May 8, 2013

NCAA MD3 First Round Breakdown and Predictions

by Jac Coyne | | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Washington College earned a home game last year, but didn't survive. Does Bennett Cord and the Shoremen have the punch to get past Wednesday this spring?
© Kevin P. Tucker

So here we are, once again, on the outset of another NCAA Division III tournament. Just wouldn't the same without some analysis and predictions, although the ever-expanding bracket makes for a difficult turnaround by Wednesday. Let's have it:

Aurora (15-3) at Ohio Wesleyan (13-5), 7 p.m.

Should we really take anything away from the first time these two teams tangled back in February, when OWU won, 11-9? If you ask either Aurora coach Kylor Berkman or OWU's Mike Plantholt, they'll tell you that season opener for both teams has the same relevance of a fall ball scrimmage in relation to Wednesday night's proceedings.

Aurora's Advantage: Since starting the season 0-3 against OWU, Adrian and Randolph-Macon, the Spartans have rattled off 15-consecutive wins, so Aurora is a confident bunch.
Aurora's Challenge
: There is no getting around the reality that the Spartans have fattened up against the Midwest Lacrosse Conference, which is still maturing.
Key Player: Max Obriecht (50g, 29a, 67.5 FO%) is one of the premier utility players in the tournament, and he has the potential to alter the complexion of Wednesday's game if he gets on a roll.

Ohio Wesleyan's Advantage: OWU features a diverse offense, as the upset win over Denison in the NCAC finals showed when seven different players accounted for the 10 goals. This should also be one of those rare games where the Bishops don't get completely worked over on faceoffs.
Ohio Wesleyan's Challenge
: The 10-day layoff between games can cause some rust and the Bishops can't afford a slow start in this one. You can bet conditioning was an emphasis in the walk up to Selection Sunday, but there's still no replicating game action.
Key Player: John Umbach. Since he was inserted into the starting lineup, Umbach has produced every game, and is currently second on the team in goals (30) despite missing four games.

Probable Game Ball Winner: OWU goalie Ryan McMahon
Prediction: OWU, 12-7

Eastern Conn. (10-7) at Western New England (11-6), 4 p.m.

The Warriors and Bears proved just how inconsequential regular season matchups can be. Eastern Conn. avenged its April 6 loss to top seed Keene State in the Little East title bout. After losing to the Gulls in the regular season finale, WNE downed Commonwealth Coast top dog Endicott for the league AQ. Despite being separated by 50 miles, Western and Eastern didn't meet this spring.

Eastern Conn.'s Advantage: The Warriors get serious production out of the midfield with Mike Devine (33g, 16a) and Tyler Fresen (28g, 24a), and they appear to have settled on Blake Smaldone (62.4 sv%, 7.51 GAA) in the cage.
Eastern Conn.'s Challenge: As far as scoring, EConn is top-heavy, with four players accounting for more than half the team's points. That's not a great trait to have against WNE, which has the knack for chewing up undiversified portfolios.
Key Player: Devine is the straw the stirs the drink for the Warriors, and he's going to have to produce against early slides and other targeted defenses if EConn wants the upset.

Western New England's Advantage: WNE has played six tourney teams this spring – including the top four teams in the region – so there won't be anything EConn can throw at them that they haven't seen already.
Western New England's Challenge: The Bears are not a good faceoff team (although the numbers have been skewed by the two Endicott games), putting added pressure on the defense, which can get worn down at the end of games.
Key Player: Nick Jez. With quality guys like Adam Knapton distracting the EConn defense, Jez, who is fourth on the team in goals (20) out of the midfield, could find himself with a lot of open looks.

Probable Game Ball Winner: WNE's defender Brian Leistikow.
Prediction: Western New England, 11-5.

Castleton (15-3) at Nazareth (14-4), 4 p.m.

