submitted by Jason Donville
May Madness – Its Playoff Time in the NCAA
The NCAA lacrosse season now heads into its final headlong rush to crown national champions. This edition of “Canadians in the NCAA” focuses on those teams and match-ups where there is a significant Canadian influence to a team in terms of players, coaches or playing style. In terms of Canadian “flavored” teams that could go far, the teams to watch include Denver (Div I Men), Limestone and Mercyhurst (Both Div II Men) Limestone (Div II Women) and RIT (Div III Men). Here’s my brief recap of the key games ahead.
Division I Men – Players and Teams to Watch
North Carolina vs. Denver – Denver is the poster child for the Canadian style of field lacrosse given that Denver’s offensive coach (Matt Brown) is from Coquitlam and he has quite the stable of Canadian talent. However, North Carolina can play run-and gun with the best of them so expect this game to look like a Canadian Box Lacrosse game prior to the invention of Bowdum’s. Mark Mathews (Oshawa), who has scored 39 goals so far this year leads the Denver offence but he will be supported by three other compatriots in 20 goal scorer Jeremy Noble (Orangeville), 21 goal scorer Wes Berg (New Westminster) and 13 goal scorer Cam Flint (Georgetown). North Carolina has its own Canadian threat in rookie Chad Tutton (Courtice) who has scored 18 goals in 16 games thus far this season.
Notre Dame vs. Yale – Notre Dame plays a defensive style of lacrosse that is particularly effective during the play-offs. However, Yale Coach Andy Shay is no tactical slouch and he is running an up-tempo offence that has surprised just about everyone in the Ivy League this year. Yale’s Deron Dempster (Orangeville) is the highest profile Canadian in the game and has been one of the pleasant surprises of the season as he has scored 33 goals in only 12 games so far this year.
Johns Hopkins vs. Stony Brook – The fact that Zach Palmer (Whitby) is playing clutch lacrosse at this time of year should not be a surprise to anyone who lives within an hour’s drive of Whitby. Palmer, who has scored 23 goals in 14 games along with team mate Brandon Benn (Brampton), who has scored on 24 occasions will look to knock out a Stony Brook team that enjoyed a strong second half to the season. Stony Brook Senior Robbie Campbell (Delta), who has scored 23 goals this season will look to graduate in style while JJ Laforet (Georgetown), Kyle Belton (Langley) and Greg Miceli (King City) will each look to help Campbell extend his NCAA career as long as possible.
Virginia vs. Princeton – There is a great rivalry here with Canadians on both sides of the ball to make it feel extra special. For Virginia, Mark and Matt Cockerton (Oshawa) will look to add potency to the Wahoo offence while Princeton freshman Mike MacDonald (Georgetown), who has scored 22 goals so far this year, will look to continue to add to his scoring totals. This should be a great game as there is no clear favorite and has the feel of a “good old fashion Whitby vs. Halton Hills qualifier”.
Loyola vs. Canisius – Loyola in theory gets the easy first round game but Canisius coach Randy Mearns (St Catharines) has his team playing terrific lacrosse down the stretch. Reed Acton (Toronto) is the key Canadian playing for Loyola and will anchor one of the better defences in the NCAA. Canisius has an even more significant Canadian contingent and will be led by Simon Giourmetakis (Edmonton) who leads the team in scoring with 34 goals and Travis Gibbons (Owen Sound) who has scored 25 goals.
Lehigh vs. Maryland – This game, which is already sold out is an important game for both programs. Lehigh has just finished the best regular season in program history and wants to prove that they are more than a one-and-done team. Two rookies from north of the border will do their part as Patrick Corbett (Burlington), who has scored 18 goals this year and Dan Taylor (Calgary), who has scored 11 look to show that Lehigh has depth at the Attack position. That said, Maryland will be no push-over and will see this game as the first step towards a national championship.
Division I Women – Players and Teams to Watch
Penn State vs. Towson – Hard to pick a winner here but the homer says go with Penn State. Multi-purpose midfielder Katie Guy (Whitby), who has scored 5 times this year, while grabbing 22 GB’s, 23 DC’s and 11 CT’s will see lots of playing time in this game.
Division II Men – Players and Teams to Watch
Le Moyne vs. Limestone – Limestone boasts ten Canadians on their roster including some of the best scorers in Division II lacrosse. Limestone’s offence is lead by four prolific scorers in Riley Loewen (Burnaby), who has scored 46 goals so far this year, Shayne Jackson (Bowmanville) with 25 goals and 41 assists, Tor Reinholdt (Port Moody) with 25 goals and Jackson Decker (Port Moody) with 34 goals.
Mercyhurst vs. Dowling – Mercyhurst is the defending Division II Champion and enters the NCAA Tournament with the only undefeated record in Division II lacrosse. There are nine Canadians on Mercyhurst and four on Dowling. Mercyhurst will be led by 25 goal scorer Brady Heseltine (Elora), 24 goal scorer Kyle Kallay (Orangeville) and 15 goal scorer Matt Hummel (Kitchener). Sheldon Burns (Whitby), who is emerging as one of the top Canadian defenders in Division II will likely start for Dowling at Defense.
Division II Women – Players and Teams to Watch
Limestone vs. West Chester – Limestone has a very real chance to win a double championship in both Men’s and Women’s lacrosse in 2012. In order to do so, Sarah Oor (Uxbridge), Samantha Cock (Terra Cotta) and Jessica Tessman (Whitby) will have to continue to play well. Oor has scored 33 goals this year while Cock started 17 games and has grabbed 25 GB’s, 8 DC’s and 11 CT’s.
Division III Men – Players and Teams to Watch
NIT vs. Western New England College – There are eight Canadians on the RIT roster and freshman sensation Brendan MacDonald (Georgetown), who has scored 33 goals this year, will be the key Canadian in the game. MacDonald will be backed up by Kyle Aquin (Hamilton) who has 15 goals on the season and Alistair Warren (Toronto) with 10, while Alex Crepinsek (Oakville), with 56 GB’s and 7 CT’s will be counted on to control the midfield.
Trinity vs. Tufts – Trinity is in tough against perennial favorite Tufts but Jeff Hebert (Cornwall), with 17 goals will be expected to bring his A game if Trinity is to upset.
Gettysburg vs. Stevenson – Gettysburg will be led by Team Captain Matt McMurray (Orangeville), a strong athletic middy who plays a variety of roles for the Bullets.
Games upcoming – There are two NCAA playoff games being played close to the Canadian border. They are both on Saturday and the first sees Mercyhurst host Dowling in Div II action and the second sees RIT host Western New England College in Div III play. Both games are roughly 2 hours drive from Toronto.
Final Thoughts – Its playoff time and the games speak for themselves.
Yours in lacrosse – J.P. Donville