January 9, 2012

LM MCLA Division II Preseason Player of the Year: Matt Dowd

Dayton Defensive Star Finding His Voice

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

Matt Dowd, LM's MCLA Division II preseason player of the year, is the humble type but has embraced being a more vocal leader for Dayton.

It took an ugly game, but the light bulb finally went off for Dayton long pole Matt Dowd last year. In the midst of a 21-13 regular-season thrashing at the hands of Grand Valley State, the No. 1 team in the country, Lakers superstar attackman Cam Holding managed to hang an 11-spot on Dowd and the Flyers. It was then that Dowd understood that more is not always better.

"I always tried to use my athleticism to try to jump the ball early or cut my guy off," admitted Dowd. "Cam's an incredible athlete, so I'd try those things and I'd just lose one step on him. Usually, I can catch back up with attackmen, but with Cam, that wasn't the case."

Dowd used the humbling experience to alter the way he approached all the top scorers he faced during the rest of the season, including in the national tournament. It culminated in the semifinals, when he was locked onto St. Thomas' Joe Costello – the best player in the history of MCLA-II – and forced the Tommies' staff to make the drastic choice of moving Costello to midfield where he could better avoid seeing Dayton's top pole.

"They ran an offense that made it hard for us to switch Matt back," said Dayton coach Charlie Mark. "I've got to give [St. Thomas head coach] Pete Moosbrugger credit, because he knew we wanted to switch and put Matt back on Costello."

Dayton fell short of the championship game in a 12-11 loss, but Dowd has cemented himself as the best defender in the division.

"Matt's going to be there whenever you make a mistake," said Mark. "You think you have a nice, wide-open lane for the pass, and he picks it off. If the ball is on the ground, he owns it. If your stick is out of position, he is very patient and when he checks, almost all the time he gets stick."

In addition to stalking his opponents as opposed to trying to overwhelm them, Dowd has found his voice.

"In the past, in high school and a little bit at the start of college, I've been quiet, but you can't really do that," said Dowd. "Coach Mark has reinforced communication on defense. It kind of clicked that I was one of the leaders on the team and I really needed to start calling out where the offense was running, and that has paid dividends for me as a player, and the defense in general."

"I was the most proud of him last year when he instigated conversation, not just talk," said Mark. "That was showing leadership with the other defenders and middies. Matt essentially took over."

While the Dayton defense is stacked this spring with the likes of seniors Tim Griffith and Austin Birner, Dowd should have another familiar face on the backline – his younger brother, Andrew, who transferred in from Otterbein (Ohio). "They have a wonderful relationship," said Mark. "Andrew is loud, tough and smacks guys around. Matt is humble, ethical and polite."

Polite isn't always the best attribute to have in your top pole, but the humility has already paid off. No longer is Dowd trying to do too much. He's just forcing opponents to change the way they approach Dayton.

LaxMagazine.com MCLA Division II PPOY Fan Vote

Matt Dowd, Dayton

Jack Dumsa, Grand Valley State

Jordan Richtsmeier, Davenport

Steve Johnson, St. John's

Check back to LaxMagazine.com Wednesday for profiles on Lacrosse Magazine's preseason players of the year in WCLA Divisions I and II, Clayton Crum (Texas) and Chelsea Farrell (Westminster).

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