There are plenty of teams that get hot at the right time, but no team is as torrid as Nazareth at this point. The Flyers are finding all sorts of different ways to win, and now face a Castleton squad that, at first glance, appears to be vastly overmatched. The Spartans schedule is relatively week, but they haven't lost since March, and belief can be a powerful tool.

Castleton's Advantage: If the Spartans want to make this one interesting, they're going to have to score goals to counter the prolific Naz attack. They've shown an ability for doing that so far (15.28 gpg) this spring.
Castleton's Challenge: There are plenty of them, but first and foremost will be the Spartans ability to alter their traditional pace of play. They can't afford to operate as if this is just another whimsical league tilt. They need to turn this into a grinder.
Key Player: Peter Latulippe. A freshman goalie against the Golden Flyers offense doesn't look like good news. Latulippe will have to show his mettle.

Nazareth's Advantage: Pretty much every advantage falls on the Flyers side of the ledger, and their ability to score goals in bunches could put this game away early.
Nazareth Challenge: The Flyers have had a spectacular finish to the season, but they're not good enough, especially on the defensive end, to take anyone lightly. No peaking ahead in the bracket.
Key Player: Drew Simoneau. Castleton has a pair of solid faceoff guys, but if Simoneau can simply go .500, that should be enough.

Probable Game Ball Winner: Nazareth attackman Luke Wooters.
Prediction: Nazareth, 15-7.

Norwich (12-4) at Tufts (14-4), 4 p.m.

It's been an up and down year for Patton Watkins and Tufts, but the Jumbos have made it safely into the NCAA tournament. Can Norwich's up-tempo game cause a stunner in Medford?

It was a draining weekend for the Jumbos in Vermont, but they managed to grab the coveted NESCAC qualifier which, considering Middlebury's plight, looks like a critical achievement. They didn't get a bye, but this matchup with Norwich appears on paper to be the next best thing.

Norwich's Advantage: Under head coach Neal Anderson, the Cadets have learned how to play without fear, which should be an asset playing against a frightening Jumbos squad.
Norwich's Challenge: Regardless of the opponent, the Cadets don't always value the ball, forcing the crease and amassing shots. Want to play a fast and loose style of ball? Tufts is your huckleberry.
Key Player: Nate Fortezzo. Currently running fourth in the country on faceoffs (73.5%), Fortezzo will need to give the Cadets as many extra possessions as possible.

Tufts' Advantage: The Jumbos have been playing on a razor's edge for close to a month now, so there is very little chance that they are going to look past Norwich, regardless of the obvious mismatch.
Tufts Challenge: Playing their third game in five days, Tufts really needs to put this one away early and save some legs for a Saturday match-up with either Montclair State or Stevens.
Key Player: Chris Schoenhut. The sophomore has developed into a reliable finisher (team-leading 41 goals) and could have six markers before the first 30 minutes are up.

Probable Game Ball Winner: Tufts close defender John Heard.
Prediction: Tufts, 20-5.

Montclair State (14-4) at Stevens (12-4), 7 p.m.

When this matchup was announced, you can bet there were a couple of smiles in the Montclair State locker room. There's nothing like getting an in-state rival in the first round, and the Red Hawks certainly don't fear the Ducks. In their March 20 contest, Stevens needed a late goal to produce a 12-11 win. Further, there isn't a whole lot of momentum in Hoboken right now. But this is new season for the Ducks, and the angst of waiting for admission to the tournament has been washed away.

Montclair State's Advantage: In addition to having no fear, the Red Hawks have a host of dangerous scorers, led by Sam Morrissey (51g, 27a) and Michael Jevic (49g, 18a), so if this turns into a track meet, Montclair won't get exposed.
Montclair State's Challenge: In the first meeting, the Red Hawks were in the penalty bin for 7:30 and gave the Ducks 10 extra-man chances (Stevens only scored once). If it has a repeat performance, Montclair will be in trouble.
Key Player: Michael Dorn. The junior (65.2 sv%; 6.29 GAA) came off the bench in the first clash, making 12 saves, but he'll be in there from the jump on Wednesday.

