Lijit Ad Wijit

Monday, May 17, 2010

Men's lacrosse is the favorite son in Emmitsburg (or should be)

Men’s basketball is no longer the top priority in the Mount St. Mary’s athletic department. At least it should not be.

The men’s lacrosse team, and to some degree, the women’s lacrosse team, need to be the big boys (and girls) on campus.

That does not mean the basketball teams should be neglected, nor should they receive any less attention or funding than they do now (in fact an increase in both would be fine), but they cannot be the top priority.

Not with Tom Gravante’s men’s laxers coming off of what is probably the best season in school history. School record 12 wins, second-ever NCAA tournament appearance, defeated two nationally ranked teams – both on the road, and best of all, almost all of the team’s big guns are coming back next year.

If there were ever a chance for a sport at the Mount to be nationally ranked in the NCAA Division I era, this is it. The men’s lacrosse team was this close to being ranked this year after beating No. 19 Robert Morris, and if it had followed up a win at No. 10 Lafayette with a win against No. 11 Georgetown, it would have been a top 15 team.

Alas the men fell to Georgetown 11-6 – it was the Mount’s fourth game in 11 days, three of which were on the road, and just three days before a game in Detroit for which they would have to fly – and the pollsters stopped voting for the Mountaineers, who were three spots from the top 20 the week before playing Lafayette and Georgetown.

After going nearly unblemished in MAAC play (and eventually avenging the only loss to Siena in the MAAC championship) the men showed that their early season victories were no fluke.

We already have a wonderful stadium, brand new locker rooms and coaches we want to keep around in both the men’s and women’s programs. Now we need some capital.

Gravante stated last week that he believes the team has won five MAAC titles since he’s been here even though only two of them qualified the team for the NCAA tournament. As for the women, Sonia LaMonica kept the women’s team afloat this year with a shorthanded roster in her first season as head coach.

LaMonica is better known, however, for her work ethic and uncompromisingly high standards she sets for her players, who love her.

And for the first time this season, both teams had two paid assistants who received a stipend. Next year, however, one of those assistants will become full-time for both teams. Let’s make it worthwhile. I’m not talking a $10,000 salary for each team’s full-time assistant and a $5,000 stipend for the other one.

Pony up the cash, Tommy P (our president). Twenty-thousand dollars should be the absolute minimum we’re willing to pay a full-time assistant to coach any of the sports here, let alone some of our most successful. Both teams have capable assistants in place, so why scare them away with an insulting salary when they will need to work for full-time pay at some point? Let’s give them an offer they would have some trouble refusing, and if they do, we’ll be paying enough to bring in a capable successor.

(Or did we not learn our lesson with Denise Wescott? I mean, we got lucky with LaMonica, but really, how many bullets can we dodge? Just because we're a Catholic school doesn't mean God is going to throw us a lifeline every time stupid athletic decisions are made. Oh yeah, see ya later, coach Brown and staff. You get the point. Right? You know who I'm talking to and it's not Lynne Robinson.)

Maryland is the hotbed for lacrosse – how lucky we are to reside in the state that is home to the best prep lacrosse in the country (sorry, New York). It would be foolish to run a program that many of the Maryland high school players would consider second-tier.

With all that being said, I can guarantee you that Tom Gravante never wins another MAAC championship for as long as he coaches at the Mount.

That’s because the Mount is joining the NEC next year, making every sport at the Mount a member of the NEC. While that may not seem like a big deal, the NEC will operate with teams that have been uncapped for quite some time while the MAAC just recently became uncapped. What I mean by that is that until recently, MAAC members were only allowed to give out a capped number of scholarships regardless of how much money each school had to offer recruits. Each year that number increased by two scholarships until it recently allowed its members to grant the NCAA maximum of 12.6 scholarships to each school. Unfortunately, the Mount never got the memo and still caps itself. (Take that in as many ways in which you can interpret it.)

There will be no such lag in the NEC and many of the teams the Mount will be joining – such as well-heeled Bryant in Sacred heart – in that conference have been operating under a full budget for years.

The Mount, however, only has four scholarships to give, according to Gravante. That’s the same as Wagner, which has a 2-74 in its last five seasons including going 0-45 from 2006 – 2008.

Gravante is doing a lot with a little and has been for years. He could accept a Wagner performance to match his Wagner budget, but he doesn’t.

Of course the Mount has had down years, but that is to be expected with this shoestring budget. If we want to compete on a consistent basis, we’re going to need more cash. Like 8.6 scholarships and $25,000-plus for a full-time assistant – times two (to cover both programs.)

Like someone rich always said; scared money don’t make money. It’s time for the Mount to stop being scared. Although there’s probably a better chance this administration will take the statue of Mary off the mountain before it starts investing some serious money into athletics.
If it does not act soon, this window of opportunity will close. Focusing just on the men’s team, the future could not be brighter. (The women and their not-bad-looking head coach are more than welcome to tag along for the ride, and any other activities for which they wish to tag along.)

First of all, junior goalie T.C. DiBartolo needs a nickname. I’m thinking Barnum, Bailey or both. The man is a circus act inside the crease and best of all, the team MVP is back next year.

So are offensive stalwarts Brett and Bryant Schmidt (the BB guns?), Cody can’t-decode-me Lehrer – fourth in the nation in goals per game this season, even without a goal in his final two games – Andrew “Agent Zeros” Scalley (he scored the MAAC championship winner with zeros on the clock, a buzzer beater. You can’t think of anything better so stop making fun of these nicknames), Ben “Bear” Trapp (because he wins so many faceoffs, it’s like he gets the ball in a bear trap and won’t let it go) and a slew of other important players are all coming back.

Thanks for everything, Matt Nealis, Russell Moncure, Drew Dunn, Jim O’Shea and all the other seniors. You will be missed. But hopefully not too much.

At least not if the Mount does what any sensible school would do and invests in the one program that has glimmering hope to become a national power.

All eyes are not on us – but they could be. What are we going to do about it? What are you, Mount administration, going to do about it? (It's not a rhetorical question.)

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