LI Pulse: Empire Of Riches

July 1, 2010

Long Island Pulse magazine July 2010 issue featuring Empire of Riches: Long Island lacrosse at the Empire State Games.

Long Island Pulse magazine July 2010 issue featuring Empire of Riches: Long Island lacrosse at the Empire State Games.

Title: Empire of Riches: Long Island lacrosse’s Empire State Games opens doors and as a tradition, is second to none
Publication: Long Island Pulse magazine
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: July 2010
Start Page: 42
Word Count: 1,059

Max Seibald is one of the most recognizable names in lacrosse.

Just in the last year the 22-year-old midfielder was chosen second overall in the 2009 Major League Lacrosse draft, led Cornell to the NCAA title game and won the Tewaaraton Trophy as the college player of the year.

Yet his rise from unknown high schooler to elite prospect seemingly happened overnight at the Empire State Games, New York’s annual Olympic-style festival. Earning a roster spot on the Long Island scholastic boys’ lacrosse team is a sure ticket to stardom.

Look no further than Seibald, who tried out after a strong junior season at Hewlett High School. But he was among 500 other Long Island hopefuls vying for 20 spots in June 2004. Seibald auditioned the previous summer and was cut the first day. What were the odds a kid with only moderate Division III interest could turn heads and land a job?

“Coming back the next year, it was intimidating,” Seibald said. “You see college coaches on the sidelines. It motivated you but also made you grip the stick a little bit tighter. This was my first experience at this level and I wanted to make things happen.”

Seibald not only made the team, he starred. His roommate on the road that summer? Notre Dame goalie Scott Rodgers, a Wantagh native and MVP of the 2010 NCAA Tournament.

Empires put Seibald on a new trajectory. On the first day college coaches could make contact, the Hewlett teen received an early-morning phone call that woke him up. Then-Princeton coach Bill Tierney was on the other end. The offers came pouring in from there.

That’s the Empire effect.

“It’s been a springboard for kids to get into college,” longtime ESG lacrosse coordinator George Fox said. “There were some kids who have made this team that were surprises. And there were some kids expected to make this team who didn’t.”

Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala agreed. Before he grew into one of the great defensemen in lacrosse history and won two national titles as a coach, Pietramala was an unassuming junior at St. Mary’s High School. Then he earned a spot on the inaugural 1984 Empire State Games squad.

“I wouldn’t be sitting where I am right now if I hadn’t played in the Empires,” said Pietramala, who was recruited to Johns Hopkins as a player only after his ESG performance. “That’s the God’s honest truth. I would have never gone to Johns Hopkins.”

The Empire State Games resumes in Buffalo from July 21-25 after a one-year hiatus forced by recession fears and a state-wide budget crunch. The event draws 7,000 teenaged and adult athletes in 33 sports and has been a summer staple since Gov. Hugh Carey opened the first Games in 1978.

These Games are more cash conscious than ever before. Buffalo area businesses pledged $1.1 million in cash and in-kind support. And for the first time, ESG decided to charge athletes a $10 registration fee.

While some grumble whether the Empire State Games should even move forward at a time when the state threatened to close parks, others are glad to see the Games back. They are a rite of passage, especially in the lacrosse community.

For lacrosse players, the void was filled by the Long Island Showcase Games, an event sponsored by the Nassau and Suffolk coaches associations. As much attention as it garnered for the sport, the Showcase couldn’t replicate the Empire experience.

“I was disappointed. But I was disappointed for Long Island,” Sachem North coach Jay Mauro said. He was a former player and now he’s the Long Island coach. “This is prestigious. It’s great for the kids. We’ve medaled every year. I’m just glad they brought it back this summer.”

That’s why a record 630 players showed up at ESG boys lacrosse tryouts in 2008, and why another 558 registered to compete for a Long Island roster spot by the end of May. And the alumni? A who’s who of lacrosse greats.

Scholastic girls lacrosse, introduced to the Empire State Games in 2001, has medaled each year and won the last three golds. The girls boast the same talent, if not the tradition.

