December 20, 2012

The Coaches Game: Division I vs. Division III

by Jac Coyne | | Coyne Archive | Twitter

If the Division III coaches expect to pull out a mythical victory against the Division I coaches, keeping current Penn State coach and Hobart All-American Jeff Tambroni in check will be a priority.
© Hobart Sports Information

Welcome to Homewood Field on the campus of Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for today's "Coaches Game," a mythical battle to determine which division — Division I or Division III — employs the most talented team of players ... if we assume they are operating at their prime.

Each team will consist of 12 players and square off in a grueling, ironman competition with the winner earning bragging rights for their respective level of play. Not to say that there isn't some divisional crossover among the players. The Division III squad features four players who played at the Division I level and five Division I players cut their teeth in the small college realm.

Today's game will be a bit of Hobart reunion, with six Statesmen among the 24 players on the field. Johns Hopkins has three representatives, while Washington College and Virginia both have a pair.

Here are today's starting lineups:

Division III Coaches Team

Attack – Mike Caravana, Denison (Virginia)
A four-time All-American at UVA, Caravana led the Cavaliers in scoring in three of his four years and in assists all four seasons. He was a captain for the 'Hoos in his final season in 1983.

Attack – Terry Corcoran, Elizabethtown (Hobart)
A three-time All-American at Hobart, Corcoran led the Statesmen to national championships in 1976 and 1977. In his senior season, Cocoran led the nation in scoring and was named the country's top attackman.

Attack – Jeff Long, Ithaca (Navy)
Long was tabbed an All-American three times with the Midshipmen and still remains Navy's all-time scoring leader. He helped the Mids continue their tradition of excellence and also played for two World teams ('78, '86).

Midfield – Bill Bergan, Clarkson (Hobart)
The Division III Midfielder of the Year in 1986, Bergan won four national championships with the Statesmen and was a two-time first-team All-American. Bergan started for the Hobart dynasty from the moment he showed up in Geneva.

Midfield – Kylor Berkman, Aurora (Salisbury)
The three-time NCAA Midfielder of the Year and the National Player of the Year in 2008 as a junior, Berkman helped the Sea Gulls win a pair of national championships.

Midfield – Mark Theriault, Keene State (Springfield)
A two-time All-American at Springfield, Theriault was named the Midfielder of the Year in 1996. Theriault was named the MVP of the 1995 Division II national championship game won by the Pride.

Faceoff – Paul Cantabene, Stevenson (Loyola)
He made his name as a professional and international player, but Cantabene was a second team All-American in 1993 and led the Greyhounds to four consecutive tourney appearances, including the NCAA title game in 1990.

Long-stick midfield – Brian Kelley, Whittier (Whittier)
An NLL and MLL staple, Kelley was a two-time All-American LSM for the Poets and was critical in guiding Whittier in the program's run to the national semifinals in 2003.

Defense – Steve Beville, Cortland (Washington College)
During his time in Chestertown, Beville was twice named the Division III National Defenseman of the Year and led the Shoremen to three appearances in the national championship game.

Defense – John Haus, Lebanon Valley (North Carolina)
An All-ACC and All-American pole for the Tar Heels for his final two years in Chapel Hill, Haus led his UNC to a pair of national championships and four final four appearances.

Defense – Mike Plantholt, Ohio Wesleyan (Gettysburg)
The Division III Defenseman of the Year in 2001, Planholt was a two-time All-American for the Bullets and led Gettysburg to its first NCAA title game appearance.

Goalie – Jake Coon, RIT (Nazareth)
A four-time All-American and two-time National Goalie of the Year, Coon led the Golden Flyers to the 1997 national championship as a freshman.

Division I Coaches Team

The Division III coaches squad might be a step behind their D-I brethren, but current Stevenson and Loyola standout Paul Cantabene (shown here during his pro days with the Bayhawks) should erase a lot of disadvantages at the dot.

Attack – Tom Gravante, Mt. St. Mary's (Hobart)
A two-time first-team All-American, Gravante was named both the Attackman and Player of the Year in his senior campaign(1988). The Statesmen won national titles during all four of his seasons, and he once held the NCAA Division III postseason records for goals in a game (seven) and tournament (17).

Attack – Jeff Tambroni, Penn State (Hobart)
A three-time All-American for the Statesmen, Tambroni led Hobart to a pair of national championships and was named the MVP of the title contest during his sophomore season in 1990.

Attack – John Danowski, Duke (Rutgers)
An assist machine for the Scarlet Knights, Danowski still owns the record for helpers in a game (13) as well as points (14). He also owns the record for assists in a season (54) and led Rutgers to a pair of NCAA tourney berths.

Midfield – Matt Poskay, Wagner (Virginia)
Poskay, who is fourth on the Cavaliers' all-time scoring list for midfielders, led the 'Hoos to national championships in 2003 and 2006. He scored five goals in the title game against UMass in '06.

Midfield – Kevin Cassese, Lehigh (Duke)
A three-time All-American and the ACC Player of the Year, Cassese was named the nation's top midfielder in '01. He led the Blue Devils to three NCAA tourney appearances and was a two-time member of the U.S. National Team. He's currently a Team USA assistant coach.

