April 27, 2009

By Amy Farnum Novin

Being a long-stick defenseman in lacrosse may not come with flashy statistics or your name in headlines, but as Le Moyne's Drew Bezek knows, it is helping your team get the win that is most satisfying.

The junior from Lowville, N.Y., began playing lacrosse in seventh grade, and although he was a good athlete, his stick skills were not advanced as some of his teammates, so he ended up being slated as a defensive player.

"Once you start something, you get accustomed to it and start taking pride in it," said Bezek. "Like any competitor, you want to be the best at your position, and I've never thought of changing." It's a good thing for the Dolphins that Bezek decided to stick with the defensive side of the field. He anchors the nation's top defensive unit that has allowed just 3.85 goals per game and causes 8.31 turnovers per game.

"He's not a flashy, take-away defenseman," said Sheehan. "He's not the type of kid who takes the ball away from someone, and then legs it to the other end of the field and get a 100 miles per hour shot off. He is so fundamentally sound, and that is without question, the best part of his game. Typically, he ends up frustrating his attackman because they can't shake him. He's got fantastic footwork and does a really nice job of keep his stick right on his attackman's hands."

Bezek, a 2008 first team USILA All-America, was recently named Northeast-10 Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season after playing a key role in the top-ranked Dolphins' perfect regular season (13-0).

"In my opinion, not only is he the best defenseman, but he may be the best player in Division II this year," said Sheehan. "When you look at his match-ups on a weekly basis, and what he's able to do against a guy who is averaging five to eight points a game, and that guy is able to come out of our game with no points or one point, that's extremely impressive."

The leading scorer in the nation, and Northeast-10 Player of the Year, Greg Rogowski of Merrimack was held to one goal while matched up with Bezek, while C.W. Post's Greg Cerar did not register a point and Southern New Hampshire's Mike Ball tallied just one assist versus Bezek. Cerar normally averages 5.33 points per game, while Ball entered last week's contest with 4.70 points per game.

Growing up in Upstate New York - one of the hot beds of lacrosse near schools like Division I perennial power Syracuse - he knew one day he could have an opportunity to play at the collegiate level.

"You hear about Syracuse, but you also hear about Le Moyne and teams like Cortland in the area," said Bezek. "It gets you into it, especially when you realize how many guys from the area go to these schools and do big things. It helps motivate you, and makes it more realistic when you're younger that you can have a serious chance of playing big-time lacrosse."

The Dolphins have made seven straight NCAA Division II Tournament appearances, winning three national titles (2004, 2006, 2007) during the stretch. Le Moyne's success stems from its' defensive mindset - the program has led the nation in goals allowed per game every year since the 2001 season, including their current mark of 3.85.

"I think our system here is certainly a team-style defense," said Sheehan. "We certainly try to bring in the best possible players at that end of the field, but we ask them to be fairly unselfish. Drew's not going to come out of a game with 12 ground balls and 12 caused turnovers. He's going to come out of a game that our defense, as a whole, is giving up less than 20 shots and five goals per game. He certainly is a guy that fits what we're trying to do perfectly."

Le Moyne has allowed an opponent to score in double-digits just once this year, and has held foes to five goals or less in 12 of 13 contests this season.

"As a defense, we'll look at what they are averaging in goals, and cut that in half, or maybe more to set a standard of where we want to be," said Bezek. "We're always looking to win, but our goal is to not let them score at all."

Le Moyne looks to claim its eighth Northeast-10 Conference Tournament title in the last nine years when the Dolphins take on the winner of Saint Anselm and Saint Michael's on May 1 in the league semifinals. The NE-10 championship game is May 3.