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March 27, 2008

Ambivalent in Annapolis

Tommy Phelan has no idea whether he will start in the net when No. 3 Navy plays host to No. 7 Georgetown on Saturday at 5 p.m. But that’s not stopping the junior goalkeeper from preparing as if he will.

"I’m definitely going into it planning to start and doing what I have to do to get ready," he said. "I have to play as if I’m the No. 1 goalie."

Phelan’s uncertainty about his status is based on whether junior Matt Coughlin’s injured right hamstring will have healed enough. Coughlin, who tweaked the hamstring in the Midshipmen’s 4-3 overtime win against Bucknell eight days ago, was held out by coach Richie Meade in favor of Phelan, who recorded 13 saves in his first career start against Colgate on Sunday.

Meade said Coughlin’s status is "a day-by-day" process and that he would likely wait until gameday before announcing the starting goalkeeper.

"It’s not a big deal to us," Meade said. "The way our organization is set up, anyone can play at any position at any time. … It’s a good problem to have. Both are playing well, and we could win with either one."

While not as physically imposing or gifted as the 6-foot-2, 209-pound Coughlin, the 5-9, 182-pound Phelan was lauded by Meade for his calm, confident presence in the cage against the Raiders. The Loyola graduate’s outlet passes were crisp, and he had no trouble directing the defense, according to Meade.

"It was definitely everything I thought it would be," Phelan said of his first career start. "Competing with Matt every day in practice, I got that feeling back that I had in my senior year in high school. I was just playing the game and watching the ball."

Whether Phelan or Coughlin starts in the net, Navy is going to need a strong outing from its goalkeeper against a Hoyas offense that ranks 11th in the country in scoring with an 11.5 goals-per-game average.

"We have such a strong team that we could play with any of our goalies," Phelan said. "Hopefully, Matt will heal well, but I definitely plan on being the starter."

Posted by Edward Lee at 3:53 PM | | Comments (1)

March 26, 2008

Leftovers from Bucknell-Towson

Throughout his playing career at Albemarle (Va.) High School and Essex Community College, Towson goalkeeper Billy Sadtler had never registered an assist.

In Towson's 12-10 loss to No. 16 Bucknell last night, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior became the first Tigers goalie to post two assists in a single game. Sadtler's first assist was a bullet of at least 60 yards to senior attackman Jonathan Engelke, whose goal tied the score at four with 7:44 in the second quarter.

"They were 10-man riding, and in my head I had about a 17-second count on the 20," Sadtler said. "So I decided that I would look it off. I saw Jon down in the corner. I looked it off and I just threw it. I guess it went right into his stick and he scored. So that was pretty good."

Sadtler's second helper ended the third quarter when he launched another bomb to junior midfielder Randall Cooper, who beat Bison junior goalkeeper Nick Sciubba from the doorstep with one second left.

"That was actually my first time," Sadtler said. "When I was at Essex, I don’t think I had any assists. I’m not going to lie. That might have been my first and second right there."

Other notes:

* Towson's first 1-5 start since 2000 has been marked by an inability to get an early lead. Bucknell sophomore attackman Austin Winter's goal 1:38 into the first quarter meant that the Tigers have surrendered the first goal of the game in all six contests this season.

* Towson has not enjoyed a lead at halftime in any game this season. The Tigers' best halftime showing was a 7-7 tie with then-No. 2 Virginia on March 15.

* Engelke's 93rd career goal vaulted him into seventh place past Brad Reppert (1998, 2000-02) on the program's all-time goals list. Engelke is only four goals away from leapfrogging Bob Griebe (1972-75) for sixth place.

Posted by Edward Lee at 10:34 AM | | Comments (1)

March 25, 2008

Maryland's Reynolds exceeding expectations -- even his own

Just 13 months removed from tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, redshirt junior midfielder Jeff Reynolds is playing without pain or hesitation, and the results are notable.

The Calvert Hall graduate ranks third on No. 8 Maryland (6-2 overall and 1-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) with 11 goals and sixth in points despite not having an assist. Reynolds' resurgence included his first career hat trick in the Terps' 13-8 victory over then-No. 3 North Carolina on Saturday.

"I don't know if I expected to do this well, but I'm very happy with it," he said yesterday. "A lot of opportunities have been presented to me, and I've tried to take advantage of them."