Stevens' Advantage: It's a new season and everyone is 0-0. The Ducks know they can run with the best team in the country for over 60 minutes and have already defeated the Red Hawks. If Stevens gets back to playing like it did earlier, there's no one it can't beat.
Stevens' Challenge: The Ducks are in a funk. They've lost two of their last four and have run hot and cold on the offensive end. If they play in a fog for even a quarter on Wednesday, Montclair will put them away.
Key Player: Nicolas Phillipi. The alpha dog on the Ducks' dominant first midfield line, Phillipi (50g, 20a) is due for a monster finish to his superb career.

Probable Game Ball Winner: Stevens attackman Charlie Cronin.
Prediction: Stevens, 15-12.

Springfield (10-7) at Cabrini (14-3), 6 p.m.

Overflowing with qualified teams, the South bracket had to shed some seeds, so Cabrini was afforded the opportunity to test out the North bracket this spring. They'll face a team in a similar conference boat, as both Springfield and Cabrini rely on strong non-conference scheduling to help them compensate for a weak league slate.

Springfield's Advantage: The Pride are no stranger to taking on solid teams in hostile environments. They've traveled to Middlebury, Endicott, Western New England and Amherst, along with a netural site game against Bowdoin. There will be no awe-factor in Radnor.
Springfield's Challenge: For as strong as the schedule was – and it included Nazareth, Stevens and Union – the Pride went 1-7 against premium teams and they have a tendency to give up a lot of goals.
Key Player: Ryon Lynch. He's been a fantastic playmaker (36g, 41a) for Springfield this spring, making everyone around him dangerous.

Cabrini's Advantage: Simply put, Corey Elmer. The junior hit the 100-point mark in the CSAC title game, and although he has spiked his numbers via some lesser league play, he has also posted nine-point games against Haverford and Denison, a hat trick against Cortland and Lynchburg, and a five-point day against Gettysburg. He has a point in every game and the only team he didn't score against was Dickinson.
Cabrini's Challenge: It's really Springfield's challenge, as well, but how well will the Cavaliers handle the jolt of going against a team that they won't be able to manhandle physically and mentally.
Key Player: Anthony DiNenno. Springfield is a strong faceoff team, so DiNenno (65.8 FO%) will have to counteract that to ensure the Pride doesn't go on a run.

Probable Game Ball Winner: Cabrini attackman Bobby Thorp.
Prediction: Cabrini, 15-10.

Otterbein (12-5) at Adrian (13-3), 4 p.m.

Because there was no room in the South bracket, Cabrini was shipped up to the upper half of the draw, where they'll face Pilgrim champion Springfield. Can the Cavs handle the northern climes?
© Kevin P. Tucker

A good, ol' fashioned Ohio-Michigan tussle breaks out in the first round, and it features a rematch of a 13-7 victory for Otterbein. It was a convincing win for the Cardinals, as they held a 13-4 lead in the fourth quarter and played 44 players prior to the final whistle. It was at home, however, and Otterbein will have to attempt to match that score on the road this time.

Otterbein's Advantage: Well, as I mentioned, the Cardinals rocked Adrian in the first game. There's always that danger of playing a team twice, but Otterbein also has the extra incentive of getting sent on the road despite a head-to-head win (see: Goucher '12).
Otterbein's Challenge: The Cardinals are a top-heavy scoring outfit, with Mikey O'Neal (20g, 43a), Andrew Donatelli (52g, 7a) and Mika Dattalo (36g, 7a) carrying the load. Those three accounted for 12 of the 24 points in the first game, and will be in the crosshairs of the Bulldogs back line.
Key Player: Adam Hatchard. Hatchard (62.9 sv%, 7.17 GAA) made 14 saves in the first game, and he'll need to replicate that effort.

