February 11, 2013

Making Sense: No Warm Up Needed for St. Thomas

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

Matt Kleven (above) and St. Thomas won't have much of a warm-up as they head into the 2013 campaign. They open with No. 8 Concordia (Calif.) on Friday night in Las Vegas and then tackle No. 3 Westminster just 17 hours later.
© Cecil Copeland

It will be almost nine months to the day from St. Thomas' third national championship in four years when the Tommies take the field Friday night in Las Vegas. They'll have a fall ball session and six weeks worth of practices in a bubble behind them, but the defending champs will be dealing with No. 8 Concordia (Calif.) and No. 3 Westminster in the span of 13 hours.

Wouldn't a warmup game against some lesser competition be useful?

"We scheduled these competitive games early because we need to set the tone," said St. Thomas head coach Moosbrugger, the architect of the St. Paul, Minn., dynasty. "I think I know what this team is, but we're going to get tested early. We're going to find out how good of competitors we are and how close we are as a group."

Moosbrugger obviously knows his team, and the Tommies certainly don't appear lacking in talent, but a weekend's worth of games against some mid-range competition — something like last year's schedule — would seem to be the play this year.

Especially before taking on Concordia, which looked spooky good in a 22-9 dismantling of No. 12 St. Mary's, and then a Westminster team boasting Preseason Player of the Year Jake Arthur and a deep cast complementary pieces. If UST loses one of those games, it will be hard-pressed to make up enough ground during the course of the season to keep its accustomed No. 1 seed in the tournament.

That thought hasn't crossed Moosbrugger's mind.

"I don't ever go into a game worried about losing," he said. "Sometimes there is just as much to be gained by losing as there is by winning. You have to play the best teams and you can't have kids worried about losing. What keeps me up at night before a game is not whether we are going to lose, but are we going to play to our potential? If we play to our potential, we can play with anyone in the country. That's what I get scared about, especially early in the season."

St. Thomas might have a slightly different look this year. The last couple of years, including last year's championship team, the Tommies made their money as a half-field team that eventually ground down opponents on both ends. In the tournament last year, UST won its four tournament games by an average of 2.5 goals — the lowest margin of any title team in the history of MCLA D-II.

Moosbrugger likens this year's outfit more to the program's first championship team in 2009 that streamrolled the tourney competition by an average of nine goals.

"We were more of an up-and-down team in 2009 and then became more of a slow-it-up team based on our personnel," Moosbrugger said. "We're going to be a much more up and down the field team this year. And with the new rules, if you're not an up-and-down team, you're playing from behind.

"This is the deepest group of midfielders we've ever had. We have three lines that most teams in the country would wish to have. On paper, I look at this team and it's the most exciting team I've ever coached, but you just don't know until the bullets start flying to see if we're as good as we are on paper. We've had teams in the past who didn't do as well as they should have, and that's kind of the challenge right now."

When the season starts in Vegas on Friday, things will be a little different for the Tommies, but in many ways they will be the same.

"My goal is to be the No. 1 team in Division II and be the team that everyone wants to beat," Moosbrugger said. "Our team isn't affected by pressure because we've been there. I look at the good teams and who is going to be in the tournament and those are the teams we want to play. We're going to keep dredging forward and put the best product that we can out there."

Players of the Week

NCAA Division II
Nick Ferreiro, M, Soph., Tampa
Year two of the Tampa Experiment started the same way as year one — with a win over archrival Florida Southern — and Ferreiro was a key cog. With the Spartans down 2-0, Ferreiro buried back-to-back goals 1:18 apart to tie the game. After Tampa again tied the game early in the second quarter, Ferreiro struck five seconds later to give the Spartans a 4-3 lead they would never lose. The NYIT transfer also went 10-for-22 on faceoffs and snagged a game-high six ground balls. A close runner-up was rookie Joey McMahan, who scored four goals and dished out there dimes for the Spartans.

NCAA Division II
Austin Fox, A, Soph., Southwestern
It's a 2-0 start to the season for the Pirates, helped by seven points from Fox. The Hartwick transfer opened the season with a hat trick against Rhodes in a 12-6 win and followed with three markers and an assist in the 13-6 triumph versus Hendrix.

MCLA Division I
Carson Barton, A, Jr. Grand Canyon
Barton made Grand Canyon's first game as an MCLA-I program a breeze, scoring six goals and dishing out four dimes in the 'Lopes comfortable, 14-7 triumph over San Diego State.

MCLA Division II
Marcus Turner, A, Sr., Concordia (Calif.)
The ranking said the contest between No. 12 St. Mary's and No. 8 Concordia should have a been battle, but Turner helped turn it into a laugher. Turner scored five goals and set up five others, helping the Eagles coast to a 22-9 victory over the Gaels.

Power Fives

NCAA Division II
1. Dowling (0-0) – The goalies vying for the starting spot have nine minutes and one second of combined D-II experience.
2. Limestone (0-0) – 'Worried' isn't the right word, but the Saints have to be intrigued by Pfeiffer's start to the season.
3. Merychurst (0-0) – Congrats to Bruce Alexander '98, who will be inducted in the Mercyhurst Athletic Hall of Fame.
4. Le Moyne (0-0) – There wasn't much fanfare, but Dan Sheehan went over the 200-win plateau late last spring.
5. Merrimack (0-0) – Mike Morgan and the Warriors can get some extra cardio shoveling the snow off the field this weekend.

NCAA Division III
1. Salisbury (1-0) – If Salisbury wins the national championship game again, they'll have to build a statue of Tyler Granelli.
2. Cortland (0-0) – Four of the first five games are away from home. After that, no ranked road opponents for the Red Dragons.
3. Stevenson (0-0) – Children under 12 get in free to Mustang games if they wear a team jersey. If not, they get a public shaming.
4. Cabrini (0-0) – With a 14-man senior class, it's no mystery why a lot of people are bullish on the Cavailers' prospects.
5. Stevens (0-0) – How will sophomore Matt Deiner fare now that he's the top dog in net? It just might determine the Ducks' success.

MCLA Division I
1. Colorado State (0-0) – Austin Fisher needs just 17 goals to move into second place on the Rams all-time goals list. Not bad.
2. Arizona State (0-0) – Judging by the UCSB-Cal game, the Sun Devils should have their hands full against the Bears.
3. BYU (1-0) – Eight different players notched goals for the Cougars against Boise State. That could be a key for BYU in '13.
4. Michigan State (0-0) – The Spartans will be breaking in a 14-man rookie class this spring, but it's still a veteran squad.
5. Stanford (1-0) – The Cardinal is riding UCSB's coattails for this ranking, but they got the job done when they needed to.

MCLA Division II
1. St. Thomas (0-0) – UST had over 135 people at their fundraising bowling event. Most teams don't have that at their games.
2. Grand Valley State (0-0) – Nice work by the Lakers to raise some money for one of its players with a charity a game.
3. Dayton (0-0) – There are 31 freshmen and sophomores on the Flyers roster this spring. Are the expectations too high?
4. Westminster (0-0) – Saturday's game against St. Thomas in Vegas will shape the perception of the Griffins until May.
5. North Dakota State (0-0) – With the Bison off until March, they might be dropping out of The Fives pretty soon. They'll be back.


NCAA Division II: Jay Sothoron and Wheeling Jesuit are finally getting back to normal.
NCAA Division III: The attack is a work in progress, but everything else looks good for Salisbury.
MCLA Division I: Regardless of the success this spring, George Washington is where it wants to be.
MCLA Division II: It's still a young program, but Portland seeks its proper recognition.

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