“It’s really the flagship sport,” Fox said. “It means a lot to the kids to make this team. They realize they are representing Long Island. This is the highest level, a select all-star team in an event that’s been important over the years.”

With Fox at the helm, Long Island’s scholastic boys lacrosse team has developed into an elite program with a demanding schedule that’s served to sharpen any rough edges on the assembled talent. Five days of tryouts in each county were followed by a Top 50 game. The final team was announced with fanfare at Hofstra on June 25th.

Then comes the hard part: A month of practice to go with three out-of-state tournaments. All of it serves as a warm-up to the Games themselves—five games in three grueling days in the heat of summer followed by a medal round at Canisius College in Buffalo.

“That is a high-profile sport on Long Island,” Long Island region director Bob Kenney said. “We are the team to beat. And who knows what it would be like if we had an open team?”

True enough. The 2008 Long Island squad drilled Western, 14-3, in the gold medal game. Rocky Point’s Matt Palasek scored five times and West Islip’s Nicky Galasso, the top prospect in the class of 2010, added a goal and three assists.

To the chagrin of the state’s other five regions, the victory locked up Long Island’s fourth straight gold medal and 15th overall. The scholastic boys have medaled every year since the sport’s inception in 1984, a feat on par with the Harlem Globetrotters.

As if playing for a college scholarship or Long Island pride weren’t enough, the 2010 team has a unique opportunity at history.

“We’ve never won five golds in a row,” Fox said.

One way or another, this collection of talent from every corner of Long Island will turn heads. Whether they bring home gold medallion keepsakes, or a scholarship offer or an unforgettable memory, the Empire State Games experience is rich and lasting.

Another championship for Huntington lacrosse

June 1, 2010

That was Zach Howell holding one corner of the national championship trophy on the field in Baltimore on Monday, mugging for the cameras. The Duke University junior attack was named to the NCAA All-Tournament team after a brilliant postseason capped off with his school crowned champs in men’s lacrosse.

It was a familiar scene. Howell did the same years earlier at Huntington High School. He helped lead another Blue Devils squad to a 63-1 mark and state Class B championships in 2005 and ’06 before losing as a senior in the 2007 state semifinals.

So he’d done this all before. But after scoring two goals and adding an assist as Duke beat Notre Dame in overtime, 6-5, Howell acknowledged this title was even more special.

“I’ll cherish this because I understand now how much hard work it took to get here,” Howell said by phone on Tuesday. “It’s been three years of hard work for me. It was probably the best moment of my life.”

Led by former Hofstra coach John Danowski, Duke knocked off ACC rival and top-ranked Virginia, 14-12, in a wild semifinal. Then the Blue Devils broke through to win their first national title in 14 NCAA Tournament appearances with the thriller over Notre Dame.

Howell was a key figure in each win. He laid the foundation growing up in Huntington. And he never forgot where he came from because he never could shake it. That Huntington squad also featured Rhamel and Shamel Bratton, who are each standouts at the University of Virginia. Stony Brook University senior goalie Charlie Paar helped guide the Seawolves to the NCAA quarterfinals.

In other words, the path to the 2010 NCAA title ran directly through Huntington. First the Brattons took down Stony Brook. Then Howell upset the Brattons in the semifinals.

The Bratton brothers led Huntington to a Suffolk title in basketball in 2006. And with Howell at quarterback, the threesome won a Long Island championship in football in 2005.

“It’s great to see all my buddies from Huntington doing well in college and I’m really proud of those guys,’’ said Howell, who has faced the Brattons seven times now. “We had great careers as high school players and were able to carry that forward.”

Against Notre Dame, no sooner had C.J. Costabile scored off the opening faceoff of OT than Howell dropped his stick and jumped on his Duke teammate. They were quickly bowled over by the entire bench, which rushed onto the field in a wave that crashed into the Notre Dame goal.

“It was really disbelief,” Howell said.

Now Howell, a history major, moves into a long off-season of celebration close to home. He will intern at HSBC Bank in New York City over the summer.