Adrian's Advantage: The Bulldogs were without the services of second-leading scorer Mitch Burgin (26g, 21a) in the first matchup, and he had eight points in the MIAA playoffs alone. Getting him back to complement Cody Kilcoyne and John Hudzinski will make a big difference.
Adrian's Challenge: The 'Dawgs have to value the ball more in the rematch. They were very sloppy (24 TOs) in the first game, which negated advantages in just about every other statistical category. If they don't clean it up, Otterbein will cruise.
Key Player: Zach Kozlowski. He was only in on eight of the 22 faceoffs in the first game and Adrian needs his prowess (59.5 FO%) on the field for every draw.

Probable Game Ball Winner: Adrian's Kilcoyne.
Prediction: Adrian, 12-9.

Susquehanna (12-6) at Salisbury (14-5), 3 p.m.

It was quite a week for Susquehanna, which used its grinding style to wear down both Scranton and Merchant Marine in the Landmark tournament. And, if there is something to be optimistic about, they utilize the kind of tactics that could, on the perfect day, give the Sea Gulls some trouble.

Susquehanna's Advantage: There is no pressure on the Crusaders. Their season has already been a magnificent success and one to build on, especially in the recruiting realm. Plus, they aren't playing the most dynamic edition of the Sea Gulls.
Susquehanna's Challenge: While Salisbury's offense has been a work in progress, the defense has been excellent, and the Crusaders don't score much. They averaged 8.18 goals per game this year, a painfully low number for a tournament team.
Key Player: Austen Lein. Susquehanna's top scorer (32g, 22a) needs to have a day against the Gulls.

Salisbury's Advantage: For the first time in forever, the Sea Gulls aren't even in the discussion for a national championship. Still, Salisbury is dangerous and talented, and the presence of a chip on their collective shoulders could be the catalyst they need for an extended run.
Salisbury's Challenge: By any measure, and especially compared to last year's team, the Gulls just aren't a very good shooting team. They've survived to this point – and will again on Wednesday – on the strength of their defense, but a good shooting day against the Crusaders would be a confidence boost.
Key Player: Rhett DePol. He's been Salisbury's playmaker this year (team high 27 assists), but he should get some good looks to shoot the rock on Wednesday.

Probable Game Ball Winner: Salisbury FOGO Tyler Granelli.
: Salisbury, 15-1.

Sewanee (14-3) at Washington & Lee (15-4), 5 p.m.

The top dog out of the nascent Southern Athletic Association travels to take on the runner-up in the stacked ODAC in a game that may prove closer than some people think. In fact, this match-up has me harkening back to 2009 when the Generals hosted an unheralded FDU-Florham team and barely escaped. The only difference being the score is more likely to 14-13 than 6-5.

Sewanee's Advantage: The Tigers should be buoyed by the fact that, judging by the one common opponent they share with W&L, they are in the hunt. Sewanee faced Virginia Wesleyan in a neutral site game in Charlottesville, and handed the Marlins a 13-7 setback. The Generals have faced VWC twice, posting 16-11 and 13-8 wins. Comparative scores mean zippo, but it's something to boost the confidence.
Sewanee's Challenge: That Virginia Wesleyan game was – with all due respect to the SAA, which has two teams in the tourney – the last notable game on the docket. The Tigers haven't seen a team with W&L's depth.
Key Player: Michael Morris. The junior attackman can do it all (47g, 33a) and is also a riding fool (16 caused turnovers, third best on the team).

W&L's Advantage: After two grinders in the ODAC tournament against Lynchburg and Roanoke, the Generals enter the tournament with a finely honed edge. They've been used to having every inch of real estate contested, so if the Tigers give them any room, it'll feel like a passing drill.
W&L's Challenge: The temptation to take a deep breath after working all season to get to this point will be tough to resist. They'll have to, because Sewanee can score.
Key Player: Joe Lasala. Morris is good, but Lasala is about as good as it gets on the backline. Advantage: W&L.