Reynolds has a passion for lacrosse. Days after undergoing surgery to repair the ACL he tore in a game against Vermont on Feb. 20, 2007, Reynolds was practicing his stickwork. And after years honing his craft as a defensive midfielder, he embraced the coaching staff's suggestion to making him an offensive middie.

"I like playing on offense," Reynolds said. "I like that role. It's another part of my game I want to improve."

Reynolds and the rest of his Maryland teammates will get a crack at knocking off a top-ranked team when No. 1 Virginia visits Byrd Stadium in College Park on Saturday at noon. That only adds to the already-building excitement whenever the Terps and Cavaliers clash.

"It's always a huge game," Reynolds said. "The fact that they're No. 1 really motivates us to practice hard this week and pay attention to detail. ... I think we have a good team here. If we do what we do best, we can come out on top." 

Posted by Edward Lee at 10:48 AM | | Comments (0)

March 20, 2008

Status quo at Bucknell ... for now

Bucknell junior goalkeeper Matt Antonelli said he is prepared to return to the bench and watch junior Nick Sciubba from the sidelines despite posting 11 saves and allowing only two goals in the No. 16 Bison’s 4-3 overtime loss to No. 4 Navy yesterday.

"Sciubba’s our starting goalie," said Antonelli, an Archbishop Spalding graduate. "He’s an awesome goalie, and I was just glad that I was able to get on the field and give us a little boost there."

There’s certainly plenty of reasons why Bucknell should start Sciubba against No. 19 Towson Tuesday. Sciubba led all Division I goalkeepers in goals-against average (6.24) and save percentage (.641) last season. Despite being on the losing end of 16-4 drubbing by Duke in the season opener, Sciubba has registered decent numbers in goals-against average (7.87) and save percentage (.531).

Antonelli, who has a worse goals-against average (8.70) but a higher save percentage (.633) than Sciubba, said he would understand a decision to send him back to the bench.

"It’s definitely a difficult situation to be in, but again, Sciubba’s an awesome goalie," Antonelli said. "I’ve got all of the respect in the world for him, and I know the feeling’s mutual. Me and him battle it out all the time. I love to see him in there doing well, and I’m sure he likes to see me in there doing well. Hopefully, in the next game, he’ll come out and have a great game. If not, I’ll be ready to go and make the play."

Coach Frank Fedorjaka said Sciubba would likely start against the Tigers, but kept his options open.

"We’re not going to pull the plug on a guy who has a couple of rough moments, but it was something I’ve seen coming for a couple weeks now," Fedorjaka said. "And again, Antonelli is very good. It took us all of last year to figure out who was better. Our goalies need to play well or the other one is going to get the opportunity. But Sciubba will probably be our guy on Tuesday. But if I was Towson, I’d get ready for both of them."

Posted by Edward Lee at 10:45 AM | | Comments (0)

March 16, 2008

Leftovers from Virginia-Towson

As pleased as Towson coach Tony Seaman was with his team's offensive fireworks in Saturday's 18-13 loss to No. 2 Virginia, he was even more frustrated by the Tigers' troubles on the defensive end.

No. 15 Towson never led against the Cavaliers, and every time the Tigers caught up, Virginia pulled away again. Four times, Towson tied the score, and each time the Cavaliers regained the lead.

Seaman was especially irked by the play of seniors Billy Sadtler and Matt Antol in the net. Sadtler played brilliantly in the first half, turning away nine shots. But he gave up the first four goals of Virginia's 5-0 run to begin the third quarter, and Sadtler and Antol rotated in and out throughout the remainder of the contest.

"I didn’t see a goalie in there for Towson," Seaman said. "I don’t know who was in there. It was like a ghost."

Sadtler, who stood a few feet away from Seaman and heard his coach's comments, seemed equally distraught over his performance.

"I needed to make a couple saves and I didn’t," Sadtler said. "I just tried to watch the ball and make a save. I wasn’t able to do that in the second half."

Sadtler was unimpressed when it was pointed out that he was the first Tigers goalkeeper this season to start both halves of the same game. "It definitely made me feel good, but then I didn’t get the job done," he said. "Now I’m sure he’s [Seaman] second-guessing his decision."