No doubt he’ll also get together with a few of his former high school teammates. With each passing season, that Huntington lacrosse dynasty looks more and more special. They can reminisce about the glory days of years gone by. And they can take heart in the fact that the glory lives on.

Blog originally posted at LI

Division II Lacrosse’s Postseason Problem

May 24, 2010

C.W. Post and Le Moyne will face off to decide the national championship in Division II men’s lacrosse, but how these schools got there has generated as much buzz as the games themselves. That’s because lacrosse coaches from the Division II ranks are pushing for an expanded NCAA Tournament field after a one-loss team was shut out of the postseason.

It began on selection Sunday, May 9. Teams across the East Coast gathered to see the bracket announced live by CBS Sports. For Division II, it meant a late night and disappointment for most of the schools watching. The NCAA Division II Tournament in men’s lacrosse extends bids to just four schools. Six get in to the D-II women’s bracket.

This season saw more parity than any previous. There were 13 teams at the D-II level with a .643 winning percentage or better, including five one-loss programs. So someone deserving was going to be shut out.

The bracket flashed across the screen some time after 10:30 p.m. To the elation of the players, coaches and fans at C.W. Post (14-1) and Dowling (12-1), their respective seasons were still very much alive. Limestone (12-1) and Le Moyne (14-1) also earned bids.

That left the players huddled together at Mercyhurst College – a small, Catholic liberal arts school in Erie, Pa. – stunned. After all, Mercyhurst went 13-1, a .929 winning percentage, and led D-II with 374 points. The Lakers beat Dowling and suffered their lone loss, 11-9, to defending national champion C.W. Post. Mercyhurst also is the No. 1 D-II team in the latest poll, a computer rating which includes RPI, strength of schedule and quality wins.

Yet their resume was deemed not good enough by the NCAA selection committee.

“I definitely feel like the bride that’s been left at the altar,” Mercyhurst coach Chris Ryan said. “It’s unfortunately the nature of the beast at this time in Division II lacrosse. The question isn’t why are we left out? It’s more why aren’t we all in?”

Mercyhurst wasn’t alone in asking that question. Long Island schools NYIT (9-4) and Adelphi (10-5) played competitive schedules and won the bulk of their games. They too were denied a chance to compete in the postseason, although they realized weeks earlier an NCAA bid wouldn’t be coming.

“We definitely need expansion,’’ said NYIT coach Bill Dunn, whose program won the national title in 2008 and failed to qualify last season despite a 10-2 record. “The last few years it’s come down to the criteria of a committee. I just think the parity right now in Division II is such that it’s better off playing the games on the field instead of letting a committee decide who is going to get into the NCAA playoffs. It’s absurd to me.”

“We were a couple of goals away from a Final Four bid,” said Adelphi coach Gordon Purdie, whose team lost three games by four goals. “That’s tough to swallow.”

Coaches universally would like to see the NCAA Tournament expand to six (in line with women’s lacrosse) or eight teams. Jeff Jarnecke, assistant director for championships at the NCAA, said the Division II bracket would be reexamined at meetings in July.

One of the proposals for expansion is to realign into two regions – north and south. Three schools from each region would qualify. That wouldn’t really alleviate the problem, according to Dunn. The bulk of the quality lacrosse programs populate the Northeast. So the pool would still be limited. Dunn said a fairer outcome would be two bids from each region followed by two at-large bids.

“There really isn’t a magic number of schools needed at the Division II level for them to look at expansion,” said East Coast Conference commissioner Bob Dranoff, who also is a member of the NCAA Division II Championship Committee. “There are a lot of factors at play when deciding when to expand brackets. I have a feeling it’s going to happen. I just don’t have a timeline on it.”

The snub has forced Ryan to study the case for expansion by comparing it to other sports at the D-II level. He said of 242 baseball teams, 48 get NCAA bids. That’s a 5-1 ratio. The curve in basketball is even less with 64 bids split between 289 teams (a 4.5 ratio). Men’s lacrosse, which has 37 schools and five more on the way in 2011, currently has a ratio of 9.5. And women’s lacrosse suffers from a similar problem.

