June 8, 2012

Coyne's All-Americans: MCLA Division II

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

He probably didn't get the appreciation he deserved in his first three seasons, but there's no question that Grand Valley State's Jack Dumsa was the top player in the MCLA Division II this spring.
© Cecil Copeland/Athletic Image

Why a Coyne's All-America team? Do we really need another All-America squad after what the MCLA Division II coaches have spit out?

Is my ego really that big?

Well, the answer to the last one is a resounding yes, but just like in year's past, the genesis of my All-America team is in direct response to the egregious proliferation of players who bear the All-American label. To wit: there are 19 players on the MCLA's Division II first team.

Nineteen! Throw in another FOGO and they could have an intersquad scrimmage.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. When all three teams and honorable mentions – which includes a staggering 45 players – are tallied, we're at 98 All-Americans of some variety or another. With 117 teams in the division, MCLA Division II has an "Absurdity Percentage" of 83.8.

I'll give a nod to the specialization of the game and tack on a spot for an LSM and a faceoff middie, bringing the number to 12. Yes, I know that short-stick defensive middies are now being honored with their own slot – and I get why, to some degree – but I'm not ready to succumb to that specialization yet.

Without further ado:

Coyne's MCLA Division II All-America Team

Attack – Jack Dumsa, Sr., Grand Valley State
The Lakers have been the most prolific scoring team in the history of the division over the past four years, and much of that can be attributed to Dumsa. With a lightning quick burst that allows him to get the edge on the best of defenders (36 goals) and the vision to find the various weapons on the GVSU frontline (69 assists), Dumsa has the total package.

Attack – Peter Flock, Soph., North Dakota State
How does a program in Fargo make consecutive appearances in the MCLA tournament and knock off some of the best teams during the regular season? It starts by having a guy like Flock. At 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds, he's not an intimidating physical specimen, but he has a feel for the game that allows him to produce even when he's a marked man, like he did this year in the first round scoring four goals and setting up a fifth in the win over Briarcliffe and two more against St. Thomas in the quarters.

Attack – Jordan Richtsmeier, Jr., Davenport
Richtsmeier will never see the light of day on this list again despite a year of eligibility remaining – Davenport will be taking its talents to MCLA-I next spring – but this is no going-away present. Although his numbers were a little off from last year's 108-point campaign, Richtsmeier was still the consummate quarterback for the Panthers, scoring 29 goals while dealing out 51 helpers, empowering guys like Dominic Boggiano (39 goals), Lyle Parks (45) and Cody Cross (45).

Midfield – Chris Cole, Jr., Cal State-Fullerton
Younger brother Cam, a rookie for the Titans this spring, stole the show with a 121-point campaign, but it's Chris' work in the midfield that makes the Fullerton offense click. Chris amassed 52 goals and 43 assists (which is just about on his points average after 93 points last year and 96 points in '10), helping CSF finish with a 17-5 record and a berth in the SLC finals.

Midfield – Colin Gaddy, Sr., Western Washington
The spotlight rarely shines on the Pacific Northwest, but Gaddy finished his career in style this spring, scoring 39 goals along with nine assists while leading the Vikings to a 13-7 campaign. This was an important year for Western Washington after the school self-imposed a postseason ban in 2011 after some off-field contretemps, and Gaddy helped the team get back to the brink of the MCLA tournament. He finished his career with 96 goals and 25 assists.

Midfield – Will Hersman, Soph., St. Thomas
It's easy to get lost in the depth of talent on the Tommies roster, but Hersman stands out not only for his ability on the offensive end, but his tenacity on the defensive end when he's called on to fill that role. He had one of his finest games in the semifinal win over Dayton when he not only scored a pair of goals, but also led the team in ground balls with six. The UST midfield was a huge reason the Tommies were able to lay claim to their dynasty, and Hersman is the leader of that group.

Faceoff Specialist - Marshall Serzen, Sr., Westminster
Consistency is one of the hallmarks of the Griffins program and there was no one who exemplified that more this year than Serzen. Showing up every game at the dot, he not only took a staggering 435 faceoffs (91 percent of the team's draws), but won a ridiculous 72.9 percent of them (317-for-435). Serzen also grabbed 122 ground balls. He could even compete with the big boys, winning 19-of-36 in Westminster's regular season game against BYU.