Other notes:

* Virginia was tied with Towson, 7-7, at the half, but a visitor to the Cavaliers locker room might have inferred that the team was losing by 10 goals. "Everybody was sort of hanging their heads in the locker room at halftime and you felt like it was a disaster in there," coach Dom Starsia said with a smile. "I said, ‘Fellas, it’s tied here at the half. We can go out and play better. Put a little smile on your face. Let’s get to work here.’"

* The Tigers' highest output of the season impressed Starsia and some of the Virginia players. Towson scored seven goals on 13 shots in the first half and 13 goals on 36 shots for the game. Two players -- senior attackman Jonathan Engelke and junior attackman Bill McCutcheon -- recorded hat tricks , and two more -- senior midfielder Adam Hagelin and sophomore midfielder Eric Boyle -- posted two goals apiece. "They work a very good team offense," Cavaliers senior attackman Ben Rubeor said. "I was very impressed by how well they passed the ball. They have guys that can challenge you enough on the dodge that you have to double them and they made some great feeds, especially to the inside. And those inside guys are really good at handling the ball and putting it away."

Posted by Edward Lee at 1:43 PM | | Comments (0)

March 13, 2008

Dallas: home of cowboys, steaks and... lacrosse?

Don’t scoff. For the second straight season, Dallas, Tex., is the site of a Patriot League showdown between Navy and Holy Cross.

The teams will play in Texas Stadium, home of the NFL’s Cowboys, as part of the 2008 Patriot Cup on Saturday. The No. 6 Midshipmen (5-1) and Holy Cross (3-2) will play at 1 p.m., and No. 18 Army (2-2) and Rutgers (1-2) will tangle at 4 p.m.

"Our administration doesn’t like to lose home games, but it’s a great event," Navy coach Richie Meade said, noting that proceeds from the games will benefit Wounded Warrior, a non-profit organization aiding soldiers injured during conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations. "It’s going to be a great opportunity for us to play in a big venue in the state of Texas, which is becoming a legitimate state for lacrosse."

Holy Cross coach Adam Pascal agreed, adding, "It’s an opportunity to play in front of a different audience. It gets us some exposure, and I thought the kids would love the chance to play in Texas Stadium."

Midshipmen senior attackman Gregory Clement, who hails from Dallas, said lacrosse is being well-received by Texas locals.

"The last time I saw, there were 60 lacrosse programs in Texas, and that was a few years ago," he said. "I’m sure it’s more than that now. Kids are quitting football to play lacrosse. Sure, it’s not as big as football, but it’s growing."

Posted by Edward Lee at 10:54 AM | | Comments (1)

March 10, 2008

No joy from Johns Hopkins

Just got off the phone with Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala, who is still steamed about the Blue Jays' 8-7 overtime loss to Hofstra on Saturday.

Asked if he has had time to digest Johns Hopkins' first loss in four games this season, Pietramala said, "You don't digest that. I'm upset. I felt like we allowed an opportunity to slip by. As poorly as we played, we still had an opportunity to win, and that's the hard part."

What was particularly agonizing to Pietramala was his team's seemingly lackadaisical start. The Pride won seven of 10 faceoffs in the first quarter en route to scoring six goals against Johns Hopkins in that period. But after that quarter, the Blue Jays won six of nine faceoffs and kept Hofstra from scoring another goal for a 45-minute period spanning the second, third and fourth quarters.

"We didn't all of a sudden invent an unbelievable defense or an unbelievable offense," Pietramala said. "We just played smarter. ... Simply put, We didn't match Hofstra's intensity in the beginning."

The Blue Jays' slow start against Hofstra mirrored the team's beginning against UMBC last Tuesday. The Retrievers scored the game's first two goals, but Johns Hopkins rebounded and won, 10-8.

"You have to be concerned because that means that the team is not coming out of the locker room ready to play, and that's on the players and the coaches," Pietramala said. "Our mental outlook in the first two games has been different from the last two games, and that's something that we have to focus on."

Posted by Edward Lee at 10:40 AM | | Comments (3)

March 5, 2008

Leftovers from Johns Hopkins-UMBC

A few observations of note from the No. 1 Blue Jays' 10-8 decision against the Retrievers last night:

1. UMBC did everything it could to lessen Johns Hopkins senior attackman Kevin Huntley's impact. The Retrievers stuck 6-foot-3, 220-pound sophomore defenseman Matt Kresse on Huntley (5-10, 190), and every time Huntley touched the ball, another defender would join Kresse. Huntley, who had scored nine goals in the Blue Jays' first two contests, finished with zero goals and zero points. "They did a great job," coach Don Zimmerman said of his defense. "Coach [Pat] Tracy [who works with the defense] had the game plan. I thought we had good matchups."

