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July 2, 2010

Shirk excited for opportunity at Washington College

Jeff Shirk knows he will encounter the upcoming question – why would a coach make the transition from Division I Virginia Military Institute to Division III Washington College? – and he already has an answer.

"The honest response is that it’s a much better job from a financial standppoint with how they support the program, from alumni support, all the way down the checklist," Shirk said Wednesday from his office on the Washington campus in Chestertown, Md. "So it was definitely a career move, and that’s not to say that VMI was a bad job. But in coaching, I think you’re always trying to move up the chain and in the lacrosse world, Washington College is a much better job than VMI. That’s nothing against VMI. So it was definitely a good career choice and for my family."

Shirk, who had spent the previous four years as the Keydets head coach, succeeds J.B. Clarke, who resigned on May 12 and was named the new head coach at Division II Limestone Monday afternoon.

Shirk said he was recommended to Washington athletic director Bryan Matthews by Navy coach Richie Meade, and Shirk said he was interested in the position as he talked to Matthews before Memorial Day.

"It was very high right off the start," Shirk said of his level of interest. "But I will say that as soon as I stepped on campus for my interview and saw everything about Washington College and had a chance to meet a bunch of the alumni and the players and had a chance to speak with the new president, that level of interest skyrocketed."

Shirk inherits a Shoremen team that went 4-10 this past season, has missed three of the last four NCAA Tournaments, and lost to Gettysburg in five straight Centennial Conference Tournament finals since last winning the championship in 2003.

Still, Shirk, who guided VMI to a 13-46 record, said his priority is to revive a Washington program that captured the NCAA title in 1998.

"We want to win, and we want to win the right way," he said. "I think everybody – whether it’s alumni or administration – at Washington College is on the exact same page where I am and understands that it’s going to be a process. We’re going to have to work very hard, but we expect to win and I like that. Washington College is not asking the lacrosse program to win without giving it any of the tools that are needed to win. They’re saying, ‘Here are the tools. Let’s go do it.’ And that makes me very excited about where we want to take this. I want to win sooner than later, but I know it’s going to be a process. But that’s something that we’re definitely going to attack and hopefully bring back the Washington College of old."

Posted by Edward Lee at 10:00 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Washington

Review & preview: Three teams flying under the radar for 2011

The past four days have featured a premature attempt at the 2011 preseason poll. Friday’s entry includes three teams that did not finish above .500 and missed the tournament this past season. But what they do have is intrigue in either the form of returning players, a new head coach or a campaign that just fell short of the tournament. In alphabetical order, the teams flying under the radar are:

Albany (2010 record: 5-11)

Outlook: The Great Danes advanced to the America East Tournament final, but were never at full strength after sophomore attackman Joe Resetarits was sidelined after five games because of a broken foot. The return of Resetarits, who led the team in scoring with 13 goals and three assists at the time, should more than make up for the graduation of attackman Dave Brock (34, 6). Add the presence of junior attackman Brian Caufield (10, 22) and incoming Under Armour All American Miles Thompson, and offense doesn’t appear to be an issue for Albany. The defense looks just as solid with junior defensemen Mike Banks (21 groundballs and 10 caused turnovers) and Scott Raffensperger (24 GBs, 6 CTs), fifth-year senior long-stick midfielder Mark Kelly (46 GBs, 26 CTs) and sophomore goalkeeper John Carroll (11.33 goals-against average and .514 save percentage).

Jacksonville (6-7)

Outlook: In their first year in Division I, the Dolphins defeated a pair of eventual NCAA Tournament participants in Denver and Mount St. Mary’s and dropped three one-goal contests. Next season, the team joins the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (replacing Mount St. Mary’s) and immediately should challenge the likes of Siena and Canisius for league supremacy. Jacksonville does bid farewell to goalie Brad Hester (11.32 GAA, .503 save percentage), but that’s the only starter who is gone. An offense that finished eighth in the country in scoring with 12 goals per game could be even more prolific, and a starter that emerges from a goaltending pool that includes junior Alex Discala, sophomore Brendan Niklason and freshmen Nick Antonicci and Mark Destro will be complemented by a starting defense of sophomore Jake Ziegler (22 GBs, 16 CTs) and freshmen Cory Lovrich (23 GBs, 10 CTs) and Garrett Swaim (14 GBs, 5 CTs).

