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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

Much like General Sherman’s march to the sea in the Civil War, the sport of lacrosse has come a long way on its mission of invading the South.

The growth of the sport has taken off in the last few years, mainly in the South and especially in the state of Florida.  The sport has grown by leaps and bounds to the point that the high school state championship program is comprised of more than 70 schools.

That growth has now continued its upward trend with the addition of women’s lacrosse at Jacksonville University and Florida, along with the first Division I men’s program in the state at JU.

I have to admit, what little I know of lacrosse is due to watching the men’s Final Four on television.  This may come off as blasphemy, but I have never seen a game live, with the extent of what my eyes have witnessed is 30 minutes of a women’s camp this summer.

So, here’s what I’ve heard about this lacrosse:

- It’s the fastest game on grass.  I can see this in what little I’ve seen.  It takes the precision of basketball plays, along with the physicality of football and the stamina of soccer.

- There’s a major difference between the men’s and women’s game.  That is very evident as well, which I like.  Unlike basketball and soccer where the game is the same, the difference between men’s and women’s game is evident.  The women’s game is finesse and teamwork, rewarding the teams that push the action and stay aggressive.  The men’s game is gritty, hard nosed and physical.   That’s from what little I’ve seen.

With some of the common perceptions about the sport being held true thus far, how is it going to be accepted in region where it is truly a foreign sport?

Before we look at lacrosse, I think it’s important to look at some other sports that have attempted to invade the South and take some of the luster off of King Football.

Soccer, while it is big in the little leagues, has never really taken off past that level.  Hockey, the hot sport of the 1990s when the NHL expanded deep into the South, has seen the luster taken away as several of the Southern teams have experienced problems.

What gives lacrosse a chance?

To me, the sport has one thing that soccer and hockey don’t provide – scoring.  The casual sports fan in the South is built with the short attention span – usually around 40 seconds (long enough for a football play), so lots of scoring is important.  On the men’s side, throw in the physicality and its going to be a hot ticket.  On the women’s side, the amount of movement and the rapid scoring opportunities give it a chance as well.

It’s an exciting time in the South to see this sport take root and begin its growth.  Welcome to the South lacrosse.  We hope you enjoy your stay.

JU logo

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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Originally posted on LaxSpot on 12/24/2007

So I was browsing Amazon today – Christmas Eve is not too late to be shopping for presents – and came across the Duke Lacrosse books for sale. I knew former Duke Lacrosse coach Mike Pressler had co-authored a book, but I hadn’t realized there were two others on the market. I’m glad to see it. I hope a lot of people are interested in hearing the true story now that the sexy headlines are no longer in the national media. However, I seriously doubt all those who were so dangerously eager and fast to accuse the team of wrongdoing will give any time or interest to understanding the whole story. They were hoping the truth to be something other than reality, and once that hope expired their interest did as well.

I do have to question the decision of two of the publishers to put the three accused player’s faces on the cover. Their pictures were already widely circulated, but it seems unnecessary. If these books truly are an attempt at justice than the photos seem to contradict that effort. But I guess that’s a naïve view. Covers have the sole purpose of selling books, and I’m sure the publishers know what their doing in that respect. It is interesting that the Pressler book didn’t take the same approach though.

These three books all seem to be getting good user reviews. I haven’t read any of them yet – mainly because I very rarely have time to read a book. But I am interested and plan on picking one up. Might as well be the Pressler book I guess. This man has been severely wronged so I hope this book puts some good money in his pocket.

Duke Lacrosse Books

Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case (Hardcover)
by Stuart Taylor (Author), KC Johnson (Author)
Average rating – 4.5 stars

It’s Not About the Truth: The Untold Story of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case and the Lives It Shattered (Hardcover)
by Don Yaeger (Author), Mike Pressler (Author)
Average rating – 4.5 stars

A Rush to Injustice: How Power, Prejudice, Racism, and Political Correctness Overshadowed Truth and Justice in the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case (Hardcover)
by Nader Baydoun (Author), R. Stephanie Good (Author)
Average rating – 4.0 stars

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