2. Blue Jays sophomore midfielder Michael Kimmel said the players weren't overly worried at halftime when the score was tied at five. Kimmel said the team absorbed confidence from coach Dave Pietramala, who did not overreact in the locker room. "Everyone's so good that you can't expect to go up big on everyone," Kimmel said. "He just told us to keep playing and keep working."

3. Asked if Pietramala didn't peel the paint off the walls during halftime, Kimmel replied, "He's been keeping it cool nicely. It's been nice." 

4. Johns Hopkins' 12-game winning streak is the second-longest under Pietramala and fifth of at least eight games during Pietramala's tenure. Senior midfielder Paul Rabil's two goals and an assist extended his consecutive games streak with at least a point to 19.

5. And as pointed out by reader John Herold, I neglected to put the teams' records in the game story in my haste to beat The Sun's deadline. The Blue Jays improved to 3-0, while UMBC dropped to 1-3.

Posted by Edward Lee at 10:34 AM | | Comments (0)

March 3, 2008

Cottle not pleased with UM's faceoffs

As overpowering as No. 5 Maryland was in today's win against visiting Providence -- a 13-5 final score, a 49-14 shot advantage and a 42-22 demolition in groundballs -- coach Dave Cottle continues to be less than pleased with his team's faceoff prowess.

Although seven players -- led by senior Will Dalton (who won 4 of 4 faceoffs) and junior Jeff Reynolds (3 of 3) -- helped the Terps claim 15 of 20 faceoffs today, that rate pushed Maryland just over the 50 percent mark (47 of 93) for the season. Prior to today's contest, the Terps had won just 43.8 percent (32 of 73) of their faceoffs.

"Our wing and faceoff play is not good," Cottle said. "There are a lot of 50-50 balls we're not getting on the wing and faceoffs. I think our faceoff men are doing a better job with the faceoffs, but when it becomes a 50-50 groundball, I think the other team's getting it."

Cottle said he plans to continue rotating junior Jason Carter and sophomore Brian Phipps in the net. "We're trying to figure out who our guy is right now," Cottle said. "We can't be a 50 percent save percentage team. We have to be in the 60s and we're not there yet." Maryland's save percentage is 47.6 percent.

Posted by Edward Lee at 9:21 PM | | Comments (0)

No rest for Towson

The Tigers may have escaped Sunday with their first victory of the season, but that doesn't mean that coach Tony Seaman was entirely happy with what he saw.

For the second time in as many games, Towson began Sunday's contest against No. 20 Denver with a 3-0 deficit, matching the hole the Tigers dug themselves in against No. 14 Loyola on Feb. 23.

Unlike the game against the Greyhounds, Towson eventually rebounded and defeated the Pioneers, 10-9. As for the early deficits, Tigers coach Tony Seaman was at a loss for words.

"I haven't got an answer for you," he said. "We missed the shots that could've put us ahead, and then we turn the ball over. I think everyone was pretty tight [Sunday]. We knew we should've won last week, and we know we're supposed to beat Denver. You're a little tighter, gripping your stick a little tighter and throwing the ball away. We've got to handle that."

Added senior attackman Jonathan Engelke: "We couldn't shoot in the first quarter. I couldn't shoot in the first quarter. But we picked it up in the second half and got the 'W.' That's all that matters."

Finally, Seaman said he will continue using the arrangement of seniors Billy Sadtler and Matt Antol each getting a half against No. 5 Maryland on Saturday. Both players have registered nine saves, but Antol's goals against average is lower (10.0 to Sadtler's 12.0) and he was credited with Towson's win against Denver.

"They both did well today," Seaman said. "Neither one was great, but neither one was bad."

Posted by Edward Lee at 12:31 PM | | Comments (1)
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Faceoff is The Baltimore Sun's blog devoted to college and high school lacrosse. Faceoff contributors include Sun reporters Edward Lee, Mike Preston and Katherine Dunn.

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