Penn State (2-11)

Outlook: The Nittany Lions have often been called a "sleeping giant." It’s now up to former Cornell head coach Jeff Tambroni to awaken the troops and get them playing to their potential. The offense could be much stronger if sophomore attackman Matthew Mackrides (36, 8) doesn’t transfer, but even so, the unit figures to return five of its top six scorers led by a pair of first-year attackmen in Billy Gribbin (23, 8) and Nick Dolik (21, 6). Graduating two face-off specialists hurts, but the defense – anchored by junior defenseman Matt Bernier (23 GBs) and sophomore defenseman Billy Davis (9 GBs) – could be solid. And if there’s one coach who has blasted preseason expectations out of the water, Tambroni may be able to work wonders.

Posted by Edward Lee at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Review & preview

July 1, 2010

Longtime Maryland assistant will not be retained

When Maryland returns for the 2011 season, another familiar face will not be standing on the sideline.

Defensive coordinator Dave Slafkosky confirmed Wednesday that he has not been retained by incoming head coach John Tillman. Slafkosky, who has spent the last 26 years under former Terps coaches Dick Edell and Dave Cottle, said Tillman is bringing Kevin Warne, Tillman’s defensive coordinator at Harvard for the past three years.

"So I’m out the door," Slafkosky said. "In fact, today is my last day. I’m out there looking for another job. It could be interesting. I haven’t done this in a long time. I had a pretty long career at Maryland. I was hoping to end it there, but I guess those plans won’t work out that way."

Slafkosky joins Cottle as former Terps. Cottle stepped down as head coach on May 16, one day after No. 3 seed Maryland was upset by unseeded Notre Dame in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals.

A former Johns Hopkins midfielder who helped the Blue Jays capture the 1974 national championship in his senior year, Slafkosky said he wasn’t shocked by Tillman’s decisions, which also includes retaining assistant coach Ryan Moran.

"Twenty-seven years ago when they hired Dick Edell [from Army where Edell and Slafkowsky began working together], I came down with him," Slafkosky said. "That’s how the cycle goes. I’m really glad they kept Ryan. I would’ve loved to have been the other guy, too, but out of all the young guys I’ve worked with, I think he’s going to be a heck of a lacrosse coach. I think John made the right decision there."

Under Slafkosky, the defense finished the 2010 season ranked ninth in Division I, surrendering just 8.4 goals per game. The Terps also ranked first in the country in caused turnovers, forcing 11.4 per contest.

Slafkosky said he doesn’t know what’s in store for him for the immediate future. His youngest son Alex, a defenseman, finished his freshman year at Maryland, and Slafkosky, who lives in Catonsville, said he prefers to stay within the area.

Slafkosky said he is planning to interview for an undisclosed vacant Division III position and could coach on the high school level, but after that, the future is uncertain.

"I don’t know. I’ve got a couple things, but nothing definite," he said. "I talked about something a week ago, but nothing happened. I guess it was bad luck talking about what I had hoped to do. I’m lucky. I’ve had so many people call me up and try to push for me. And I tell them, ‘Don’t push that hard.’ Sometimes if you get too many people pushing, people back off."

Posted by Edward Lee at 10:00 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Maryland

Review & preview: Premature 2011 poll part 4

Here is the fourth installment of an attempt at a preseason and premature poll for next season.

The top 20 was broken up into four installments with Thursday’s post involving teams ranked from Nos. 5 to 1. Monday featured Nos. 20 to 16, Tuesday Nos. 15 to 11 and Wednesday Nos. 10 to 6. Friday will include three schools not mentioned in the poll that could make some waves.

Unless there are confirmed reports about certain players planning to use fifth years of eligibility, this space will assume that seniors in 2010 will not return next year. Unannounced fifth-year seniors and potential transfers will affect the rankings that come out next February, but here’s a spin anyway.

5. Maryland (2010 record: 12-4; Tournament finish: quarterfinals)

Losses: Two starters in attackman Will Yeatman (15 goals and seven assists) and goalkeeper Brian Phipps (8.20 goals-against average and .556 save percentage) and three key contributors in face-off specialist Bryn Holmes (63 groundballs, 149-of-275 for .542), midfielder Adam Sear (11, 1) and short-stick defensive midfielder Dean Hart (15 GBs).

Returners: Eight starters including the entire starting attack of juniors Grant Catalino (34, 20), Ryan Young (18, 30) and Travis Reed (21, 18) and the entire starting close defense of juniors Brett Schmidt (36 GBs, 28 CTs), Max Schmidt (39 GBs, 21 CTs) and Ryder Bohlander (30 GBs, 19 CTs).

Reason for pessimism: It’s up to redshirt sophomore Mark White, redshirt freshman M.J. Leonard or freshman Niko Amato to succeed Phipps as the starter in the net. That's no easy assignment as none of the three have ever made a start on the collegiate level.

