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 Frostburg State. Monday’s visit is with McDaniel.
The good: The Green Terror’s 11-7 record and third trip in four years to the Centennial Conference tournament seemed a remote possibility after they dropped four consecutive games to slip to 4-6. That included opening the conference slate with three straight losses, which prompted a little self-review by the players and coach Matt Hatton. “Going into the season, we had the confidence that we’d be able to do those things, but halfway through the season, we really needed to regroup, and we needed some better direction from our seniors and our leaders,” Hatton said. “I feel like we got that, and we had a couple guys really step up and have outstanding seasons for us.” … McDaniel rebounded with five consecutive wins, including a 12-10 decision against Gettysburg that represented the Green Terror’s first victory over the Bullets since 1997. Hatton said securing that triumph produced wonders for the players’ confidence. “We had some lulls early on and were playing some bad lacrosse early on,” he said. “I think winning that game gave a little credibility to our guys, that we could play with everybody that we played against. When you beat a team as well-coached as Gettysburg is, that becomes apparent. And I think we were able to start playing our best lacrosse.” … A year ago, Hatton was looking for an offensive quarterback to pair with sniper D.J. Rickels, and Hatton hoped that J.S. Duke would fill that role. The senior attackman didn’t disappoint as he led the offense in both assists (24) and points (47). “When you have a marked man that can shoot the ball quite well like D.J. Rickels can, I think that opened up an opportunity for J.S. to really come in and be that type of guy for us,” Hatton said. “At the end of the day, J.S. had more points than D.J., and without him, we don’t go offensively. Stickworkwise, I’m not even sure if he’s right-handed or left-handed. He played that position with both hands, and he’s the type of guy that would rather pass the ball than score. So he had a really good year for us.”
The bad: Almost half of McDaniel’s losses were decided by a single goal, and two of those setbacks occurred during that four-game losing skid. Hatton was left wondering what could’ve been. “When you really looked at it, we were 5-3 in the conference and two of the three losses that we had were by one goal in games that we felt like we were right there until the very end,” he said. “Unfortunately, we ran into a tough Washington College team in the [Centennial] conference semifinals. They played well, and we didn’t play as well as I would’ve liked to have played.” … As significant as the victory over Gettysburg was, the Green Terror still finished in fourth place in the league, earning the No. 4 seed and a semifinal date with Washington. And missing an opportunity to capture the tournament championship and the automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament stung. “Beating Gettysburg was great, but I would’ve traded that 1,000 out of 1,000 for a chance to play for the conference championship and get into a position where we could be playing for an NCAA bid because that’s the goal for us,” Hatton said. … Hatton thought faceoffs weren’t as consistent as they needed to be. Juniors Ryan Gillen and Mike Marks led a unit that won 161-of-358 draws, which is a just 45 percent on the season. “I think we could’ve done a better job on our faceoffs,” he said. “That’s kind of a work in progress. … That’s something that we can do better at. Fortunately, we’re getting everyone back at that position and most of our wing guys.”
Personnel changes: The offense took a huge hit with the graduation of starting attackmen Duke and Rickels (40 goals and six assists). The loss of Rickels is especially poignant as he scored two or more goals in 14 of 18 contests. “D.J., he’s going to be really tough to replace, and I think he’s one of those guys that you don’t replace with just one person,” Hatton said. “I don’t expect an attackman to come in and have 40 goals. I think we’re going to look pretty hard at Pat Bivons, who will be a sophomore for us and had a pretty good year as a freshman. We’re going to need him to step up. We’re going to look at some other guys that we have on our roster – possibly move a midfielder or two down, possibly have a couple freshmen come in and take a look at it.” … The defense also bids farewell to a pair of starters in Nick Sicuranza (37 groundballs and 30 caused turnovers) and Nelson Hannahs (43 GB, 25 CT). Senior Alex McCoy (5 GB, 7 CT), junior Ryan Hennessy (43 GB, 18 CT) and freshman Alex Schunk (6 GB, 4 CT) are among the candidates poised to join freshman Zac Bitzer (13 GB, 12 CT) as starters. “Just like every position, we’ve got guys coming in that we’re pretty excited about, and we’ve got some other guys that if we get them back from injury, there might be an opportunity for them as well,” Hatton said. “I don’t know if it’s going to be as simple as plugging guys in those spots and expecting them to be able to do it. I think it’s going to take some time when you’re working with a defense, and it’s going to be a challenge. But we’re excited about it. I’m looking forward to getting those guys out there.” … Goalkeeper Brad Motley (7.67 goals-against average and a .614 save percentage) made the last seven starts, but sophomore Christian Dallmus (8.51 GAA, .560 save percentage) opened the season as the starter. But Hatton wouldn’t go so far as to anoint Dallmus as next season’s starter. “We’ve got a couple guys that we feel pretty strongly about,” Hatton said. “That position – even moreso than attack and midfield – is going to have to play itself out. We’ll probably start at ground zero in the fall and see what happens. I think Christian has the capability to be as good as he wants to be. So it just depends on how he plays and who’s going to give us the best chance to be successful.”
Forecast for 2013: Partly cloudy. McDaniel demonstrated perseverance and determination in rebounding from last year’s overall record of 6-8 and Centennial Conference mark of 3-5. Whether the team can extend that success to next season is a different matter. Losing the offense’s top playmaker in Duke and top goal scorer in Rickels are two top priorities for the Green Terror. Replenishing the defensive cupboard might not be as daunting, but if Dallmus doesn’t cement his grip on the goaltending duties, that unit could suffer some growing pains, too. The strength of the team will be the return of the starting midfield and the defensive midfield. McDaniel won’t be a surprise in the league where Washington, Dickinson and Gettysburg will be sure to do their homework on the Green Terror.