with eight goals and 12 assists – an impressive performance from a pole.

Defense – Collin Tokosch, Senior – Salisbury

While the Salisbury offense evolved over the course of the season, the Sea Gull defense was stifling from start to finish, and Tokosch was the key cog. Although he ignores some of the emotional triggers that fire up the rest of his team, it takes nothing away from Tokosch's ability to match up with the best players in the country, including Jimmy Dailey and D.J. Hessler.

Defense – Matt Rayner, Senior – Middlebury

For a long time the prototypical pole in Division III was the 6-foot-3, lumbering bruiser who would manhandle a smaller offensive player into submission. There are certainly still examples of how effective that model can be, but Rayner is an example of the nouveau small college close defender – quick, fast and agile, more akin to using a scalpel instead of a meat cleaver.

Defense – John Haire, Senior – Dickinson

The only way a sophomore first-time starting goalie earns honorable mention is if he has a stout defense in front of him. One of the big reasons why Greg Hanley received national attention this spring was due to the consistent play of Haire. Playing in the stiff Centennial, the Red Devils allowed just 7.27 goals per outing, propelling them to the NCAA quarterfinals, helped by the unheralded play of Haire.

Goalie – Sam Jakimo, Junior – Amherst

How does a team with only four seniors and a first-year head coach make it all the way to national quarterfinals? It starts with a difference-maker between the pipes, and Jakimo was all of that for the Lord Jeffs. His 7.89 goals against average and 62.8 save percentage tells most of the story, but there's no statistical category for "clutch," under which the 25 stops he made against Middlebury in the second round of the tourney would be classified. Looking at the big picture, Amherst doesn't even make the tourney without Jakimo.

Player of the Year

MJ Kiekebelt – RIT

Surprised? Okay, put Kiekebelt on one of the dominant Gettysburg teams. Still surprised? Didn't think so. I've had numerous coaches bring up Kiekebelt, whether it was what they witnessed in person or on film, and the praise has been uninamous. When you're able to make a substantial difference on whatever section of the field you happening to be standing, you're the player of the year. Can anyone else say that?

Coach of the Year

Jim Berkman - Salisbury

When you've won nine national championships, it's easy to get passed over for coach of the year consideration. And to be honest, I almost passed over Berkman this spring. Upon closer inspection, it became clear that this has been the finest coaching performance of Berkman's lengthy career. As such, he should be recognized. Think back to the beginning of this year: Salisbury was grinding out wins with a solid defense and an inept (by Sea Gull standards) offense. With a series of strategic and mental tweaks, Berkman was able to reset the offensive approach heading into the postseason, culminating in the astounding, 19-7 rout of Tufts in the title game. Hey, I know it's not easy to compliment Darth Vader, but you've got to give it up when he's earned it.

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