February 13, 2012

Making Sense: BC Rides Memory to Huge Weekend

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

Boston College coach Patrick McCavanagh (right) was confident the Eagles could win three games in three days against Top 20 opponents. When the Florida State game went to double overtime, McCavanagh wasn't afraid to clutch the jersey of former player Michael Racanelli, as well as the shoulders of McCavanagh's older brother, John (left), for strength. 
© Frank Nemia

Pat McCavanagh is a self-professed serial optimist. When his team is down by three goals, he's the one acting like Boston College is up by one. When he's drawing up plays during timeouts, McCavanagh will clairvoyantly congratulate the player for the impending goal before the Eagles even break the huddle. He even thought it was a good omen when his team spontaneously sung the lyrics to 'I Will Always Love You' in an off-key homage to Whitney Houston during Sunday's bus ride to play Florida State.

Earth-bound optimism has its limits, however.

With BC, the No. 5 team in the country playing its third Top 20 opponent in as many days, locked in a tie against the 12th-ranked Seminoles in the second overtime, McCavanagh instinctively reached for a higher power. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the jersey of Michael Racanelli, the former Eagle player who passed away last November, lying on the scorer's table separating the two teams.

"In overtime when we had the ball I went over and grabbed it for the last two minutes," said McCavanagh. "We scored with Mike's jersey in my hand."

The 8-7 extra time win over FSU was the culmination of an epic weekend for the Eagles. While playing three ranked teams on the road is not unprecedented, playing a trio of fully-rested ranked opponents on consecutive days is, anecdotally, an MCLA first. BC knocked off No. 14 Clemson, 11-5, on Friday before bouncing No. 20 Central Florida, 13-9 on Saturday. The Seminoles strolled into Sunday's game with eight days of rest, but they weren't ready to contend with a tired group more than ready to honor a fallen friend.

"When we brought it in, everybody came over and touched it," said McCavanagh of Racanelli's jersey. "He is a part of our team this season. He's with us. When we tell the players that, it's about giving a little extra. Put Mike in your heart. If you can run a little bit harder, run harder for Mike. It just ties into our theme about caring about one another."

The Eagles start to the season was particularly satisfying for junior goalie Nick Shea. After making 27 saves against 14 goals in the first two contests, Shea didn't feel he had his best contest against the 'Noles, but the outcome was the important part. When BC broke the post-game huddle with the chant, "One-two-three, Rac!" it brought it home.

"Michael was huge part of this team and one of my best friends," said Shea. "On a personal level, it brought us really close, but as a team we've certainly come together these first three games. We play the season for him. We all have wristbands with his name. His memory and legacy lives on and we play for him every time we step on the field."

Legacy is important to the Eagles. McCavanagh is a former BC player from the program's varsity era, and one of his teammates and good friends was Welles Crowther – the legendary "Man in the Red Bandana." While the return to varsity status is a distant dream, McCavanagh isn't afraid to let the current players know that they are walking in other's footsteps.

"Everybody knows that I came through BC and I stepped in their shoes before them," said McCavanagh. "But they are all on the same page. They believe it. When we were down by three we knew we were going to come back because we are the better team. They'll tell you the exact same philosophy. We believe in everybody. There's no one guy you can shut down on our team. We'll fill in the space somewhere else. We need advantages where we can get them, and that's where we have one: being confident and being prepared and being a little arrogant because that's where I want them to be."

As much as legacy is important, the concept of family pervades the Eagles team. McCavanagh sees it every day.

"My brother is the assistant coach and he's my best friend, so the players see family right in front of them," said McCavanagh. "From losing Mike Racanelli to caring for each other, you're acting like a family. You'll fight and yell at each other, but you'll hug each other afterwards. It makes it that much more sweet. I'm just so proud that we're flying back 3-0."

Shea sees a sense of family – and perhaps the hidden hand of a lost friend – with this team, as well.

"There is something very unorthodox about our style of play and our attitude," said Shea. "There's a closeness and a brotherhood about this team. There's something special that will push us deep into the season."

The last question for McCavanagh before he headed back to Chestnut Hill was his pick for the key guy in the Eagles' strong start.

"No guy," he said. "It was the sidelines. It was the team. No guy stepped up. Everybody did it."

He then tucked a lonesome jersey under his arm and walked to the bus.

