Despite team's slow start, Mount defense pulls out all the stops

College Lacrosse Notebook

March 11, 2009|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,edward.lee@baltsun.com

Mount St. Mary's men's lacrosse coach Tom Gravante had hoped the team's defense would be solid. He didn't realize the unit would be stellar.

The Mountaineers have lost their first three games but have limited No. 1 Virginia and No. 17 Navy to season scoring lows in 10-2 and 6-2 losses, respectively. Bryant, which averages 11.7 goals, scored just seven times in a one-goal victory Sunday.

One reason is that half of Mount's 14 seniors and juniors occupy that half of the field.

"Most of us have been playing three or four years already," fifth-year defensive midfielder Shaun Moran said. "Since I've been here as a freshman, we've always held ourselves to [allowing] one or two goals a quarter. That's what we've been able to do, and that's what we're going to need to do to win conference games."

Individually, junior defenseman Matt Nealis blanked Virginia senior attackman Danny Glading and Navy junior attackman Tim Paul before Bryant senior attackman Zack Greer posted three goals and an assist.

"I like to be doubted," Nealis said of his motivation against opponents. "I like to have them think that they have something on me, and then I just shut them down. I love that type of challenge."

T.C. DiBartolo (Archbishop Spalding) has a .676 save percentage, but Gravante said he would like to see a little less reliance on the sophomore goalkeeper.

"We never want to make the assumption that T.C. is always going to have a good game," Gravante said. "It's our job to limit the shots that he has to save and hopefully give them shots in areas that are bad-angle shots. We knew that our defense was very mature and very athletic. The way they had been practicing, we were predicting that they would be much better than last year."

Glad to be back

A year ago, a torn labrum and dislocated right shoulder forced Stevenson sophomore attackman Jimmy Dailey to watch from the sideline as the team compiled a 13-4 record and narrowly missed the NCAA Division III tournament.

This season, Dailey leads the No. 3 Mustangs (4-0) with 11 assists and is tied with junior attackman Steve Kazimer for the team lead with 16 points.

"I don't want to say I took anything for granted, but maybe you appreciate playing," said the Westminster-born Winters Mill graduate, who led Stevenson in points (60), goals (32) and assists (28) in 2007. "I wasn't able to play last year, and I think it kind of rejuvenated me a little bit and made me realize how much I like playing."

New role at Hopkins

If sophomore Matt Dolente and junior Michael Powers can't play against No. 2 Syracuse, No. 6 Johns Hopkins could ask freshman Marshall Burkhart to handle a majority of the faceoffs in Saturday's rematch between last year's NCAA tournament finalists.

"We've been practicing all year, especially with Matt going down last week," said Burkhart, who faced off in high school. "It's nothing really new. It's just quicker at this level."

Not satisfied

Sometimes a win isn't just a win. Just ask Navy coach Richie Meade, who took umbrage at his team's defensive effort in a 14-9 victory against Lafayette on Saturday.

"This was probably the worst defensive game I've seen us play in the last four years," Meade told the school's Web site. "I have to give Lafayette credit because [coach] Terry Mangan has done an outstanding job of recruiting some good young talent. But for us to give up nine goals is unacceptable against any opponent. We need to get some things fixed. Offensively we are improving, but today we definitely took a step backwards on the defense."

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