Review & preview: Frostburg State men's lacrosse

A look at the 2014 season for the Bobcats and a glimpse into 2015

June 16, 2014|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

Here is the fourth installment of a series that checks in with the eight Division III programs in the state to give a glimpse into the past and the future. Teams are scheduled to appear according to the chronological order in which their seasons ended. Friday’s visit was with McDaniel. Monday’s visit is with Frostburg State.

REVIEW

The good: After setting a program record with 11 wins in 2013, the Bobcats improved on that mark with 13 victories this past spring. Included in that 13-5 record was a 4-3 mark in the Capital Athletic Conference and their first win in the league tournament – a 17-9 throttling of 2013 tournament champion St. Mary’s on April 23. It was a welcomed departure from last year’s 11-6 loss to Mary Washington in the same round of the CAC tournament.

“We’re continuing to achieve things that we never achieved before, which means we’re getting better every year,” coach Tommy Pearce said. “This year, we made it to the conference semifinals and we thought we improved our record a little bit even though we made our schedule a little bit harder. Even in some of the games we lost, we lost to teams primarily ranked in the Top 20, and we thought we hung pretty well with those teams. So we think we’re right there.”

**Experienced veterans like junior defensemen Zach Burkhardt (45 ground balls and 34 caused turnovers) and Paul Newman (27 GB, 21 CT) anchored a defense that was much improved, lowering its average to 7.4 goals after allowing 8.9 in 2013. Pearce credited the defense’s progress to the development of the team’s stable of short-stick defensive midfielders headed by senior Zach Douglas (one goal, two assists, 58 ground balls and six caused turnovers) and sophomore Erik Geiser (54 GB, 7 CT).

“I think last year at this time, we were talking about how we had to get better at short-stick defensive midfield because every time guys were dodging, we had to slide and that really compromised our defense a whole lot,” Pearce recalled. “We spent a lot of time on that in the fall and early in the winter, and we kind of told those guys that if they were going to get on the field as D-middies, they had to have great footwork, and we gave those guys what we thought were some good agility drills for them to work on in the winter. We think that was a huge area for us this year in terms of not having to slide every time a team dodged against our short-sticks, and that made our team defense a little more steady.”

**Not to be outdone, the offense upped its season average to 12.3 goals after scoring 11.7 per game in 2013. Six players finished with at least 21 goals and three more each chipped in 10 goals or more. Pearce credited a deeper midfield with relieving some of the pressure from the attack.

“We’ve had some guys develop some chemistry,” he said. “In the first several years, our midfields were primarily juniors and sophomores. So those guys have been playing together for two or three years and have gotten really good at playing with each other.”

The bad: Two of Frostburg State’s five losses came via CAC rival Salisbury, which eventually advanced to the NCAA tournament final. The Sea Gulls stopped the Bobcats in the league tournament semifinals with a 12-6 victory that was fueled by a fourth quarter in which Salisbury scored all four of the period’s goals and converted 2-of-5 extra-man opportunities. Pearce acknowledged that a prime opportunity slipped through the team’s collective fingers.

“Our guys were really excited going into that fourth quarter, but maybe a little too excited because we spent a lot of time in the penalty box in the fourth quarter,” he said. “And with a team like Salisbury where they know how to protect the lead, if you start playing man down and giving them man-up opportunities, that’s going to go in their favor because they’re pretty good at controlling situations. We certainly think that was a game we were in going into the fourth quarter, and I really hope that with the way the fourth quarter went, if we’re going to be in a game like that the next time, that’s not the way to go out.”

**As improved as the offense was, the unit still had its fair share of troubles. Pearce noted that there were times when players would fire shots just seconds into offensive possessions and either a save by the opposing goalkeeper or a lapse in backing up the shot would turn into transition chances for the opponent. Pearce said the team has to learn from those mistakes.

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