2011 preview on display in fallball
As fallball wraps up, Quint Kessenich looks at the top five things learned during the 2010 fall season.
1. New coaches take different approaches with the same goal in mind.
Maryland's John Tillman has the most challenging new assignment for a few reasons. He takes over for Dave Cottle, who I believe fully maximized the Terps last year. Aside from their playoff loss in May, Maryland had a terrific season. They played hard for Cottle, the players connected with their coach and developed great chemistry. Time ran out on Cottle, a year too soon in my opinion. Debbie Yow cut the cord and then ran to NC State. It was an ugly divorce. Now, time is running out for Maryland's senior class. Tillman must manage change and the burden of unfulfilled expectations. He is bright, honest, hardworking and demanding. His challenge will be to install his schemes and systems smoothly without overwhelming his team. It's a difficult balance. Old dogs can struggle to learn new tricks.
At Penn State, Jeff Tambroni is quickly creating a new culture, making huge strides in recruiting and player accountability. Sooner than later, the Nittany Lions will be in the playoff hunt. Tambroni will put his stamp on the program and will energize their future.
For Cornell's players, it'll feel like business as usual with former defensive coordinator Ben Deluca taking he reins from Tambroni. Cornell won't fluctuate. Deluca will adhere to the same principles: defense, discipline, player development and strong team values. They are the core components of the Big Red program that has been to three of the last four championship weekends.
Harvard's new chief is Chris Wojcik, an alum who has a keen sense of campus, academic and athletic life in Cambridge. He knows when to push and when to ease up on his players. That intrinsic knowledge and a Crimson roster brimming with quality Ivy talent will have Harvard in the playoff mix in 2011.
2. Newcomers will make an impact at high-profile programs.
Look for attackman Nicky Galasso at UNC, midfielders Thomas Schreiber at Princeton, Rob Emery at Virginia, Andrew Hodgson at Towson, defender Matt Harris at Syracuse, and defender Jack Reilly at Johns Hopkins to contribute right away.
3. Personnel battles aren't won in September and October.
PT is earned in January and February. Many fallball questions remain. Who will be the third defender at SU? Who will start in goal for North Carolina -- Chris Madalon or Steven Rastivo? Who will faceoff for Maryland and do the Terps have a goalie? Can Stony Brook replace Steve Waldeck? Who's playing attack for Duke? Does Hofstra have a defense? Can Cornell get more scoring punch from their midfield? How will Delaware replace 96 graduated goals between Curtis Dickson and Martin Cahill? Who will take over at the LSM in Denver for Dillon Roy?
4. 2011 will be an amazing season for one resounding reason -- great players. The senior class is stacked with attack and defensive talent across the nation. Eight of the 11 first team All-Americans are back. Throw in players like Steele Stanwick, Rhamel Bratton, Mike Chanenchuk, Brian Farrell, Chad Wiedmaier, Jordan McBride and Brett Schmidt and 2011 will be electric. Think about the returning talent at schools like Cornell, Stony Brook, Maryland and Army, four teams who played in the NCAA quarterfinals a year ago. They all appear stronger on paper in 2011. The unpredictable angles right now are chemistry, internal player leadership, injuries, and the reaction to early season success or failure.
5. We are seeing a subtle de-emphasis of fallball outside competitions.
Coaches are cutting back and instead have added alumni games which do not count as officials competitions according to the NCAA. This allows them to add legitimate games in the spring, (most of the top programs have added cream puffs in frigid February). We also witnessed conservative coaching moves with injured and rehabbing players. Army's Bill Henderson, Loyola's Josh Hawkins, North Carolina's Billy Bitter, Johns Hopkins' Chris Boland and a slew of others watched fallball from the training room. Safety first. And a positive move toward the overall development of the lacrosse student-athlete, more than ever, coaches respect the academic pursuits of their upperclassmen. North Carolina defender Ryan Flanagan spent his fall in Africa. Georgetown's Barney Ehrmann pursued graduate studies. Flanagan and Ehrmann will be emotionally refreshed when they return to the field this winter. Fallball is about teaching the freshmen and seeing whether the sophomores have taken the next step toward playing time.
Quint Kessenich's Pre-preseason rankings1. Syracuse -- I like the look of JoJo Marasco in No. 22.
2. Virginia -- Stanwick and Co. have serious firepower.
3. Maryland -- Tillman's Terps are experienced and talented.
4. Princeton -- Well-balanced team but must improve short-stick defensive midfield.
5. Notre Dame -- Good luck scoring against the Irish.
6. North Carolina -- Can the Heels get production from the midfield?
7. Cornell -- Rob Pannell is an unstoppable force.
8. Stony Brook -- Canadian contingent will light up the scoreboard.
9. Hofstra -- Transfers Steve Serling, Zach Pall and Ian Braddish bolster an explosive attack.
10. Army -- Boltus, Thul, Henderson and Palesky are All-American caliber.
11. Duke -- Massive talent drain puts NCAA playoff bid in jeopardy.
12. Johns Hopkins -- Two-deep loaded with youngsters.
13. Harvard -- A good year expected from the entire Ivy League.
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