Oct. 25, 2010

 

By Trevor Freeman
Special to NCAA.com


It was a weekend that was highlighted by matchups between top ten teams and the awarding of championships. The calendar is edging closer to November and with that the games become more meaningful. In a little over a month, we will be discussing the NCAA Final Four and the caliber of play is rising with that prize coming clearer into focus. We will discuss this weekends play and more in this weeks column.

We begin this interview by speaking with the Head Coach of an Eastern power. The United States Naval Academy is always in the mix for an NCAA Final Four spot and this season is no exception. They are led by one of the true legends in our sport as Mike Schofields tenure at Navy has been one of incredible success. In his twenty-six seasons at Annapolis, Mike Schofield has led the Naval Academy to thirteen NCAA appearances and nine Eastern Championships. I caught up with Coach Schofield to discuss this years squad and below is our interview.

Your team is coming off a big weekend which saw you win at Bucknell and then travel three and a half hours and beat Princeton at Princeton on the same day. Can you tell us a little about the weekend and what your team needs to do to win the East?

We've got a lot of guys from the West Coast, Florida, and Texas where the weather is kind of boring, so we wanted them to see the fall colors coming over the Pocono Mountains. Seriously though, that trip helps our toughness and resilience. We played fairly well against Bucknell and Princeton. That Princeton game could have gone the other way ten different times and we were able to squeak one in. The Bucknell game could have easily gone the other way as well. Playing both of those games on the same day saved us a playing date that we can use later on. I think we lost both of those games last year."

Luke Baldwin was an All-American last year and he has been great for you this season. What makes him the outstanding player that he is?

Luke is more valuable to us on defense than on offense. He has good mobility and is one of our better shooters. We have been on him to be more aggressive as he is a great location shooter."

Conor Handley is also having a big year for your squad. What makes him the great player that he is?

Conor is the most mobile guy on our team. He has good anticipation and reactions. Conor is able to cover a lot of ground with his quickness. He has lots of room for improvement and that goes for our entire team. They have developed a little slower this year than last and we are hoping to pick up over the last month and a half of the season. One guy I do want to mention is Anthony Gutierrez. He has done a great job of replacing Brett Rajchel and we're very excited about his improvement in goal. Coach Stanicic and Coach Malezanov have done some really good work with all of our guys."
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The marquee matchup of the weekend was fifth-ranked UC-Irvine visiting third-ranked UCLA in a clash of MPSF heavyweights. The Bruins used a 5-1 spurt at the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second to jump out to a 7-3 lead. Once in control, UCLA was able to keep the Anteaters at arms-length to score the 11-8 win. Ben Hohl and Griffin White each registered a hat trick for the Bruins who moved to 12-3 on the season and 3-1 in MPSF play. Griffin Lerman scored three times for an Anteater team that will need to put this loss behind them quickly as they host top-ranked California next Saturday.

California and second-ranked USC were both in action. Cal held off seventh-ranked Pacific to score an 11-8 home win on Friday night. The Golden Bears used five straight second quarter goals to blow open a 2-2 game. Luka Saponjics hat trick led Californias scoring attack. Second-ranked USC also received a tough fight from sixth-ranked UC-Santa Barbara. USC used a four-goal run in the second half to break open a 6-6 game and pull away for a 13-9 victory. Jeremy Davies three goals led the Trojans. Prior to their loss to the Trojans, UC-Santa Barbara won a triple overtime thriller over eighth-ranked Long Beach State when Milos Golic hit paydirt thirty-six seconds into the third overtime period. Golic scored an incredible seven goals in the Gaucho win.

The WWPA boasted a rivalry matchup as ninth-ranked Loyola Marymount defeated tenth-ranked UC-San Diego in a Saturday afternoon battle. U.S. National team goalie Andy Stevens had an exceptional performance as he tallied thirteen saves in the Lions 7-4 victory.

The Division II and Division III Eastern Championships were both contested over the weekend. At the Division II level, Queens defeated Mercyhurst 16-11 to take home the title. This is a nice achievement for Coach Or Gil who is doing an outstanding job of resuscitating a water polo program that was once great. Division III Easterns was the scene of a mild upset as MIT took down Johns Hopkins 9-7 to win the championship. MITs John Preis was named MVP of the tournament as his nine goals were instrumental in MITs title run.

I had a great seat for Fordhams matchup with Mercyhurst on Saturday and came away impressed with the Rams in their 9-7 victory. Fordham looked very organized on both offense and defense and I was impressed with the growth of their goalie Christian Flessner who looked good in the Fordham win. While Mercyhurst lost, I once again came away extremely impressed with their three-time All-American goalie Andy Sekulski. It was not just the double-digit saves he put on the board. It was the way he kept his team in the game and how well-rounded he is. Sekulski made multiple steals out of his goalie spot with at least two of them coming at moments when Fordhams two-meter was a second away from being in outstanding shot-making position. Not only that, he is very adept at directing his defense and having soft” hands when he blocks a shot so as to control his saves. To top it off, Sekulski kept his team in the game with a critical stop on a five-meter penalty shot from returning All-American Ali Arat. I personally believe he is the answer to the question, who is the best player not playing for an NCAA Division I team.”

Player of the Week
Milos Golic, UCSB, Sr. and Andy Stevens, Loyola Marymount, Sr.: Two of the finest players at the NCAA level each had tremendous games in helping lead their respective squads to wins over top ten opposition. Golic scored seven goals in UCSBs win over Long Beach State while Stevens totaled thirteen saves in LMUs victory over UC-San Diego.

Contest to Watch
Top-ranked California needs to be on upset alert this weekend as they travel to Anteater Pool to battle a fifth-ranked UC-Irvine team that beat the Golden Bears earlier this season.