Game Balls

No. 1 Brigham Young and No. 18 Simon Fraser tangled on the blue turf of Boise State on Saturday afternoon.
© Simon Fraser Lacrosse

A.J. DeSimone, Jr., Attackman - Tampa
The Spartans not only started their program with a victory, but did it against their archrival Florida Southern. DeSimone had a goal – the first one in school history – and two assists to lead the way.

Tyler Hutson, Fr., Attackman – York
In his first game for the Spartans, Hutson scored four goals and set up a fifth as York doubled-up a highly regarded Randolph-Macon team, 14-7.

Will Jaffe, Sr., Middie – UC Santa Cruz
The Slugs posted their first win of the season, thanks to Jaffe, who factored in on 11 of UCSC's 17 goals with eight markers and three assists.

Steve Marciano, Jr., Attackman – Coker
In the first game in program history, Marciano led the Cobras with five goals, including Coker's first-ever tally in the first quarter, helping his team register the 14-7 victory over Shorter on Friday night.

Spencer Price, Jr., Attackman – Texas
The Longhorns opened their season against archrival Texas State, and thanks to five goals and an assist from Price, UT posted the comfortable, 11-5 triumph in San Marcos.

Power Fives

NCAA Division II
1. Mercyhurst (0-0) – The postponement of the Ohio Valley game spared the Fighting Scots, but it will keep the Lakers frustrated.
2. Adelphi (0-0) – The Panthers were the overwhelming conference coaches pick to repeat as NE-10 champions.
3. Limestone (0-0) – The Saints dispatched Rollins with ease, but Florida Southern could put up more of a fight Saturday.
4. C.W. Post (0-0) – It was nice of Mother Nature to dump some of the white stuff on the Island for this weekend's opener with Wheeling Jesuit.
5. Dowling (0-0) – Is it too soon to be excited about the May 6 game against Limestone in Oakdale?

NCAA Division III
1. Salisbury (1-0) – Only three goals for Sam Bradman in the opener. Then again, he only took three shots in the 19-6 win.
2. Tufts (0-0) – Will the Jumbos run the same offense that worked so well with D.J. Hessler? "I don't know," said Mike Daly.
3. Roanoke (1-0) – St. Mary's should give the Maroons just enough fight to get them ready for Salisbury in two weeks.
4. RIT (0-0) – Congrats to former Tigers standout Jordan MacIntosh for making the NLL All-Star team as a rookie.
5. Dickinson (0-0) – You can bet there will be plenty of Dickinson staff watching the Roanoke-St. Mary's game. That's a two-fer.

MCLA Division I
1. Brigham Young (3-0) – It wasn't always the prettiest, but Cougars navigated their first weekend. Now it's time for the Big Boys.
2. Arizona State (0-0) – The Sun Devils probably are a bit more nervous about opening with Stanford after the Cardinal's outing against the Gauchos.
3. Chapman (1-0) – Chapman bumped up a spot thanks to UNLV's success against BYU. We'll find out if it's legit when the Cougars come calling this weekend.
4. Colorado State (0-0) – The Rams have their D-II appetizer before the 2012 season when they host Northern Colorado on Sunday.
5. Boston College (3-0) – Three games in three days on the road against ranked opponents is enough for the Eagles to crack The Fives.

MCLA Division II
1. Davenport (0-1) – Taking a Top 10 Division I team to double overtime? Yeah, I think the Panthers will survive in the MCLA-I next year.
2. St. Thomas (0-0) – It's hard to believe we still have five weeks before the Tommies play a meaningful game. No, league games aren't always meaningful.
3. Dayton (2-0) – I toyed with the idea of bumping the Flyers up a spot, but John Carroll doesn't have that kind of juice.
4. Grand Valley State (0-0) – Do you still think the Lakers have nightmares about that four overtime loss to Davenport last year in the national semifinals?
5. St. John's (0-0) – When you're outside throwing the ball around, think of the Johnnies trapped in a bubble for the next month.

Monday Notebooks

NCAA Division II: The unwritten story of Vito DeMola; don't cry for Mercyhurst.
NCAA Division III: One bright spot out of Randolp-Macon's loss; Lynchburg salvages some ODAC pride.
MCLA Division I: Lots of work for Sparty heading into the ASU game; Sun Devils looking for offense.
MCLA Division II: Davenport almost grabs a big win; the SELC provides another learning moment.

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