Probable Game Ball Winner: W&L's FOGO Jared Mitchell.
Prediction: W&L, 12-8.

Christopher Newport (8-8) at Stevenson (17-2), 7 p.m.

The CAC's most recently departed team will square off against the league's impending addition. The Captains enter the tournament on nearly three weeks of rest, but they needed it after beating Greensboro by a goal and Ferrum in overtime just to get eligible for the tournament. The Mustangs are coming off a close shave of their own in a chippy, one-goal MAC title game against Widener.

Christopher Newport's Advantage: The Captains know they are good enough to make this a game. Other than the 17-5 whitewash by York, CNU has hung around with St. Mary's, Washington & Lee and Ithaca, and even beat Hampden-Sydney.
Christopher Newport's Challenge: They aren't a real big scoring outfit. Their leading goal-scorer (Alex Barber) only has 23 markers and only one Captain has cracked the 50-point barrier (John Thompson, 52). If they're going to pull this upset, it'll probably take at least 10 goals.
Key Player: Andy McGregor. McGregor (57.4 sv%, 8.14 GAA) has been solid in all of the big games this year, but he'll need to stand on his head Wednesday.

Stevenson's Advantage: The Mustangs are an experienced team playing at home in an atmosphere that is likely to awe the neophyte CNU squad. A quick burst out of the gate, and Stevenson will be able to turn its sites on Washington College (or Colorado College) by halftime.
Stevenson's Challenge: Everything is pointing in the Mustangs favor, but if it take bad shots or undisciplined penalties, allowing CNU to hang around, it could have implications on Saturday.
Key Player: Brent Hiken, Sam Wyatt. If the Mustangs' faceoff duo take care of business (70.2 combined percentage), this one will be over quickly.

Probable Game Ball Winner: Stevenson attackman Mark Pannenton.
Prediction: Stevenson, 16-6.

Colorado College (13-4) at Washington College (12-4), 4 p.m.

Washington & Lee came up a goal short of Roanoke in the ODAC championship game. Will Joe Lasala and the Generals find an answer for Sewanee?
© Kevin P. Tucker

The last time Colorado College flew east for a first round game in the NCAA tournament, they were doing it with a perfect 15-0 record. It earned them a trip to Salem, Va., and a 25-5 beatdown at the hands of Roanoke, so the Tigers will be looking for some progress. They can take some solace in the fact that they only lost by a goal to Dickinson on March 22 while the Shoremen have lost twice to the Red Devils by an average of six goals.

Colorado College's Advantage: As mentioned above, on their spring break trip, they played Salisbury (L, 9-4) and Dickinson respectably in the span of three days. Plus, the loss to Marymount on that trip reinforced the knowledge that the Tigers can't take any quarters off against anyone.
Colorado College's Challenge: Scoring goals. The defense has held up all season, but against good teams, goals haven't come easy. Further, the back half of the schedule was soft, meaning the Tigers can't lull themselves into a false sense of security.
Key Player: Jack Kreitler. Steve Rijo and Charles Curtis are on the marquee, but Kreitler is the guy who can find openings out of the midfield against top teams. He had two goals and an assist against Dickinson.

Washington College's Advantage: Michael Trapp (65.3 FO%) gives the Shoremen a sizeable advantage at the dot, and that's important if Washington wants to avoid having their defense ground down. The Geese also have the bitter taste of last year's flameout fresh in their mouthes.
Washington College's Challenge: The Shoremen appear to be in a very similar malaise as they were last year, when they brought in a 3-3 record in the six games leading up to the tournament, only to get bounced by Goucher. This year, they are 2-3 entering the tournament, averaging just under seven goals against their last three top tier foes. They need to snap out of it.
Key Player: Ted DiSalvo. He's been a rock (58.5 sv%, 8.62 GAA) for the Shoremen all year, and he'll need to show it again.