“Why the inequities?” Ryan said. “It’s unfair. So this isn’t a Mercyhurst problem. This is a Division II men’s and women’s lacrosse problem.”

Jarnecke said one problem unique to men’s and women’s lacrosse is that the sport at the grass roots level is growing at a faster rate than any other. With more colleges starting lacrosse programs, there will be an opportunity to expand the bracket in time. But the time is now, according to people involved with the sport.

“It is time to look at expansion,” Dowling coach Tim Boyle said. “We’re hoping this scenario sparks some conversation with the NCAA. And Division II has come a long ways. I remember the days when there were just two teams. I know they are interested in doing what’s best.”

The controversy this season arose from the competitive nature of the East Coast Conference. Mercyhurst beat Dowling early on. Dowling bounced back to edge C.W. Post. And then C.W. Post beat Mercyhurst. Each loss to a conference rival turned out to be the lone misstep in a great run for C.W. Post, Dowling and Mercyhurst.

But because the East Coast Conference has no postseason tournament, there was no clear way to separate the three teams.

“As much as you can look at Mercyhurst and say, ‘What a shame,’ that conference had an opportunity to create a postseason tournament,’’ Adelphi’s Purdie said. “It gives purpose and meaning for the student athletes to play out the season instead of losing a game or two and wondering what are you playing for at that point.”

Adelphi plays in the Northeast-10 Conference, which has a conference tournament. Interestingly, Merrimack upset Le Moyne, 12-11, in overtime of the Northeast-10 title game but failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. There are no automatic qualifiers. Merrimack finished the season 13-3 and as conference champs. But it’s Le Moyne who is still alive and capable of winning a national championship.

In the case of the ECC, the tournament would have at least provided some level of separation among the three one-loss schools. Budget and travel issues have been the main stumbling blocks for a conference tournament in the past, according Dranoff. Yet after this latest controversy, he admits the ECC will look once again at establishing a postseason tournament.

“There are schools which see it as valuable,” said Dranoff, who is headquartered in Central Islip and is all for an ECC Tournament for men’s and women’s lacrosse. “And from a promotional aspect alone I believe it would be an amazing event here on Long Island. The positives outweigh the negatives, but that’s something the athletic directors have to look at.”

Limited postseason opportunities could have a chilling effect on Division II lacrosse in more profound ways, from scheduling and recruiting to the very viability of programs.

It begins with scheduling. Why fill your non conference schedule with teams capable of beating you if you have to be near perfect to be considered for the postseason?

Adelphi’s Purdie said it’s already happening. The decades-old rivalry between Adelphi and C.W. Post was not renewed. These are two teams who have met in the NCAA title game four times. But when Adelphi moved to the Northeast -10 after last season, the two programs were no longer conference rivals. And the two opted not to schedule one another.

“If you schedule a loss, that’s a season-ender,” Purdie said. “So what you find is that various schools won’t play other schools. For instance, Le Moyne can’t find a game down here on the Island. No team will play them because if they lose to Le Moyne, they are out of the Final Four.”

Recruiting only becomes tougher for a program that’s not already on top. What student athlete wants to go to a school with a limited postseason history and only the slimmest of chances of reaching the NCAA Tournament? And when programs can’t compete, they get cut. School budgets are tighter than ever in this shaky economic climate. Administrators are looking for line item expenses to delete. Look no further than Hofstra football, which was axed in December 2009.

“I got a call from a coach this week,” said Ryan, who has become the unlikely standard bearer for expansion after his team was shut out of the NCAA Tournament. “He said an administrator wanted to know if they had just started a sport that they couldn’t compete in. Now they support the sport fully and they are going forward with it. But that’s not the outlook you want a school to have on a program.”

That’s a troubling sentiment.

While the fight is just beginning to save – and grow – Division II lacrosse, a new national champion will be crowned on the field this week. The NCAA Division II Tournament kicked off Saturday as C.W. Post beat rival Dowling, 9-8, while Le Moyne downed Limestone, 11-7. The title game is May 30 at 3 p.m. at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

“For these four teams to get into the tournament really speaks highly of these four teams,’’ Ryan said. “This is a tough road. We just proved that we had to be perfect this year to get into the tournament.”

