Know Your Enemy - St. John's 

 

 

 

The Dragons advance to 2-4 overall and 2-0 in March after beating a struggling but talented Bryant team

at home.  Ryan Belka grabbed CAA player of the week honors scoring 4 and assisting twice against

Bryant.  That’s the kind of performance we like to see from the senior captain.  Congrats, Ryan.  Cole

Shafer continues to dazzle with a nifty behind the back goal in that game.  Jules is starting to catch his

stride.  It’s great to see guys like Frazee, Pynn, and Michael Kay contribute.  We’ll need them guys to

help come CAA time.  And finally it was great to see Frankie “fourth quarter” Fusco step up big with a

man-goal in the fourth.    

The Dragons hop on the bus and travel to Queens, New York to take on the St. John’s Johnnies (red

storm) this Saturday 3/14 at 1pm.  St. John’s is another team that’s had a tough start and at 1-5 they

have a similar look to Bryant and to us.  Their most recent games were against a top 10 ranked Yale

team that they took to overtime before losing 11-10 and Syracuse that they lost to 14-6.

Look for St. John’s to come out fired up.  This is a home game for them that they no doubt see as

winnable after the last two.  Most of their offense runs through a few usual suspects on attack.  Their

leading scorer who has 16 goals and 10 assists is Jr. attackman Eric DeJohn #8.  Stefan Diachenko #42

(sweet name bro) has dropped in 11 this season and has two assists.  Their other attackman #3 has 7

goals.  They’ve struggled at that face off winning just 42% of the time so far this season.  Like us they

seem to be figuring out their goal tender.  They have two that have split games and average .512 save

percentage.  There isn’t much else we can tell you about this St. John’s group other than to reiterate

that they are low on wins and are desperate to get one especially at home.  As Mike Avato reminds us,

“now you know and knowing is half the battle.”

For those that can’t make the game we realized after sending out the second email that there will in fact

be a live stream and you can find it online at espn3

http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index/_/search/Drexel/type/upcoming/.  For the New York contingent

of Dragon faithful, head to St. John’s at 1pm and help make it feel like a home game for the boys in blue!  

For those that have donated there will be long sleeve t’s in the parking lot for you.  Let’s go Drexel!

A February to Forget 

 

 

 

Forgetful February: Let’s Start the Season Already!

The Facts

            Our Drexel Dragons opened the 2015 season in blizzard in Virginia and the rest of February seemed like a never-ending tempest we never came out of. Yes it’s true we played Albany and we lost, but who knows exactly what happened as again the snow was driving sideways and swirling as if in a shaken snowglobe.

            It was ten times colder when we lost to Villanova, yet at least we could see the ball.

            And although our toes froze, and so did our offense, the Maryland defeat had glimmers of solid lax by our WestPhilly’sFinest team in the first part of the game (4-2 at halftime).

The Ugly

            Drexel lost all four games in February. Going 0-4 is never pretty. Trying to sugarcoat multiple turnovers, poor clearing, innumerable penalties, ball-watching, and scoring 3 measly goals in an entire game is an insult to you our beloved readers and fans. Winter lacrosse is ugly and this season’s start is as bad as it gets.

            This writer believes February lacrosse is a waste of everyone’s time and should be considered preseason, with official games beginning on March 1st. Not just because our squad is winless, either. Think about it, does it really matter if Towson beat Johns Hopkins in 20 degrees on a Tuesday in February when At Large Bids are given in mid-May? Who cares who the best team in the snow is, really?

            Play the first round of the NCAAs on Memorial Weekend, four games back-to-back at 10am/Noon/2pm/4pm and fill a stadium with eight sets of team’s fans on both Saturday and Monday and allow pure lax fans who aren’t related to the players see the top 16 fight it out all weekend to see who makes it to the Quarterfinals that first weekend in June. Play the Semis that second week in June, with the NCAA Championship the third week in June. The College World Series does it. The precedent has been set.

            Plus, financially, ESPN will only have to set up one booth, juggle announcers, and save a ton on airfare by not schlepping all over America to see the top teams crush last second entries.

            We want bigger crowds in person and on TV? Do this and see it done.

The Reality

We’re 0-4 and it’s the first week in March. So what? We win the next five games (against St. Joes, Bryant, St. Johns, Michigan, and Binghamton) or lose them, or split them, or whatever, and we are still a contender for the NCAAs as an AQ (Automatic Qualifier) if we can a) Make it to the CAA tournament and B) Win the CAA tournament. The reality is that February was a tune up for the tune up.

