October 4, 2012

30 in 30: Who Will Lead Adelphi's Next Generation?

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com

Devan Crimi, a star freshman on Adelphi's 2011 national championship team, is the Panthers' leading returning scorer this year.
© Lee Weissman

For the second year in a row, the Adelphi women's lacrosse team is changing the focus for its fall season. This time around, that's a good thing.

Last fall was about implementing a new system and seeing what was left behind after a coaching change and player exodus left head coach Rob Grella in charge of a team with question marks when he took over at the end of July.

This fall, Grella's system is in place and there's a lot less mystery surrounding what Adelphi has left. Now it's about fine-tuning the little things and evaluating roster depth that didn't exist last season.

"It's completely different," Grella said. "The kids know what to expect. We're months ahead of where we were last year."

Last fall a question loomed over Adelphi. After four All-Americans joined former coach Joe Spallina at Stony Brook, how much was left?

The answer was plenty. The Panthers reached the NCAA tournament and went 13-3, with two of those losses coming to eventual Division II champion and Long Island rival, LIU-Post.

"I think everyone thought Adelphi was finished," Grella said. "We showed you can take a bunch of individuals and have them buy into what you're doing. It became less of an individual show, more of a program thing."

The question this fall is: Now that two more of those championship individuals are gone - All-Americans Erica DeVito and Marissa Miller graduated - who's left to lead that program?

Again, the Panthers provide plenty of answers.

The attack features a pair of West Islip (N.Y.) High alums in junior Devan Crimi, a star freshman on the 2011 championship team and Adelphi's leading returning scorer (50 goals, 21 assists), and Sara Sangiorgio, who scored 49 goals last year.

Midfielder Meg Brown (42 goals, 12 assists) gives the Panthers a third returning 40 goal-scorer. And two Long Island sophomores could be the future of Adelphi's midfield. Port Washington's Alexa Froccaro scored 29 goals as a freshman and Danielle Jaycox had 26. Jaycox played at St. John the Baptist, which is also in West Islip.

The defense should be a source of strength. First-team All-American and Northeast-10 Defensive Player of the Year Jacqueline Williams returns, as does senior Katie Ciaci, the 2011 NE-10 Defensive Player of the Year, who missed all of 2012 with an injury.

Ciaci is one of two players Adelphi gets back after season-long injuries. Starting midfielder Stefani Jackson, another West Islip product, is also set to return.

In all, Adelphi lost three players to season-ending injuries last year. LIU-Post lost four players for the season, but one of the Pioneers strengths during their championship run was depth and their bench players' ability to seamlessly step in.

It may still be one more year before Adelphi can boast that kind of depth. The Panthers have more players to work with this season, but due to last year's late start were playing catch-up when it came to recruiting.

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"A lot of kids were already signed by the time we put the team together," Grella said. "I don't want to say that's unfortunate. We got some good players and we were fortunate to get them. Talented kids from Long Island, New Jersey, Maryland."

While Adelphi's current core is dominated by Long Islanders, only four of the 12 new players currently listed on its roster hail from the Island, a departure from past Adelphi teams. One of those out-of-staters is Maryland native Roxanne Raab, a junior, who last season was the third-leading scorer on a Salisbury team that reached the Division III championship game.

The Panthers hope to have a few more players signed by January, including two players from the Australian national team.

Casting a wide recruiting net will be necessary moving forward. With high-profile coaches running Stony Brook and Hofstra, LIU-Post now a reigning champion, and emerging contenders coming out of Dowling and Queens, Long Island is more competitive than ever.

"It makes our job a little bit harder," Grella said. "Not saying we're not looking in our backyard, because players are there, but these kids have options now. There's not just one powerhouse team."

For a few years Adelphi was LI's powerhouse team, now they'll have to take down LIU-Post before they can even be called its top D-II program.

Depth wasn't the only difference between LIU-Post and Adelphi in 2012. Post seemed to do the little things better. In Post's 14-11 playoff victory last May, the Pioneers doubled up the Panthers on draw controls (18 to 9) and ground balls (12-6).

Adelphi has subsequently spent the fall perfecting those basic skills.

"We stress that it's the little things that cost us a title," Grella said. "It's the ground balls. The draw controls. Those little things add up."

So don't expect Adelphi to lose two thirds of their draws in a playoff game in 2013. But also don't expect a return to the 15-goal deficits the Panthers put up a few years ago. Because it's not just Long Island lacrosse that's showing massive improvement.

Division II will move to an eight-team playoff format this season and still several deserving teams will likely be sitting at home.

"The sport has grown," Grella said. "In the past three or four years, everyone has gotten a lot better."

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