Reason for optimism: An already tough defense also returns a pair of long-stick midfielders in junior Brian Farrell (6, 6; 53 GBs, 26 CTs) and freshman Jesse Bernhardt (2, 2; 34 GBs, 15 CTs) and junior short-stick midfielder Dan Burns (2, 5; 28 GBs).

4. Princeton (11-5; first round)

Losses: Three starters in attackman Rob Engelke (17, 21), midfielder Scott Mackenzie (10, 11) and defenseman Jeremy Hirsch (15 GBs).

Returners: Seven starters including junior attackman Jack McBride (35, 16), freshman midfielders Mike Chanenchuk (28, 8) and Jeff Froccaro (15, 7), junior defenseman Long Ellis (26 GBs, 22 CTs), sophomore defenseman Chad Wiedmaier (12 GBs, 12 CTs) and sophomore goalie Tyler Fiorito (8.58 GAA, .569 save percentage).

Reason for pessimism: Froccaro (44 GBs, 90-of-177 for .508) and sophomore Peter Smyth (25 GBs, 57-of-114 for .500) lead a face-off unit that won just 50.6 percent this past season.

Reason for optimism: With sophomore long-stick midfielder John Cunningham (54 GBs, 13 CTs), sophomore defenseman Jonathan Myers (25 GBs, 11 CTs) and Under Armour All American Robert Posniewski in the fold, the defense should continue to be a strength for the Tigers.

3. North Carolina (13-3; quarterfinals)

Losses: Four starters in midfielders Sean DeLaney (25, 9) and Cryder DiPietro (10, 10), attackman Gavin Petracca (25, 23) and defenseman Michael Jarvis (16 GBs, 21 CTs).

Returners: Six starters in junior attackman Billy Bitter (22, 22), sophomore attackman Thomas Wood (30, 13), sophomore midfielder Jimmy Dunster (17, 13), junior defenseman Ryan Flanagan (51 GBs, 36 CTs), sophomore defenseman Charlie McComas (40 GBs, 14 CTs) and junior goalkeeper Chris Madalon (8.86 GAA, .522 save percentage).

Reason for pessimism: The Tar Heels’ inability to find depth at midfield figures to be an even tougher task with the graduation of DeLaney and DiPietro.

Reason for optimism: Eight Under Armour All Americans – the most of any school – will join the team, including attackman Nick Galasso, the top senior according to Inside Lacrosse.

2. Virginia (16-2; semifinals)

Losses: Three starters in a pair of defensemen in Ken Clausen (56 GBs, 37 CTs) and Ryan Nizolek (31 GBs) and midfielder Brian Carroll (26, 14) and two key contributors in face-off specialist Brian McDermott (43 GBs, 105-of-180 for .583) and short-stick defensive midfielder Mikey Thompson (3, 3; 31 GBs).

Returners: The entire starting attack of sophomores Chris Bocklet (53, 14) and Steele Stanwick (29, 32) and freshman Matt White (19, 14), junior midfielders Shamel Bratton (24, 17) and Rhamel Bratton (23, 8), sophomore defenseman Matt Lovejoy (32 GBs, 13 CTs) and junior goalie Adam Ghitelman (8.24 GAA, .548 save percentage) and a key contributor in junior long-stick midfielder Bray Malphrus (50 GBs, 24 CTs).

Reason for pessimism: Is freshman Chris LaPierre (10, 9; 51 GBs), junior John Haldy (11, 5) or sophomore Colin Briggs (10, 2) poised to join the Brattons on the first midfield line?

Reason for optimism: Finding a defensive leader to replace Clausen will be a challenge, but offense should not be an issue with Bocklet and Stanwick leading the charge.

1. Syracuse (13-2; first round)

Losses: Three starters in attackmen Chris Daniello (28, 25) and Cody Jamieson (28, 13) and defenseman Matt Tierney (31 GBs) and two key contributors in attackman Max Bartig (13, 3) and face-off specialist Gavin Jenkinson (99-of-173 for .572).

Returners: Seven starters including the entire starting midfield of juniors Josh Amidon (14, 13), Jeremy Thompson (15, 8) and Jovan Miller (15, 6), junior defenseman John Lade (32 GBs), freshman defenseman Brian Megill (39 GBs) and junior goalkeeper John Galloway (7.16 GAA, .595 save percentage).

Reason for pessimism: The Orange must find a playmaker to replace Daniello and feed junior attackman Stephen Keogh (31, 5). Could freshman JoJo Marasco (9, 8) fill that void?

Reason for optimism: Scoring goals against a defense that includes junior long-stick midfielder and Tewaaraton Award finalist Joel White (6, 4: 78 GBs) could be an unenviable task for Syracuse’s opponents.

Posted by Edward Lee at 7:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Maryland, Review & preview
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