By the way, we lost to four of the best teams in the country. Our Strength of Schedule is currently the 4th most difficult according to the experts at Laxpower.com.

            As mentioned in the prior From the Bleachers getting better each week is the key to sports and this past year’s NFL Super Bowl contestants was the perfect example (at a press conference a reporter actually asked Bill Belichick if Tom Brady was washed up after an ugly loss four weeks into the season). Well, I’m sticking to my story. This year is far from over for the Drexel Men’s Lacrosse Team with 10 games to go.

            Yes it will feel great to win a game. Or games. Or string a bunch together like last season. But the brutal truth is we need to allow this very young team to mature together. Two of the three starters on Defense are new. Two of the three starters on Attack are new. That affects not just the O and the D, but special teams like Man Up, Man Down, and clearing. There is talent on the field and on the bench in West Philly and it’s only a matter of time before they gel. The question is whether it will be this season.

            It took a very long time, over half a century, for Drexel to win a league title in lacrosse, and now that we have tasted success we don’t want to suffer for another five generations. Plus, core pieces from our championship team are still in the Vidas locker room in at least one position up and down the field and in the net.

            Working harder at practice, not pointing fingers, and “doing your job” are not easy tasks, but they are very simple in their basic nature. The upperclassmen absolutely must lead by example. Take more shots, run more sprints, save more balls, watch more film.

            And we fans, alums, parents, and lax nuts who follow the Dragons must not give up hope. Sports are what they are precisely because the underdog always has a chance to win. College lacrosse has more terrific players now than ever, and with the majority of the regular season still ahead there is no way anyone can predict who will peak at the right time, avoid injuries, and get better one game at a time. 

The Next Opponents

            St. Joes has become a good team. They will come to fight with the gloves off.

            Bryant is a very good team, and like Drexel they don’t like playing in the Artic climes and hold a bitter 1-3 record that is meaningless since all those contests were played in February.

            March is here and so, too, is the real lacrosse season.

            There may be icy rain for a couple more weeks, but soon the flowers will bloom and let’s hope our Dragons do the same.

Go Dragons!

Dragonlax Reporter

Season Opener 2015: UVa 14 Drexel 10 

 

 

 

The Opening

            Our Drexel Dragons opened the 2015 at legendary Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville on the normally tranquil campus of the University of Virginia this past Saturday night. From warm-ups into the first half our men’s lacrosse team looked ready to go, breathing fire, as Dragons should.

            For a game in mid February there was decent-sized crowd of over 1500. The section of Drexel fans, while only in the dozens, equaled the masses in enthusiasm and vocal support. UVa tried to fill the stadium as their basketball team played a 2:30pm game and anyone with a ticket could have entered the lax game free. At that time the weather was bright and sunny and 46 degrees.     

The Weird

            By 5:30pm the weather had gone from nice to cool to chilly to crazy. A few flurries in pregame became large flakes before halftime. Fans were pressed to see the ball although the players seemed to be fine until right before halftime when it became literally a whiteout.

            Mentioning weather for a lacrosse game 99% of the time is irrelevant except for typhoons that postpone games (see Towson CAA Semifinal last year), yet on this day it played a factor. Not an excuse, just a factor. The score might have been exactly the same, we’ll never know, but when those of us try to explain the squall that erupted in sideways, upside down, gusting, monster snowflakes, and blanketing the surface in frozen powder that caused a delay you wouldn’t believe it unless you saw it. Leaf blowers had to clear the lines so we knew where the field was.

            Gusts of wind of over 40mph caused blinding clouds of snow to explode randomly in that bizarre second half. Both teams had to deal with it, and perhaps Virginia’s ability to put the ball on cage made the difference in what was a hard fought contest. The only thing for certain is that if the basketball game and lacrosse games were swapped we would have played in sunshine on a grass field, not a frozen tundra where spotting the yellow (yes yellow—not orange!) ball was an on-going joke. Let’s just agree it was weird.

The Game

            Drexel opened 2015 with a fist to mouth of the Cavaliers as Jules Raucci busted his typical ankle-breaking deek and ripped a lefty upper to start the season’s scoring (his first of two). The junior will be instrumental in our team’s success this year and it was a great sign of things to come as we defend our CAA Championship. Co-Captain Ryan Belka, our returning All American and pro draft pick midfielder, then punched the twine. Big Mason Pynn drove hard not soon thereafter and put a perfect bouncer over the head of the UVa goalie and it was 3-0 Dragons. We had upset on our minds in earnest.