He proved he was one of the top goalies around while he was operating in the NCAA Divsion II ranks last year, and Grand Canyon's Andrew Hunter continued it this spring, leading the 'Lopes to a 15-2 record and a berth in the MCLA quarterfinals.
© Cecil Copeland/Athletic Image

LSM – Chase Smith, Soph., Grand Valley State
There are typically three types of LSMs – ground ball vacuums, transition guys, and tough defenders. After two seasons in Allendale, Smith has the first two nearly perfected and the third is pretty darn good. Based on the all-conference (he was a third-teamer in the CCLA) and All-America teams (he didn't appear), this looks like a reach, but from all of my indicators, Smith is the best (with even bigger potential) of a deep field.

Defense Jesse Amar, Sr., St. Thomas
Some pretty talented faces have come and gone during the Tommies run to four consecutive title game appearances and three national championships, but Amar has been on the field for all of them. At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds with surprising athleticism, Amar has given UST coach Pete Moosbrugger a dependable rock on the backline. In the grand scheme of things, filling Amar's shoes next year will be more complicated than having to replace Joe Costello this spring.

Defense Matt Dowd, Sr., Dayton
The Flyers gave up a lot of goals this spring, but through no fault of Dowd, who continued his dominating effort on defense for Dayton. A tactician who used his quickness as much as strength to leverage opponents, Dowd's ability to get the ball of the ground (87 ground balls) and spark the dangerous Flyers transition game was critical to the team's 13-4 record and berth in the national semifinals.

Defense Steve Johnson, Jr., St. John's
When you line up against St. John's, you know you are in for a grind as the Johnnies have set the MCLA Division II bar on the defensive end of the field for the past three years. Johnson has been the key cog. The team leader in ground balls (53), Johnson is tasked with squaring up with the opposition's top dog and, more often than not, he wins his match-up.

Goalie Andrew Hunter, Sr., Grand Canyon
One of the six holdovers from the NCAA Division II program that transitioned to the MCLA this spring, Hunter was critical in the 'Lopes making the quarterfinals in their first attempt. Averaging over 10 saves per outing, Hunter posted a 66.5 save percentage as GCU notched a 15-2 record before losing to eventual finalist Grand Valley State in the quarters, 10-8 – a full eight goals below the Laker's regular season average.

Player of the Year - Jack Dumsa, Grand Valley State

One of the curses of playing in a prolific offense and on a team that consistently overwhelms its opponents is the numbers start to lose meaning. Dumsa has put up video game digits during his entire career – he finished with 176 goals and 215 assists, with his lowest output being a 71-point performance his rookie year – but with all of GVSU's lopsided scores over the past four years, it was difficult to put them on a relative scale. The fact that Dumsa's biggest season (131 points) came last year when he (and the rest of the Lakers) played in the shadow of Cam Holding's prodigal return further muddied the issue.

It was only this year that Dumsa's brilliance could be properly appreciated. As the focal point of the Lakers offense, he was not only a goal-scoring threat (36 markers), but incorporated other talented players like Tyler Farmer, Michael Garner, Jeremy Pouba and Conor Schwalm – all of whom scored at least 30 goals – with his 69 assists. Dumsa's work this year also raises questions about how much of Holding's spectacular 2011 campaign was on the back of Dumsa as much as Holding's own talents.

The Grand Valley State players on the past two teams will always be haunted by the fact that they were two goals away from potentially being a two-time national champion, but this has no impact on Dumsa's legacy. He graduates as unquestionably one of the Top 10 players in MCLA Division II history.

Coach of the Year - Justin Eckenroad, Western Oregon

The Wolves were a red hot mess for most of the season. After fumbling its initial coaching hire in the offseason, suffering a couple of devastating personnel losses and possessing a 1-7 record as late as April 14, Western Oregon was going nowhere fast. In the world of MCLA Division II, that typically means a program hangs a shingle on the practice field reading, "See you next spring."

But a funny thing happened as WOU was spiraling down the drain – it never gave up, thanks to Eckenroad, a former Oregon player. Western Oregon won its last three games of the season to qualify for the PNCLL tournament and then proceeded to blast its way through the competition, including a 19-6 win over Portland in the finals after the Wolves lost to the Pilots, 7-4, during the regular season. Even after being saddled with the 16th-seed, WOU raised the money to travel to Greenville, S.C., where it took eventual national champion St. Thomas to the brink before losing, 11-6, in the first round.

There were a lot of Division II coaches who did an outstanding job and made it further in the tournament than Western Oregon, but what Eckenroad accomplished transcended the WOU program. He set the blueprint for all of those MCLA-II teams that may encounter a little adversity along the way, showing everyone that this is a serious league with serious coaches. No forfeits, no bailing out and no excuses. The Western Oregon players deserve a lot of the credit for how this season played out, but Eckenroad was the catalyst, and that's why he's in this slot.

comments powered by Disqus

More Headlines