Landmark Win For Stony Brook Lacrosse

May 17, 2010

Charlie Paar deflected a point-blank shot, scooped it out of the air and then ran off, far from the shadow of his goal. His teammates gave chase. And for good reason. Paar’s save was the final masterstroke in a landmark victory for the Stony Brook University men’s lacrosse program.

The Seawolves, appearing in just their second-ever NCAA Tournament game, held the visiting Denver Pioneers to just two second-half goals to earn a 9-7 win before a record crowd of 4,262 Saturday at LaValle Stadium.

“The whole team is excited,’’ said Paar, a former Huntington High School standout who recorded five of his nine saves in the fourth quarter. “We don’t know what’s coming next. But we want to keep playing. Every game is something new. It’s uncharted territory.”

Stony Brook (13-3) ran its winning streak to nine in a row and advances to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. The Seawolves host No. 1 Virginia on Sunday, May 23 at 2:30 p.m.

Virginia comes in a big favorite. The Cavaliers were an 18-4 winner over Mount St. Mary’s in the first round and beat the Seawolves, 13-8, in February. Then again, Denver also beat Stony Brook earlier this season and look what happened?

“It’s huge for us as a program,” said former Hauppauge standout Tom Compitello, a senior midfielder. “You come here with high expectations of winning the America East championship, which we got to do this year. And you come here wanting to compete at the highest level. This is a dream come true. This is why you come to Stony Brook.”

Stony Brook has a surprising edge against Virginia. The school was selected before the season to host two NCAA quarterfinal games. Who knew the Seawolves would get a chance to play on the big stage too? Certainly not fourth-year coach Rick Sowell.

“At the beginning of the year, we knew the quarterfinals would be here,’’ Sowell said. “And there was some talk about maybe Stony Brook [might be in the NCAA Tournament], which I couldn’t relate to. For a program that just went to one Tournament, to think that we would get into the Tournament, win and be sitting here as one of the final eight teams – that was just too far off for me to really comprehend. When the whistle went off and we won, I couldn’t believe we did what we did.”

It was a shockingly superb performance, highlighted by the early play of Compitello (three goals) and a fourth-quarter flurry by junior midfielder Kevin Crowley, who was recently named a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award as the national lacrosse player of the year.

With his back to the Denver goal and a flag down, Crowley flicked an over-the-shoulder ball from 10 yards out on the left side. It caught everyone flat-footed and put Stony Brook ahead for good, 7-6, with 11:29 left. He added his third goal of the game to make it 9-7 with 3:37 remaining.

“They’ve got a gorilla and he’s tough to stop,” Denver coach Bill Tierney said. “He had three and they were all big, powerful goals.”

Tierney, a lacrosse legend who got his start coaching at Great Neck South and Levittown Memorial high schools before winning six NCAA championships at Princeton, was complimentary of the Seawolves, from the defense to the coaching.

That’s because Stony Brook played with discipline and fire. As much as Crowley stole the show with his playground goal, the Seawolves held the ball and controlled the tempo. They won 12 of 19 faceoffs and scored twice off them.

“There were times when I first got here I was thinking, ‘How the heck am I going to get this done?’” Sowell said. “Albany was a machine when I first got here. And then UMBC took over the baton. Next thing you know they are winning the league and playing well in the Tournament. We had a lot of work to do.”

Sowell recruited well, set modest goals and everything came together this spring. The team’s lone objective was to reach the America East championship game. Stony Brook not only got there, it won. Now it’s on to the Elite Eight.

The lacrosse program’s first NCAA Division I victory adds to what has been a watershed school year for the entire athletic program. Football finished tied atop the Big South Conference standings, men’s soccer won the America East Tournament and men’s basketball took the regular season title and qualified for the NIT.

“You’re a jock school,” Newsday’s John Jeansonne told Sowell in the post-game press conference.