Probably Game Ball Winner: DiSalvo.
Prediction: Washington College, 8-7.

St. Mary's (12-6) at Lynchburg (12-5), 7 p.m.

There's no question that Lynchburg deserves a seat at the table, but the Hornets find themselves sitting across from a petulant St. Mary's team more than eager to throw a plate of mashed potatoes in their face. The Seahawks come off their CAC revenge tour, beating York and stunning the Division III realm (and more so the state of Vermont) with a win over Salisbury for the league AQ.

St. Mary's Advantage: The Seahawks are a nightmare to match up with on the offensive end because they have balanced scoring. Five players have at least 30 points and six have at least 19 goals, meaning Lynchburg will have to pick their poison. Not to mention the swagger SMC will have on Wednesday after depluming the Gulls.
St. Mary's Challenge: The 'Hawks can lose focus pretty quickly if not locked in. This is a team that lost to Muhlenberg and cratered two weeks ago against the same Salisbury squad when it allowed back-to-back shorthanded goals in the second quarter. If SMC walks onto the field thinking it's better than it is, Lynchburg will blow its doors off.
Key Player: Scott Marsh. He didn't get inserted in the starting line-up until the Ohio Wesleyan game, and since that time the Seahawks have gone 10-2. Marsh (62.2 sv%, 7.47 GAA) was sublime in the CAC tournament, averaging over 14 saves per outing.

Lynchburg's Advantage: They may have downplayed the idea vocally, but there's no way that last year's stunning loss to Denison in the second round is still not a motivating agent for the Hornets. You can bet this team will be focused on not allowing its regular season success to be ravaged by postseason missteps.
Lynchburg's Challenge: Ever since the dramatic comeback against W&L in the middle of the season, there has been a series of close losses and blowout victories. At the beginning of the season the Bugs were building a reputation as being money in the tight contests, but that rep has faded. They'll need it back in this one.
Key Player: Max Voumard. The defense has been doing its part, but the offense has been stymied at times. It's time for the Voumard (27g, 9a), who has been kept out of the goals column in four of the last eight games, to get back on track.

Probable Game Ball Winner: Lynchburg middie Vin Curran.
Prediction: Lynchburg, 9-8.

Centre (11-3) at Roanoke (15-3), 4 p.m.

We can have a discussion about its efficacy in the latter rounds, but in NCAA tourney openers, Roanoke is not a team to be trifled with. In their last six opening games, the Maroons are 5-1 and have outscored their opponents by an average of 17-8 (and that includes a 14-7 loss to Denison in '09). What does that have to do with this game? Nothing. Nothing at all.

Centre's Advantage: The Colonels are in the NCAA tournament, playing a traditional power in just its third year of existence. Advantage: Centre. Will they have a leg up at any position when they step on the field on Wednesday? Probably not, but that – nor the score – should temper how advantageous this appearance will be for the growth of the program.
Centre's Challenge: They are numerous, but the Colonels can start by playing as error free as possible early in the game, and see where they are after one quarter of play. Then go from there.
Key Player: Zack Connors. He had a solid junior campaign (43g, 24a), and this is a chance to test himself against a defense that will be tasked with harassing his every movement.

Roanoke's Advantage: With the winner of the Lynchburg-St. Mary's likely to be bruised and battered heading into Saturday's game, a hasty finish to this game could have the Maroons well rested after going through the ODAC tourney grind over the weekend.
Roanoke's Challenge: The Maroons should remember that before this epic 13-game run, they were sitting at 3-3 and out of the poll after getting scorched by Salisbury. As a rule, they shouldn't be overlooking anyone at this point.
Key Player: Faceoff unit. Roanoke has been atrocious on draws this year (47% as a team), which makes their recent stretch even more surprising. The Maroons would do well to use this game as an opportunity to tighten up their game.

Probable Game Ball Winner: Roanoke defender Wes Pancoast.
Prediction: Roanoke, 24-3.

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