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We can almost say the season is fully underway.  Once the NESCAC gets going sometime next week, we’ll have ourselves a season here in D3 land.  The action thus far has been kind of slow but games should kick into high gear moving forward.

The game of this past week had to be Stevenson holding onto beat Widener 7-6.  I attended that game and I thought it was kind of sloppy, even in the 2nd half when it all was on the line.  Stevenson relied heavily on holding the ball and playing the clock game.  It worked in their favor but Widener showed some great defensive play in the second half.  I attended the Mustangs tailgate after and that may lead into a new series of blog posts where I review and cover tailgates!  Look for a post about it within a day or two.

The upset or at least a shocker so far this season has to be Mary Washington ousting Hampden-Sydney 9-7.  I don’t think anyone saw that coming after HS had had some hype coming into the season.

Salisbury has answered its critics with vigor by opening up 3-0 and by putting a stamp on their victory over Lynchburg.  This was the first test for the Gulls on their road to 3-peat.  Kylor Berkman looks unstoppable.  I know he put up big numbers against some lower talent, but putting in 4-3 against the Hornets is never an easy task.

This week we have some great match ups.

The Game of the Week: #12 Haverford @ #5 Cabrini
Better Bring Your Mittens:  #18 Western New England @ #3 Cortland State
The Haves or the Have Nots:  #8 Stevenson @ #15 Stevens Tech
Make or Break It Early:  Ohio Wesleyan @ #10 Lynchburg

And don’t forget #2 Gettysburg finally opens up to make their own Championship run at home against Hampden-Sydney on Saturday.

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The Mustang Blog - Part 1

This is my first experience into blogging and I hope that you will be checking in weekly to follow what it’s like in the life of an Associate AD and Head Lacrosse Coach on the DIII level. I hope you will understand and appreciate the principles of academic and athletic excellence and feel my experiences will be worth following.

My personal coaching philosophy can be summed up in two words: passion and integrity. I love the sport of lacrosse. Everyday, I am excited by the fact that there is a career that enables me to be intricately involved with the sport of lacrosse. The passion that I have for the sport is contagious. My enthusiasm and spirit for my position as a coach and love of the game is unavoidable. I have worked hard to instill this passion in my teams and have had the opportunity to watch it grow both collectively and individually.

I have had the privilege to work under two of the most recognized coaches in the game, Tony Seaman at Towson University and Dave Cottle at the University of Maryland. In my short time at Stevenson University (formerly Villa Julie College) I have lead the team that only had a varsity team for 9 years in DIII to a 43-24 record including three 10 win seasons. Highlighted by a school record 13 wins in 2008, 3 conference championship games in four years, I am also an Associate AD at the university in charge of all male sports and all athletic facilities.

My coaching ability has been enhanced by my experiences as a professional player. I played 6 years in the MLL along with 11 years in the NLL. I also played 7 years in the USCLA for the Mt. Washington Lacrosse Club after I graduated from Loyola in 1993.

We have just completed our first week of practice and it was a great week of practice. The boys all came back in shape and ready to take on the challenge that the 2009 season will bring. We do a few different things at Stevenson University to bring the team together also reward individuals for their good deeds that I have learn from travels as an DI assistant coach for 10 years.

We try to have an inspirational quote each week to start the practice off with. This weeks “Quote Private” was Freshman Andrew McCrumb who quoted the Baltimore Ravens All Pro Linebacker Ray Lewis.

If you can go into battle 100% confident that your teammate is willing to fight until he has nothing left in order to achieve the common goal of the team then nothing is impossible.”

This week’s “Senior story” time was senior Chris Baldwin who talked about his time at the United States Naval Academy. He talked about how the Navy made him understand that being part of a team means not only doing your part but also helping a teammate who may be struggling to do his part “Because a team is only as strong as its weakest member.”

One of the things we try to highlight during the season is the play in practice and reward the guys who play the best. This weeks weekly award winners are:

  • The best Assist or most unselfish player of the week - Junior Dave Cougler
  • The best Goalie of the week - Junior Andrew Harrington
  • The best Hit of the week - Senior Austin Hale
  • The best Overall player of the week - Sophomores Jake Stocksdale and Ian Hart
  • I look forward to sharing the experience and adventures of the 2009 Stevenson University season. If you have any ideas or things you would like to know please shoot me an email.

    In the mean time keep living the dream!

    If you’re a lacrosse fan, you know that Division III has it all. Just like Division I, D3 players have just as much on their plate, practice just as hard and strive for the same goals. The differences are limited between the two divisions (heck you can throw D2 in the D3 category) but the two main ones are size and speed. Other than that, Division III offers top notch skills, great team play, excited fans and intense rivalries just like the big boys.

