May 11, 2008

Hello, Old Friend: Nassau Reigns Again in NJCAA

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Photo: Greg Shemitz

UNIONDALE, N.Y. - Richie Speckmann knows the burden of expectation, but welcomed it back like an old friend Sunday.

Nassau Community College, the winningest program in junior college history, defeated CCBC-Essex, 11-6, in the NJCAA men's lacrosse championship game at Mitchel Field. The Lions captured their 21st junior college title, but first since 2002, as the tournament's No. 4 seed.

They stunned two-time defending national champion Onondaga, 15-11, in a semifinal Saturday behind five goals from slick finisher and tournament offensive MVP Bryan Renneisen, who added two goals and an assist in Sunday's win over the third-seeded Knights.

"They're in a tough spot. Everybody's out to get them," Speckmann, Nassau's head coach for 37 years and 20 national championships, had said of Onondaga. "I know. We were there. It's so hard to play at that level."

The lag of the Lions' emotional victory Saturday showed early Sunday. Essex, itself a semifinal upset winner over second-seeded Herkimer, jumped to a 2-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

Nassau responded with two goals in a one-minute, 29-second span, twice catching the Knights off guard in substitution.

The teams exchanged single goals in the second quarter and again early in the third quarter. Renneisen's sharp-angled goal at the 11:59 mark of the third quarter gave the Lions a 5-4 lead. Three minutes later, Bill Kingston finished an extra-man possession off a feed from Brian Kirschner to make it 6-4.

It remained close until Nassau netted four unanswered goals in the game's final 11 minutes. Lions goalie Charles Paar, who led nearby Huntington (N.Y.) High School to a state championship in 2006 and spent time at Towson before returning to Long Island, preserved the victory with four of his 12 saves in the fourth quarter.

The Lions (13-3) frustrated the Knights (9-8) by face-guarding attackman Andrew Reinhardt and midfielder Neal Barthelme, who had combined for 11 goals in Essex's 17-10 semifinal win over Herkimer. Echoes of "Arizona diamond" and "iso to Randy" bellowed, as seldom-used midfielder Randy Williams drew the assignment on Reinhardt early and Barthelme late. Williams stalked them on the perimeter and impeded their vision for one another by casting his stick in front of their facemasks.

"They're their two best players. We tried to deny them having the ball and make the other guys beat us," Speckmann said. "It worked."

Williams and close defenseman Rich Schmidt teamed to hold Reinhardt and Barthelme to just one goal apiece, as Nassau forced Essex in the direction of its slides and kept the Knights' two favorite targets on the outskirts.

"What I've got to do is easy," Williams said. "It's my only job - shut `em off."

Essex's frustrations boiled over in the fourth quarter. With 9:39 remaining and Nassau leading 8-6, defenseman Justin Hohner fell to the ground and threw a wild check that resulted in a slashing penalty. Dismayed, Knights head coach Brian Duncan then drew a one-minute, non-releasable unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Nassau's two-man advantage yielded a putback by Matt Ryan that made it 9-6. Kingston and Richard Born capped the scoring with two more goals in the game's final five minutes.

"The problem with face-guarding is, you can't do anything. You don't want to get tired from running all the time. You want to run, but this guy's on you, and it just makes you tired for the end of the game. Then you try to rest, and time keeps clicking and clicking," Reinhardt said. "It was good coaching."

comments powered by Disqus

More Headlines