“It’s becoming that way,” Sowell said and flashed a smile. “I’m just glad to join the party. The basketball team. The soccer team. The football team. This is so much fun. It’s great.”

“We got a good thing going here at Stony Brook,’’ Sowell added. “Get used to it. Because we’re not going away any time soon.”

Blog originally posted at LI

Stony Brook Lacrosse: Charlie Paar’s Big Save

May 10, 2010

Charlie Paar’s path was clear until it wasn’t. The second-generation goalie led Huntington High School to a state boys lacrosse championship as a senior in 2005. And then? He embarked on an odyssey which led him to the brink and back.

Paar is a senior at Stony Brook University, and he fulfilled the promise of a lifetime over the weekend. He was named MVP of the America East men’s lacrosse championship game on Saturday after tying a career-best with 18 saves in goal as the Seawolves beat Albany, 11-7.

The victory also earned Stony Brook its second ever berth in the NCAA Tournament. The 16-team bracket, released Sunday night, awarded the Seawolves the No. 8 seed and a home game. Stony Brook (12-3) will host Denver (12-4) in a first round game Saturday, May 15 at 5 p.m. Tickets are available by calling 631-632-WOLF.

“This is really like a dream,” Paar said.

Dad Mark Paar was a Newsday All-Long Island football player at Huntington and a standout goalie on the lacrosse field. But in 1972, Long Island sports was akin to life on Mars. His father won a county title as a junior, but never had the opportunity to play on the big stage. There was no state tournament.

Little wonder father began coaching up his son as a third grader, passing down his legacy and knowledge to the next generation.

“It all started down at PAL with great coaching,” said Charlie Paar, a history major who wants to teach and coach someday. “The group of people I was with was always strong. And when we got to high school, we won.”

Paar was named a high school All-American after Huntington captured the state Class B crown with a 14-3 thrashing of Jamesville-DeWitt. That’s right. Paar allowed just three goals.

A Division I scholarship awaited him at Towson. But Paar wasn’t ready. He stumbled in the classroom and left college after his freshman year, a missed opportunity that could have marked the end of his lacrosse career.

“My grades weren’t the best,” Paar admitted. “You go from living at home your whole life to living by yourself. It was tough. So I had to come home and do a couple of years at Nassau and straighten out. The grades had to come first. Then lacrosse. It worked out for the best.”

Paar enrolled at Nassau Community College. He stayed two seasons and led Nassau to an NJCAA championship in 2008, where he was named defensive MVP of the tournament. With his classroom obligations finally on track, Paar earned a second chance at big-time lacrosse when Stony Brook offered him another shot at Division I.

The reward? Five years later, Paar is playing for an NCAA title while Towson is not.

Three other Long Island programs reached the postseason this week. Hofstra (9-4) also qualified for the NCAA Tournament and travels to face No. 3 Maryland (11-3) May 15 at noon. In the Division II bracket, defending national champ C.W. Post (14-1) hosts rival Dowling (12-1) in a semifinal on May 22.

If the Seawolves can get past Denver, a possible showdown with No. 1 Virginia awaits in the NCAA quarterfinals. That includes a matchup against two of Paar’s former high school teammates: Rhamel and Shamel Bratton.

“This team reminds me a lot of my senior year at Huntington,” Paar said. “We had never won a Suffolk County championship [since 1975]. We had never won states.”

Stony Brook hadn’t qualified for the NCAA Tournament since 2002, its last America East championship season. After his junior season was cut short by injury, Paar played non-stop over the summer. Now he’s seeing the ball better than ever, has a .538 save percentage and is a leader on defense.

“This season has been a blast,” Paar said. “It’s been everything we wanted it to be.”

