February 23, 2012

Coyne v. Censer: The State of the Shoremen

by Jac Coyne and Joel Censer | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Junior middie Patrick Coyle (above) could be a key to a resurgent Shoremen team this year, which would start nicely with a win over Goucher on Saturday. No matter how the season starts, WAC will always have an old friend looming over its shoulder at the end of the year.
© David Vermeil

If you polled the current batch of seniors about to graduate from high school and asked them a simple question – "Which is the only Centennial Conference school to win an NCAA Division III national championship?" – what do you think the results would be?

There would probably be a bunch of votes for Gettysburg, and maybe a handful for Dickinson considering their current profile. Possibly a smattering for Haverford. But how many would have selected the correct answer, Washington College?

Considering that this crop of seniors was born in 1994 and the Shoremen's title was '98, it's not really a fair question. Anyone with a grasp on the history of the division knows that Washington College has one of the richest traditions anywhere. The War on the Shore didn't develop its reputation just because of the proximity of the two schools, but rather because Salisbury vs. WAC was an annual coin flip.

And, to be fair, with the exception of Salisbury, there is typically a natural ebb and flow among top-tier Division III lacrosse programs, the result of various external and internal factors. Seriously, how many of those same kids knew that Middlebury was once a dynasty, or that Salisbury is still chasing the Hobart legacy?

My purpose is not to gratuitously point out the contemporary malaise that the WAC program is suffering through – a downturn that hasn't seen the school in the NCAA tournament since '08 or win a WoTS match-up since Y2K. Rather, I'd like to find out if there is a clear-cut solution for the Shoremen to find a way back to prominence.

Obviously, successful programs are about matriculating the best players, retaining them and having a coach to direct them in the right direction. Other than a somewhat remote geographical location and an expensive tuition (which can be said about plenty of currently successful programs), the Shoremen still possess the necessities to return. The quest is complicated when you play in a cutthroat conference, which the Centennial certainly is, but they've done it in the past.

As the Shoremen open up their season this weekend against Goucher, the question is: will this be the year WAC returns to prominence?

I just don't know. Joel, set me straight.

CENSER: I remember my first brush with WAC's tradition. It was my freshman year at Haverford, and we had just gone through the Kyle Mitten-Greg Vetter-Jon Spivey grinder, losing 8-5. At the tailgate, I found myself pacing up and down the Washington College field house, looking at pictures of current Navy coach Ricky Sowell (bull-dodging in short-shorts, no less), current Haverford Boys' School coach John Nostrant, and the original Joseph Seivold, a "60 minute midfielder" from the 1960s.

As for the Shoremen getting back to the Terry Corcoran/John Haus era of good feeling -- when dueling banjos actually had symbolic significance -- Jac's right. Coach Jeff Shirk is dealing with some institutional disadvantages and a roster that had to be completely revamped in 2011. Personally, I'm not totally sold that we will ever see that same program that used to run roughshod over the rest of Division III.

But looking at schools with similar academic profiles in "exotic" locales (Lynchburg, Roanoke), there is a blueprint moving forward. So it's not an entirely terrible day to be a Shoreman. There were some positives from 2011 -- a 10-9 loss to Dickinson, a mid-season smackdown of Cabrini.

It won't happen this year, but I do hope Shirk restores WAC into into Division III's upper echelon (and proper Eastern Shore counterweight to Salisbury). Because no one can convince me that there's a better lacrosse venue in Division III than Roy Kirby Jr. Stadium.

The last time I played there we lost a heartbreaker in the fourth overtime. It was probably the most excruciating loss of my career. Even five years later, I can still remember every good play, every missed opportunity (I have issues, I know).

Looking back, the loss stings less and I'm more just happy to have been a part of that game.

Maybe when you play at WAC, it becomes old hat – just another game with a cool breeze and loud fans. But to me, there was an undeniable energy about playing in that stadium and being the Saturday night entertainment in Chestertown.

Of course, with kids committing these days in the 10th grade, potential recruits would probably be less interested in the tradition or the gameday experience and more interested if the team is planning on wrapping a goose decal around the entire helmet...

To the games (Jac enters the week 4-1; Joel is 3-2)....

No. 2 Roanoke (1-0) at No. 1 Salisbury (2-0) – Saturday, 12 p.m.

COYNE: If one were so inclined, the argument could be made that Sam Bradman had a sub-par game last week against Lynchburg. Yes, he had four goals, and single-handedly determined what the Hornets' defensive game plan was, but he also took 15 shots. After the game Salisbury coach Jim Berkman said that if Bradman had been slightly more in synch, he could have eight goals easy. Why point this out?

Because Bradman is unlikely to have another "bad" game on the big stage. If Roanoke allows him the 15 good looks he got against Lynchburg, it's going to be lights out. That's the thing. I think he will get those touches. Salisbury, 17-11.

CENSER: The good news for Roanoke? Tony Mendes, a week removed from a popped hammy, probably won't be turning the corner per usual (if he plays at all).

The bad news? Lost in the coronation of Bradman is the fact that face-off man Tyler Granelli (29-47, 62%) is having a monster year. While Roanoke, after graduating face-off man Justin Tuma, is relying on freshman and California native Max Satossky (he did go 13 of 19 in his first outing) at the square.