            This was the 19th year Drexel has faced Virginia and except for a lone victory it has been all Cavaliers, albeit the last three seasons have been taught one-goal contests. UVa doesn’t have the winningest coach in the history of the sport (Dom Starsia) or multiple NCAA national champion trophies (5) by accident. Beating this team in 2007 when UVA was ranked #1 in the country was the biggest win in Drexel’s history—in any sport! (No other Drexel team has ever toppled a #1 ranked team in any other sport). To expect the home team to submit when down by just 3 goals in the first quarter of their home opener was nonsense.

            Virginia outshot Drexel 16-11 in the first half but Dragon keeper Will Gabrielsen looked rock solid as he made 8 saves in that first, dry, half. Miles Thomas, Jake Kiernan, and Markell Nelson played well in their first game starting together as a unit. The D was a bright spot, especially against such a talented squad on the road. SSM Jordan Cunningham was impossible to get around, and UVa tried going at him over and over with no success.

            Another bright spot was the Drexel O. The ball was whipped around and the shots were quality and with force. When freshman Michael Kay busted a move and then absolutely ripped an upper—the kind where the ball sticks and then drops straight down—we roared. This Cali kid is up for the challenge of elite D1 laxer—a fantastic sign for our team in ’15.

            Co-Captain Nick Saputo, our other returning All American, reminded anyone who knows anything about this sport that he is the best of the best at the face off X. Saputo won on the grass, in the snow, while being hacked, in traffic, you name it. With Nick on our team we are always in the game. Winning 16 out of 27 doesn’t accurately tell the story because Nick won almost all the face offs, but UVa did a good job of triple teaming him just as he got the ball and checked it out of his stick before we could clear it.

            And when the coaches and players look at the game film they will see this game was won by Virginia and lost by Drexel in a combination of clearing that caused unsettled fastbreaks and turnovers. Lost clears—Drexel only cleared 5 of 9 in the first half—morphed into doorstep dunks and unstoppable six yard whippies. This was not a result of snow in the first half, it was typical first-game-of-the-season rust that is easy to fix over time and with great coaching (and we certainly have that in West Philly with Coach Brian Voelker and D Coordinator Chris Collins).

            Same is true of the 19 turnovers by Drexel, fourteen in the first three quarters to Virginia’s 3. That’s 11 more possessions for a deep and talented team at home; simply too much to overcome for our Dragons. And yet our guys fought tooth and nail to the final whistle.

            It was 8-6 at halftime, yet the game seemed to slip away (pun intended) in the third quarter amid the ridiculous blizzard as Drexel missed nine shots on cage to start the second half and Virginia didn’t, cashing in on three in a row making it 11-6 before Chris Fredrick broke the drought with 3:52 left in the 3rd quarter. Cole Shafer and Robert Frazee each tallied in the game. Belka’s second of the night at 7:49 of the fourth quarter gave us a last glimmer of hope after longpole Jake Gennosa jammed one in and the score was cut to four. But that was all we could muster in the insane snowpocalypse. Give credit to the team from the south who outplayed our northern boys in Artic elements.

The Refs

            To beat a quality team on the road you need to play your A-game. Like the NBA, an away team should expect some questionable calls. Saputo was tackled on one face off and they called a penalty on him. Hank Brown was clotheslined on the sidelines in front of the ref at a critical juncture and no flag came. This writer thinks it was the poorest refereeing job in years, and yet the men in stripes did not turn the ball over 19 times nor clear the ball just 12 of 17. A good team needs to simply overcome bad calls. Playing as well as the home team will not get it done. You need to beat your opponent on the road. Its knockout or lose. This is an excellent lesson worth learning in the first game and not the last. Easily correctable, like the clears, fast breaks, and turnovers.

The Outcome

            Yes, we lost. But there is no shame in losing to UVA 14-10 on the road in a snowstorm. No one expected us to win in the first place. The bottom line is our O looks formidable, our D and Goalie look solid, our face off guy is the best, and we have talent beyond the starting lineup.

            It’s a long season and remember last year we won a championship after falling in the opener to this same team. In team sports it’s about making adjustments and getting better week-by-week so you finish stronger than you started. No need for examples beyond this year’s NFL Super Bowl contestants.

The Next Opponent

            Tewaaraton winner and all-time NCAA season scoring record holder Lyle Thompson will be at Vidas Field on Saturday for our 2pm heavyweight bout. Albany is ranked in the Top 10 (10th in the Media Poll) and will bring it as they always do. We have beaten them in thrilling games the last couple of years. It’s The Great Danes first game of the season and our home opener, so let’s protect our house!

Go Dragons!

 

Anonymous Dragonlax Reporter