Midfield – Rick Sowell, Navy (Washington College)
A two-time All-American and the National Midfielder of the Year for the Shoremen in 2005, Sowell led WAC to a pair of national title game appearances.

Faceoff – Andy Towers, Dartmouth (Brown)
A two-time first-team All-American, Towers was no specialist. He was the Ivy League Player of the Year in 1993 and still holds the school record for goals in a season (59) and career (150). The Bears made three NCAA tourney appearances during his career.

Long-stick midfield – Frank Fedorjaka, Bucknell (Hobart)
The starting LSM for three national championship teams for the Statesmen, Fedorjaka was also athletic enough to be named an All-American for the Hobart football team as a wide receiver.

Defense – Dave Pietramala, Johns Hopkins (Johns Hopkins)
Twice recognized as the top defender in the country, Pietramala was also named the National Player of the Year after his senior season in '89. He led the Blue Jays to the national championship in 1987 and another appearance in the title game in 1989.

Defense – Sean Nadelen, Towson (Johns Hopkins)
A staple in the NLL and MLL, as well as a member of the 2010 World team, Nadelen was an All-American pole for the Blue Jays after playing his first two years at midfield. He led Hopkins to a pair of national semifinal appearances.

Defense – Brian Voelker, Drexel (Johns Hopkins)
A three-time All-American on the backline for the Blue Jays, Voelker was on the 1989 national championship team. He was also a two-time World Team member, and was selected as the top defensive player at the 1998 Worlds.

Goalie – Guy Van Arsdale, Jacksonville (Hobart)
Van Arsdale was a three-time All-American and was tabbed as the National Player of the Year in 1983 after leading the Statesmen to the third of the four titles he won as a player.

There are plenty of talented players sitting in the stands watching today's game (NCAA rules for this game mandate that only 12 players can be dressed on the sidelines and the rest have to watch the game from the Homewood bleachers). With D-III boasting a talent pool three times the size of Division I, there are plenty of outstanding individuals who weren't able to find a spot on the small college roster.

The goalie position was particularly stacked, with Middlebury's Dave Campbell (who owns a national championship) along with Roanoke's Bill Pilat and Lynchburg's Steve Koudelka getting edged out by Coon. The battle at the other positions was stiff as well, with the final cut putting Corcoran at the attack spot over Birmingham-Southern's Andy Bonasera, who was a four-time All-American at Roanoke.

Don't let the knee brace and tube socks fool you. Jacksonville head coach Guy Van Arsdale won four national championships in between the pipes for the Statesmen.
© Hobart Sports Information

With only 61 players at the Division I tryouts, things were a bit more cut-and-dry. Danowski's prowess as an assist man put him into the last attack slot while Van Arsdale's four championships gave him the edge over Loyola's Charley Toomey.

The Matchups

Facing off: There's no getting around the huge advantage that D-III will have at the dot with Cantabene running the show. Towers is capable, but he's not in the same league as the Stevenson head man, although in Towers' defense, there aren't many who are. Considering the other areas of the field, possessions will be critical, so this is a huge advantage for Division III.

When Division III has the ball: It might be a quiet a day for the D-III attack unit as the three Hopkins' poles on the backline will be a tough nut to crack. Caravana, Long and Corcoran are no slouches, but they won't show Pietramala, Nadelan and Voelker anything those Blue Jays haven't seen before. If D-III is going to produce on the offensive end, it'll start out of the midfield.

Berkman will likely draw Fedorjaka, but Sowell and Cassese are both accomplished defenders, so there won't be any gaping holes for Bergan and Theriault to operate in. Even with the pole, look for Berkman to initiate in the six-on-six. This will put a premium on transition play, and Kelly's ability to spring a break will be good for a couple of goals.

When Division I has the ball: While they don't have the cachet of the Hopkins trio, the D-III backline won't be intimidated by the D-I attack. Haus will lock down Gravante, Plantholt will outmuscle Tambroni and Kelly be tasked with mirroring a pass-first Danowski while also looking to slide.

Poskay is going to cause problems, so Beville will be tasked with getting him off the crease. Sowell and Cassese (and even Towers) will be tough matchups for Berkman and Bergan, so don't be surprised if the D-III defense incorporates a zone if the D-I middies start to take over the game. Coon would also flourish in a zone, especially if the D-I attack got frustrated and started bombing away.

The Outcome

It becomes clear early in the game that Division III will be shortening this game as best they can. With Cantabene winning most of the draws clean, and Kelly and Berkman scooping up the other faceoff ground balls, D-III starts grinding down the D-I defense from the first quarter onward. Before the end of the first half, Pietramala breathes heavily and Fedorjaka has slammed his stick down in frustration on more than one occasions as D-III grabs a 3-2 lead at the break.

The small college zone has had the desired effect, as the D-I frontline continues to force the ball into the middle to Poskay or take ineffective 15-yard shots that Coon easily parries. As the clock winds down on the game, the Division III burns the rest of the clock on a 6-5 win.

As the audience watching on ESPN3 is about to tune out, they are left with Quint Kessenich's analysis.

"Eamon, if we had a shot clock, this game would have been completely different..."

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