Blog originally posted at LI

Long Island College Lacrosse Rundown

April 19, 2010

The spring sports season exits with all the fury of a lion. And as we head down the stretch of the men’s lacrosse season, it’s worth noting that five Long Island colleges are nationally ranked. Which teams will roar and which will whimper? Here’s a breakdown:

Hofstra (7-4, 1-3)

Comment: After being upset by Penn State in overtime, 11-10, on Saturday, expect Hofstra to drop in the next United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) Division I poll. The Pride is currently ranked 11th. That setback comes after getting some deserved attention by beating Delaware in the first game at the New Meadowlands Stadium. Regular season games against Colonial Athletic Association rivals Jacksonville and Towson remain. Hofstra has outscored teams 67-48 in the second half and features a balanced attack of Jamie Lincoln (50 points), Jay Card (42) and Massapequa native Stephen Bentz (34). Hopefully the second-half meltdown against Penn State is an aberration and not a new trend.
Outlook: The Pride went 11-4 and reached the NCAA Tournament for the 15th time last season. But the road back will be difficult. Nationally-ranked Drexel and UMass are each threats to knocking off the Pride in the CAA Tournament, keeping it from the postseason.

Stony Brook (8-3, 3-0)

Comment: The Seawolves, No. 14 in the USILA D-I poll, are coming off a nail-biting 17-16 win over America East Conference rival Binghamton on Saturday. Junior attack Jordan McBride scored seven goals in the come-from-behind win. Stony Brook has won four in a row with regular season games against Albany and Vermont remaining. The team is averaging 14 goals a game and winning 59 percent of all faceoffs. Junior midfield Kevin Crowley is tied with fellow Canadian McBride for the team lead with 72 points.
Outlook: Each of the last seven seasons has ended with a loss in the America East Tournament. Albany has been the usual stumbling block. But the Great Danes are in rebuilding mode, so Stony Brook actually has a legitimate shot at its first NCAA Tournament since 2002.

Dowling (9-1, 6-1)

Comment: The Golden Lions, winners of eight in a row, are ranked third in the USILA Division II poll. John McClure scored seven times as Dowling blasted Lake Erie, 20-6, on Saturday. As grand as that sounds, the big win came on April 10 when Dowling knocked off defending national champion and then-No. 1 C.W. Post, 8-7. Regular season games against Dominican, Chestnut Hill and Seton Hill remain. Dowling wins an impressive 63 percent of all faceoffs and has allowed just 7 goals a game. McClure leads the East Coast Conference with 37 goals and 75 points.
Outlook: One year after going 7-6, Dowling has the ingredients to make a championship run. The program reached the NCAA title game 2006, but hasn’t been back since. There is no East Coast Conference Tournament, so Dowling is dependent on receiving one of four NCAA bids. ECC rivals Mercyhurst, C.W. Post and NYIT are each ranked and pose a challenge.

C.W. Post (11-1, 5-1)

Comment: The Pioneers, tied for fourth in the USILA D-II poll, were tripped up by Long Island rival Dowling earlier this month. But C.W. Post rebounded with a 22-5 win over Wheeling Jesuit on Saturday. Sophomore attack Eddie Plompen, a former West Islip standout, scored seven goals and added two assists. Regular season matchups against Molloy, Mercyhurst and Lake Erie remain. The team’s .278 shooting percentage is unusually low. But it has won 74 percent of all faceoffs. Sayville senior Joe Meo (27 goals, 30 points) and Nick Corik (19 goals, 33 points) lead the team.
Outlook: It’s a waiting game. C.W. Post beat LeMoyne, 8-7, to claim the 2009 NCAA championship. But the Pioneers need one of four NCAA berths to have a shot at a repeat. A Dowling invite may hurt C.W. Post’s chances.

NYIT (6-4, 5-3)

Comment: NYIT, No. 7 in the USILA D-II poll, was dealt a possibly fatal blow to its NCAA hopes with a 12-8 loss to second-ranked Mercyhurst on Saturday. The Bears led 5-2 early, but couldn’t extend their lead. Regular season games against Mercy, Merrimack and Wheeling Jesuit remain. The team is averaging 15 goals per game and wins 69 percent of all faceoffs. Huntington senior Austin Carino (30 goals, 33 points) and West Islip senior Matt Sullivan (16 goals, 52 points) lead the way.
Outlook: Doubtful. Too many good teams stand between NYIT and an NCAA berth.

Blog originally posted at LI