FRESHLY PEELED (revised)

Monday, February 14, 2011

UP, UP, AND AWAY (The Fifth Dimension)

On a day that showed how fickled the Monument Hill weather pattern can be we had a really good season-opening contest with The US Air Force Academy laxters at their place. The weather Gods toyed with this day a little differently from what I would consider ‘the usual’ trend. Often it will start out balmy there at he USAFA and end up with some kind of a blizzard before it is over, but this was almost the opposite as the windy chill was sort of burned off as the day wore on. It became still, and we were almost basking in the warmth given by the late afternoon sun as the game ended.

Even though the scoreboard didn’t really confirm this fact early, we played the Zoomies tough. It was competitive from the get go. Yes, it was 8-3 AFA at the half and oh. by the way they had played a game just prior to playing us, having easily dispatched a CU team that also by the way is ranked one rung higher in pre-season polls than we are.

The final score of AFA 11- CSU 7 reflects pretty well what happened. All in all it was a very good start in my opinion. It was a ‘close’ 11-7 if that is possible.

RAM-PING UP

The game had ebb and flow from the beginning and it was never like a few of our most recent encounters with the Academy, games where from time to time and especially early we had that dreaded deer-in-headlights look. Our resolve matched their resolve this time. They were up 6-2 after one, it is true, but we were going toe to toe with them just the same. We had times early and fairly often when we were imposing our will on the game. When we have the ball, we move it quickly, and I think this is a big part of our overall identity and we were rocking that. It never looked like we were just trying to weather some kind of storm and hoping for something good to happen later. We were in the game all game.

Match-ups that favor you are great, but moving both with and without the ball is something we are able to do well, and I think that will hold true no matter whom we play. That is a big part of our will and how this team will be this time around. Besides. against an Air Force, a pure Division I opponent, there aren’t going to be that many individual matches for us to abuse anyway.

We were clearing the ball well and by making good decisions all game long, only once or twice did the Air Force pressure turn things a little helter skelter for us getting it to the offensive side of the field. Last year our clear was clearly a weakness for us, so to be where we were with Air Force the other day in that department can be nothing but encouraging. We displayed the poise that we had been talking about all week.

We were not perfect to be sure, but we gave them very few fast breaks and the opportunities that they afford, and for that matter it was never easy for the boys in blue (actually they wore white/grey reversibles and we wore green ones) to get the ball to the middle of the field in front of our goal. We protected the goal pretty well.

WISHIN’ AND HOPIN’ (Petula Clark?) NOT!

It never looked like, “Oh great, we have the ball and thank you Jesus!” out there Saturday. We earned and had the ball a lot and we fired off some good shots throughout the game, first quarter included. We also forced them into making a few mistakes while we were at it, and it was never Air Force owning the ball for long periods of game clock.

We did turn the ball over too many times on the day, however, and if we do the basic things to further eliminate unforced or even forced errors we will have a pretty potent attack me thinks. These are fix-it things that a team collectively has and that an individual player does have the ability to control. Moving to the ball, playing with the ball on the outside of the defense, and finding 2 on 1 situations to exploit are not lofty goals, but rather every day expectations. We have enough talented players to make lots of things happen. I have no doubt of that.

MANNING UP

We were two for two with our extra man opportunities for the game. Both of them saw us moving the ball, using time well, and finishing the deal in a way that made it look like it was our job. Bam! This is without a doubt a strong sign of maturity.

Even though we got down 4-5 goals early, it never looked like the game was going to get away from us. We were in the moment and in the play, and we pecked away at that deficit all game long. As the third quarter wound down we had a three-goal run that started with Unk Diesel (#20 – M) imposing HIS will as only he can, bullying his way to the middle and cramming one into the net, the first of three consecutive goals that brought us to within 2 at 9-7. Unk’s goals are generally of the high profile variety, and this one, like most of his, got everyone’s attention. When he scores it looks good on us if for no other reason than the fact that he is just a very large human. Greyson Konkel (#49 – M) then followed soon thereafter with one of his own, 9-6, and the feeling was palpable, as in here we come. Cooper Kehoe (#3 – A) capped our mini run with a man up score that brought us to within 9-7. Even though we had no assists in the book on goals 5, six and seven, they were very much team scores. They came about because we were doing good things as a team that made scoring the actual goal almost a foregone conclusion, and those kind reflect very well on a team.