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    In an ongoing series of posts, I will try my best not to hurt any feelings and to be as open minded about what to expect where teams stand and the outcomes of big match-ups. This season offers the most parity that we have ever seen due to the growth of the game. Will there be a new champion come Memorial Day weekend? Only time will tell.

    Feel free to critique my picks as you’re entitled to your opinion but I think that they’re dead on.

    Mark’s Preseason Rankings
    1. Salisbury
    2. Gettysburg
    3. Middlebury
    4. Cortland
    5. Stevenson
    6. Ithaca
    7. Roanoke
    8. Lynchburg
    9. Cabrini
    10. Washington
    11. Stevens Tech
    12. Haverford
    13. St. Lawrence
    14. Endicott
    15. Wesleyan
    16. Geneseo State
    17. Bowdoin
    18. Nazareth
    19. Denison
    20. St. Mary’s

    A Little About the Top 5:
    #1: Even though they lost a lot of points, the obvious pick for #1 has to be the Seagulls of Salisbury University. Jim Berkman has been leading the way and the word ‘dynasty’ is the only appropriate term to use for what the Gulls have done the past few years.

    #2: If a team was satisfied with being a constant #2, Gettysburg would take the cake. In the 2000’s, The Bullets have made it to two National Championships and have finished with several #2 overall rankings. However don’t think that Hank’s boys are complacent with being thought of as Number Two. They were one goal away from the dance last year and bring back a heck of a lot of talent back in 2009.

    #3: They started off the millennium in great fashion winning three in a row and getting knocked out of their forth. They’re always around come May and with a lot returning will surely be back at the dance.

    #4:  The Dragons have been on a run lately but slid to #4 due to a lot of graduation. The boys up at Cortland have gotten used to adversity, winning and scoring a lot of goals. Everyone will be eager to see if Cortland reloads or goes into a period of rebuilding this season.

    #5: With a school name change, some huge returnees and some key transfers, Stevenson rounds out the Top 5. The Mustangs return this season with a potent offense, great face off and two-way midfielders and a strong defense that will be a year better. Could they top the Gulls in the CAC? That’s their plan. In 2008, they had a little taste of success but they’ll have to win the big games to be considered the real deal.

    Behind these rankings are some talented athletes. Each team has their fair share, but these are the guys that will bring their teams to the next level and hopefully to Foxboro this May. Now I’m almost positive that there’s more than just five guys who can be POY, but for time and safety’s sake here they are…

    Mark’s Preseason POY Candidates
    1. Kylor Berkman: Mid - SR – Salisbury: D3 POY in 2008 & MOY in 2007
    2. Richard Ford: Att - JR – Stevenson: A do it all attackman on a high powered offense.
    3. Casey Grugan: Att - SR – Cabrini: A great feeder to the inside and can also finish.
    4. Tommy Kehoe: LSM - SR – Gettysburg: Super athlete and a momentum changer
    5. Zach Furshman: G - SR – Gettysburg: If he plays big; big things will happen for the Bullets

    Originally posted on LaxSpot on 06/05/2008

    I thought it would be interesting to take a look at this years 2008 Lacrosse all Americans and see how the numbers correlate to the team’s overall success. Not surprisingly the teams with the most all Americans in each division (Duke, LeMoyne, and Gettysburg) all had great seasons.  However, none of those teams won the championship.  Coincidentally the teams with the 2nd highest number of all Americans in each division won their respective championship - Syracuse, NY Tech, and Salisbury.  So sometimes it’s good to be #2.
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    Originally posted on LaxSpot on 04/08/2008

    I had a chance to catch my 2nd Salisbury game of the year last Saturday vs. Villa Julie and it turned out to be a nail biter. I saw them play the week before at Gettysburg where they looked really bad for the 1st half, and really good for the 2nd half. This game they looked really good for a quarter (outscoring VJ 6-0 in the 1st) and pretty bad for most of the other three quarters.

    For a stretch of the game a lot of Salisbury fans and alumni were thinking this might be the day that lightning strikes; the day that the Sea Gulls lose their first game in CAC history. But in the end the Gulls showed the resiliency they have had all year and pulled out the victory. There were a couple close CAC games vs. St. Mary’s a few years back, but this is the closest Salisbury has ever come to losing a conference game. And this year’s CAC playoffs will be the first year that Salisbury is not a sure thing to win it.

    For the third straight game they came from behind to win a close game. Some will argue that this inconsistent play will come back to hurt them; whether it’s vs. WAC in the War on the Shore, or in a potential rematch with Villa Julie, or in the NCAA playoffs. On the other hand you could argue that this will help them win tight games down the line, and give them the confidence to know they are never out of any game. I tend to think these hard fought close games will only help them. They can’t get lazy; they should be hungry to prove they are a better team than some of these scores indicate. And at the very least, these games have been a lot more exciting then most of the games in recent years.