This won't be the 28-4 thrashing the Gulls put on the Maroons in 2007. I think the 'Noke attack trio of Jeff Keating, Richard Lachlan and Mike Hayden will score against an untested and green Salisbury defense. But not enough. 19-13. Birds.

Hampden-Sydney (1-1) at No. 7 Stevenson (1-0) – Saturday, 1 p.m.

COYNE: As you may have already guessed, this game was picked heading into last weekend when we figured that both of these teams would be undefeated with plenty on the line. Now, this matchup isn't quite as sexy.

Despite playing a toothless Haverford squad on Saturday, Stevenson showed that they'll have enough punch to be a threat again (remember, they only scored 11 on the defensive-minded Squirrels last year, too). They might be vulnerable to a dominant faceoff man or a high-flying attack, but what team isn't?

Sydney's loss to Mary Washington can only be viewed as a disappointment and I'm sure the Tiger players would agree. HSC has just about everyone returning, including Micah Keller and Carter Mavromatis, who were both held in check by the Eagles (2g, 2a combined). Hampden-Sydney is going to bounce back and have a better game, but good enough to beat the Mustangs on the road? That might be a stretch. Stevenson, 12-10.

CENSER: I'm not ready to throw in the towel for the Tigers just yet. In 2006, they lost to Mary Washington in the season opener, and yes, life went on.

I'm not sold on this Stevenson squad either. Sure, freshman phenom Stephen Banick dropped seven points and transfer Parker Bratton wreaked havoc on defense in their respective debuts. Not to mention netminder Ian Bolland looked solid in goal.

But the 'Stangs are still as penalty-happy and transition-oriented as ever (but without all the firepower). And if Haverford's offense could've strung together three passes in a row, Stevenson would have had a game on their hands.

That said, HSC has had some issues in net, and they're going to be seeing a lot of rubber come Saturday. SU, 15-9.

Springfield (1-0) at Nazareth (0-0) – Saturday, 1 p.m.

COYNE: Even going back to when this competition featured current Rhodes coach Dave Zazzaro as my foil, the Springfield-Nazareth throwdown has been on the docket. And, if memory serves, I've picked it incorrectly every time. In the past, I'd go with the team that appears better set up for the season, so I'm going against my better judgment in hopes of breaking the hex.

Since Springfield appears to be more experienced and a little bit deeper, I'm going with Nazareth and home field. Flyers, 11-9.

CENSER: Was hoping Jac would go with the Golden Flyers.

Springfield seems primed for a big 2011, returning five of their top six leading scorers (all from a stacked junior class) and talented sophomore keeper Connor Nash (58%).

Yeah, they'll have to replace Mark Eaton's handiwork at the face-off, but it's not like Naz has anyone to go to battle there either. Pride, 12-5.

Jac's Pick

Goucher (2-0) at Washington College (0-0) – Saturday, 1 p.m.

COYNE: After the opening, my pick here is now going to look like either an endorsement or an indictment of Washington College, but it really isn't. Jeff Shirk is just in his second year at the helm of the Shoremen, so passing any sweeping judgments about the state of the program would be ridiculous.

This would be a difficult opener for any team, not just the Shoremen. Goucher is a good team with a premium scorer in senior Kyle Boncaro, who went over the 200-point mark this past weekend during the Gophers pillaging of Texas. Goucher is also the favorite to win the Landmark. Despite being played in Chestertown, the Gophers are the pick here (and maybe even on Wednesday when they travel to Gettysburg). Goucher, 14-12.

CENSER: If WAC's going to crawl back from Centennial oblivion, it will start from the backline.

In 2012 they have a solid senior goaltender in Peter Stewart and a couple of tough veteran defenseman.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Boncaro and Co., are going to very quickly learn that the Shoremen aren't a second-year program out of Texas or some low-hanging Landmark fruit.

Geese. 9-7.

Joel's Pick

Cabrini (0-0) at No. 17 Haverford (0-1) – Saturday, 1 p.m.

CENSER: I only watched the first half of last week's Haverford-Stevenson game. Besides enough homecooking to make Paula Deen blush, I knew 15 minutes in that the Squirrels were going to lose. The offense just had no fire. Too many lazy exchanges. Too many unforced errors. When the Stevenson pressure came, instead of running through defenders, the Fords ran away (a sure recipe for disaster).

So am I worried going against a Cabrini squad – led by defenseman John McSorely – that could be classified as Stevenson Lite?

Not really. Saturday proved Haverford has the makings of a top five defense in the country. I'll chalk the half-field woes up to some preseason jitters and figuring out new roles on offense (like the homer I am). Fords rumble, 8-4.

COYNE: Anyone who has been following my D-III ramblings over the years knows I have a bit of a soft spot for the Cavaliers. Every year they are honed to a razor's edge via a non-con schedule that typically features some of the top programs around, only to get fat and happy during the CSAC schedule heading into the playoffs. The Cavs are doing everything they can, but they're just not getting much help from their league. I feel bad for them, in a way.

I'm wavering on not taking Cabrini just so it doesn't appear I'm piling on Joel. Censer was destitute on Saturday night as his alma mater struggled to find a goal, and I'd hate to see him like that agan. But for the good of the competition, I'll take the Cavaliers by a hair, 6-5.

Coyne v. Censer Archive
Week One: Starting with a Must-Win Game

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