AFTER FURTHER REVIEW

I try to never go back and change the context of what I write in here, even if I later find out something that I may have typed on confused a fact or twelve, but the truth is that I did get to aee the video of the AFA game today, and that 7th goal that Cooper scored was in fact scored in the last 3 seconds of the 60 extra man seconds we had to work with at the time, but make no mistake that it was assisted. Cooper received a pass right in the place where he likes to be and right on time, and although I may be blind, I’m saying that very nifty assist came in the form of a bullet pass from Garrett Fugier (#11 – M) and right to the shooter’s stick. So, I assume he will never get credit for that one as Cooper did wind up, but basically it was more than an assist, it was a superior assist, almost reminiscent of the Lord Farquhar to Sir Shay Cunningham connection we had back around 2005. Garrett also had a goal in the game.

For whatever reason, the third quarter was our best overall quarter production-wise. We scored 4 goals, AFA had but one, and they had only 3 shots on our goal. We had 11 mostly high quality shots. We scooped up 9 ground balls, and took 4 of 6 of the face-offs contested in the third. We were perfect on clears in that quarter, which contributed to the success we were having in a big way. We were owning that all important middle part of the field a little bit.

SEE WHAT CONDITION MY CONDITION WAS IN (First Edition – Kenny Rogers no less)

We lost a little pizzazz in the fourth quarter as we did not score and in fact had just 2 shots on goal while the Falcons tallied two more to get it to the 11-7 final score. We did some good stuff late, though, like forcing a couple of turnovers by bringing our goalie out and pressuring the ball as the final minutes waned. Byrnie (#6) our goalie knocked one guy out of bounds and flat on his back to force one T.O. TW Winston, one of the assistant coaches has been pushing that since he got here and it looked pretty good in action.

Air Force’s ability to bring it a little better in the fourth quarter is not exactly a news flash to me. My whole career as a college lacrosse player in the 70’s at Colorado College was predicated on preparing myself to run with the Zoomies on that one day we played them (2 games a year actually). As a senior I felt that I finally had conditioned myself to that level and oh, what a feeling that was. The service academy guys are nothing if not well conditioned, and I think that never changes of course. Meanwhile, our little CC team had been run out of the fourth quarter a few times during my career vs. Air Force and in games that we ‘had a look at’ at some point.

MAKING A STATEMENT

Even so, there was never a time in this 2011 game when we looked like we didn’t belong. I think this fact is a huge building block for this team. The competition this coming weekend will be different, but in some ways more intense, and the Air Force game/scrimmage should prove to be great preparation for the season at hand. We will be the target this coming weekend.

The better team won the game the other day, but at the same time they got a couple of garbage goals when we didn’t clear the crease as efficiently as we need to and they just picked the ball up and threw it in. Take those and one or two other breakdowns out of the mix, and I don’t think it is absurd to think that it might have been even a 7-7 game in that third quarter, and then, who knows.

Sophomore Austin Fisher (#9 – A) led our offensive attack with two goals and an assist on the day, but the other 5 goals came from 5 different guys and that kind of balance is an excellent sign for us as well. Six of our overall 9 points (Goals plus assists) came from the attack, but we got three goals from three different midfielders, so it is not like our potential firepower is all centrally located at one position. Last year, and it was only at times, we had to depend too heavily on having a high scoring attack group.

BAH DA BING BAH DA BOOM

We played three goalies at Air Force and all of them played pretty well and at times really well. It is reassuring from a coaching standpoint to see the defense perform pretty much equally well, regardless of who is minding the nets. Somehow I think we could learn to use multiple goalies. Like, for example, Byrnie (#6) is the goalie that will not flinch. He is tough. The slap when the ball hits his skin on a shot makes a serious THWACK. The ball doesn’t sound like that when it hits Andy or any of the others. Sean the goalie is our ‘meat’ guy, and the most supremely escellent teammate any team could have. They should all hug him every day. Anyway, he came out of the crease a few times and became the hunter and ran that “Bird dog” thing of bring-the-goalie-out and try to raise hell with the opponent that we are working on. Why not just bring him in at different times of the game to do just that for a series or two, and then put the other guy back kind of thing. Maybe I’m just crazy.

THE MULTI-HEADED GOALIE MONSTER – FRANKENSTEIN?!

Beyond that, I feel we have goalies that will fit certain games really well, etc., because of certain things they do, and as I said, I think that the defense looked pretty solid no matter who was in cage. Boy, if that isn’t a breath of fresh air…… This goalie thing could be fun. Let’s make the position a monster.