    The two biggest factors in this game; sloppy ball handling and passing by Salisbury, and penalties. Salisbury had 11 penalties for a total of 8:00 minutes. Villa Julie scored 6 man-up goals. The refs were calling this game extremely tight, and many of the fouls for both teams should not have been called. But that’s beside the point and certainly not an excuse.

    Salisbury’s offense looked good in spurts but overall they couldn’t string three or four passes together the way they normally do. There were a lot of dropped passes, bad feeds to nobody, and weak passes attempted while fading away from defensive pressure. It looked like the Gulls didn’t have anyone who was easily beating their man to generate offense. As a whole the Sea Gulls look like a small team, especially in the middle of the field. They usually make up what they lack in size with great team stick work and shooting. But in this game both aspects weren’t up to their normal standard.

    Salisbury sophomore Mike Von Kamecke has been a great offensive weapon the last couple weeks. He really needed to get the ball more this game. He looks like someone who could possibly develop into a Justin Smith type player with his quickness. Villa Julie recognized this and was switching a close defensmen to play on him when possible. This left one of the Salisbury attackmen gaurded by a short stick.

    For the Mustangs junior midfielder Greg Furshman looked good and tallied 5 goals and an assist. I’m not sure how many of those came on man-up.

    Salisbury played three different goalies in the game, as coach Berkman did not seem happy with the performance of starting goalie Zach Krissoff (who played great in the Gettysburg game) or Mike Petti who went in when Krissoff was pulled. Riley Clark was put in to play most of the 2nd half. The three goalies only had 8 total saves, so it was not a great performance by the goaltending group. To Krissoff’s credit I didn’t think he looked bad enough to get pulled. I think you got to stay with your starter a bit longer. It’s safe to say that all the SU goalie’s confidence levels have taken a beating. This is something Salisbury definitely needs to work out soon.

    Salisbury sophomore long-pole #15 Connor Burgasser looked like one of the best players on the field. He was throwing some great checks (although most didn’t dislodge the ball) and looked good on ground balls and clears.

    The press release below says there was a crowd of 500, and another article said 1,500. Obviously both are estimations because they weren’t tracking the entrance, but I would put the crowd at more like 2,500. I would guess this is the largest crowd ever to attend a Villa Juile game. The facilities there aren’t setup well. There was not enough seating or standing room for the crowd. Only one side of the field was open to fans; as a result people ended up standing 5 deep in some areas to see the game. Villa Julie’s bathroom facilities consisted of 4 port-o-pottys. Obviously the school is in a bit of a growth mode and the facilities haven’t caught up yet.

    However, it was a great atmosphere at the game. A lot of students were tailgating and drinking; which made for a nice lively/obnoxious crowd. Players always love those types of environments. It’s great to hear some heckling from the crowd. Although, the Villa fans really do need to get a bit more creative. Most of their chants consisted of “Salisbury Sucks.” A little more imagination would be nice, but I think this might have been the first time attending a game for a lot of the fans. But I do commend Villa Julie for allowing fans to tailgate. Salisbury has never allowed it.

    As an alum, it’s been great to see Salisbury dominate over the past few years. But it’s also exciting to see them in some close battles this year. And it’s also great to know they will be returning a lot of talent next year.

    Salisbury certainly has everything they need for another championship run.  Their offense led by Kylor Berkman can put together 3 or 4 goal runs very quickly.  Their defense with a lot of talented poles has proved they can shut down high powered offenses (Gburg) when they play well.  So even though many are waiting for them to fall back to earth in D3, I wouldn’t bet against them making the trip to Foxboro.

    Next game: vs. St. Mary’s Friday night under the lights. Should be a good atmosphere, hopefully some students actually turn out.

    Originally posted on LaxSpot on 01/02/2008

    I saw a breakdown of the schools feeding MLL rosters a while back; but I wanted to put up an updated breakdown. Of course this isn’t necessarily an indication of a programs overall strength because there’s obviously a lot of variables at play. Some great college players decide not to pursue a professional lacrosse career.

    These numbers are based on the 10 MLL rosters on their websites as of 1/2/08. It’s possible that some of the players on those rosters won’t make the final squad. When a player attended multiple colleges, the most recent school was used.

    It’s amazing how many players the top 5 schools put into the MLL. I’m surprised to see only 5 from G-town and 4 from Duke. I guess the alum are too busy making boat loads of money on Wall Street or wherever else. Dartmouth with 4 players surprised me; I need to stop sleeping on them I guess. Salisbury was the only non-D1 team to make the top 25.

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