Conn. College’s Czerkawski touts exciting win over Middlebury
For Chuck Czerkawski, nothing can compare. Not even the back-to-back Division 3 state lacrosse titles he won at Cohasset High in 2006-’07.
“Upsetting Middlebury College was the most exciting win I’ve ever had,’’ said the Connecticut College sophomore midfielder. “Middlebury is such a historic team in the NESCAC [New England Small College Athletic Conference] and Division 3 lacrosse.’’
The win was Conn. College’s first over rival Middlebury since 1995. It also propelled the Camels (7-0, 3-0 NESCAC) to the best start in program history and to No. 10 on the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association National Poll.
One of the main reasons for the fast start has been Czerkawski’s dominance on faceoffs. Through seven games, he had won 71 percent (80-112) of his draws, and led the Camels with 44 groundballs. While he has only two shots and one goal, Czerkawski might be making the biggest impact of any player.
“The face-off guy might have the most important position on the field,’’ he said. “If you don’t have the ball, you can’t score. The more time you have the ball, the less time they have it. [Winning face-offs] also is a good way to stop a team’s run and go on a run of your own.’’
Czerkawski said the keys to winning a face-off are quickness and using your go-to move.
“I like to use ‘The Plunger,’ ’’ he said. “You pinch the ball with the back of your stick and throw it behind the opposing face-off guy, creating a fast break down the field.’’
Coach Dave Cornell agreed: “His play at the face-off gives us a belief that we can win any game. He allows us to dictate the flow of the game.’’
Through seven games, Connecticut was third in the NESCAC in both face-off percentage (.654) and groundballs (234). Czerkawski ranked second in both. He credits the extra reps he has been getting in practice with first-year assistant coach Thomas Nahornick, who in four seasons finished fourth all-time in groundballs (130) in Western Connecticut State University history.
“He has been a great mentor for me in practice,’’ Czerkawski said. “He knows what works and what doesn’t.’’
Connecticut College is seeking its first NESCAC title and only its second winning season since it went 8-6 and reached the NESCAC quarterfinals in 2003. “If we can win the NESCAC championship, we get an automatic bid to the NCAA Division 3 Tournament,’’ Czerkawski said. “That’s the No. 1 goal.’’
“She’s a pure attacker,’’ said first-year coach Damir Pesa, who replaced Kristan Mallet. “She’s very good at dealing with a lot of defenders.’’
Pesa said Forand has been shadowed by a defender each game this season and she often faces double and triple teams. “We try to isolate her as much as possible,’’ he said. “But she’s going up against defenders who most likely have a lot more experience than most of our players.’’
The Bison, who won only three games last season, don’t have one senior on the squad. And there’s five players who first picked up a lacrosse stick in college. “We have seven players who have scored this season, which wouldn’t have happened last year,’’ Pesa said. “They’ve put in the hard work to catch up, and our team chemistry is getting better each game.’’
Entering the season, Forand was fifth in points (46), sixth in goals (36), and tied for fourth all-time in assists (10) in the program, which has been around since 2001. Forand hopes to propel the program to the next level.
“The program is definitely going in the right direction,’’ she said. “We need to win a few more conference games and make the playoffs.’’
Steve Crowe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.