Nassau cruises past Essex for title, 14-2

Injuries take heavy toll on undermanned Knights

College Lacrosse

May 13, 2002|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

CCBC-Essex entered yesterday's National Junior College Athletic Association men's lacrosse national championship game battling injuries to its midfield, tired legs and more than three decades of tradition.

Given that, a 14-2 loss at CCBC-Catonsville to perennial-power Nassau (N.Y.) Community College didn't come completely by surprise. For the Knights (11-5), however, even palatable excuses didn't ease the pain.

"When you're playing against a team that can pick from 100 or 200 schools on Long Island with all great lacrosse players, it's a little tough," Essex coach Tim Puls said. "These guys are a tremendous team. Everything they do is so fundamentally strong. They wear you down. They constantly work you and shut you off defensively."

Nassau (18-1) won its fourth straight national title and 20th overall since 1970, all under coach Rich Speckmann. The Lions did it by outshooting Essex 56-21 and winning 11 of 16 faceoffs, even though faceoff specialist Shane Ferraro was playing with a partially separated shoulder.

Sophomore goalkeeper Nick Demeo made seven saves, spearheading a defense that kept Essex out of the offensive end for most of the game.

"You've got to be able to stop people, then if you can't stop them you'd better win the faceoff," Speckmann said. "Demeo and Shane have done it for us all year. They're probably two of the most valuable players on the team."

It's a deep team, one that wanted to wear down Essex by using frequent substitutions. The Knights, whose roster included just over half as many players, were coming off a draining 16-15 double-overtime win over Herkimer County Community College on Friday.

"We were going to throw as many [players] as we could at them," Speckmann said. "We wanted to keep the tempo up, and they tried to slow it down. I think our style won."

The Lions took the lead just 21 seconds into the game, on a drive from behind the net by attackman Robert Miller. They scored again, but Erik Austin's shot from 30 feet with 19 seconds left in the first quarter made it 2-1.

From there, however, it was all Nassau.

Led by sophomore Brendan Morgan (three goals, two assists) and four other players with two goals each, the Lions scored 12 unanswered goals in the next 40 minutes.

"When you don't have a lot of numbers ... and they keep subbing guys, it hurts us," said Puls, whose team was seeking its second national title and first since 1991. "It's no excuse, but we've got a lot of guys hurt. We were drawing some plays in the sand yesterday trying to get things readjusted."

Two of Essex's top midfielders, Matt Warfield and Joe Trentzch, both out of Fallston, were among the walking wounded. Trentzch played with a dislocated elbow. That left the Knights with five healthy midfielders to run against Nassau's 12.

"We have more subs and we have more players, so we knew that in the second half we were going to run them into the ground," said Morgan, adding the team's storied history helped drive his teammates. "It's all about representing Long Island. We're not the best students, but we're just as good lacrosse players as anyone in the country at the college level."

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