|Cohasset’s Jeff Brown has used his size and athleticism to the University of Denver’s advantage. (Rich Clarkson And Associates)|
Brown tightens defense for DU men?s lacrosse
At 6 feet 4 and 195 pounds, Jeff Brown is a physical and athletic long-pole defender for the University of Denver men’s lacrosse team.
He knocks down passes, he has a good stick, and his presence on the back line has been pivotal in tightening up a defensive unit that was pretty soft early on.
The first few weeks of this season, however, the former Cohasset High standout was a step behind, just trying to earn regular playing time, and justifiably so.
Last fall, as his Pioneer teammates were introduced to their new mentor, former Princeton coaching legend Bill Tierney, in a five-week short season, Brown was studying abroad in Greece.
“He was learning the ropes, it was a rough spot for him, but he kept working hard,’’ said Tierney of his junior defender, who has made seven straight starts and played 10 games overall. “Our defense was giving up too many goals. Since he has stepped into the lineup, he has been playing very well.’’
And so, too, have the Pioneers.
After a 1-3 start, Denver (12-4) has won 11 of its last 12 games, including a 12-4 victory over Loyola (Md.) to clinch the ECAC title and secure a spot in the NCAA tournament. The Pioneers, just 7-8 a year ago, will play at Stony Brook Saturday afternoon at 1 in the first round of the tournament.
“You set goals, but at 1-3, dreams of the NCAA tournament seemed far-fetched,’’ said Tierney, who guided Princeton to six NCAA titles in 22 seasons.
The Pioneers have lost just one game since mid-March, a 14-7 loss to Notre Dame. And Brown, who led Cohasset to back-to-back Division 3 state titles, has been immense.
“We have some big defensemen, but of the guys that start, he is the biggest, and he is left-handed, which really can give opposing players a different look, ’’ said Tierney. “The previous coaching staff here did a good job finding him.’’
The previous coaching staff utilized a defensive style that “was akin to a full-court press in basketball,’’ Tierney said. “I wasn’t comfortable with that; we emphasize a more supportive team defense. Jeff is a bright player, he has bought into it, like the others. It took a few weeks for everyone to get comfortable.’’
Now the Pioneers, just one of two Division 1 programs west of the Mississippi along with Air Force, head east for a rematch against a Stony Brook squad that they defeated 13-12 earlier this season.
“That game was the first win in our streak of nine wins, and the natural conclusion is that everything changed in that game,’’ said Tierney. “But we have come so far since then, but I’m sure they have, too. But this is real exciting, this is where you want to be, playing on [the East Coast], playing in the tournament, because people there know the game so well.’’
Since a 3-4 start, the Lyons are 29-4, capped by a 4-3, come-from-behind victory at Roger Williams last Friday in the regular-season finale. Senior Paul Malaguti delivered the winning blow, a tie-breaking solo homer in the 8th inning to present 14-year coach Eric Podbelski with his 400th career victory. The only coach in program history, the former Plymouth-Carver High standout is a remarkable 400-153-4 in the Wheaton dugout after serving as an assistant at his alma mater, Brandeis, for five seasons. The Lyons, ranked 16th nationally by D3baseball.com, will open the NCAA tournament May 19 at host Eastern Connecticut. Xaverian Brothers grad Jeff Lieneck of Foxborough had put together a splendid career for the Lyons. He ranks first in program history in career times hit by a pitch (45), third in putouts (748), fourth in sac bunts (17), tied for sixth in sac flies (11), and 10th in RBI (106). . . .
After securing its second NCAA Division 2 tournament berth in program history, the Stonehill College baseball team (29-16) will face New Haven (31-13) in the first round of the East Regional at host Southern Connecticut tonight at 7. The Skyhawks earned the automatic bid with a perfect 4-0 record at the Northeast-10 Conference championships last weekend, capped by a 5-4 10-inning victory over second-seeded host Franklin Pierce University on Sunday afternoon. . . .
Brandeis senior Suzanne Bernier of Hanson placed third in the high jump with a leap of 1.65 meters at the New England Outdoor Championship at Northeastern last week and was honored as the UAA’s Women’s Track & Field Athlete of the Week. . . .
Rockland High graduate Stephanie Crawford has been named a tricaptain for the women’s basketball team at Regis College for the 2010-11 season. As a sophomore, the 5-foot-4 guard averaged 11.6 points and delivered a team-leading 129 assists in the Pride’s run to the conference final.
The Dunlaps won the 14-and-under title after defeating Jack and Ross Rozanski of Canton, 6-0, 6-0. In the 12-and-under bracket, the Stansburys beat Mercy and Carrie Calkins of Brookline 6-2, 4-6, and 1-0 in the tie breaker.
However, both doubles teams will advance to the regionals July 24-25 at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale University: The Stansburys will compete in the father/child bracket, while the Calkinses will be entered in the mother/child bracket.
This will mark the second time in three years the Stansburys will be vying for the national title. Two years ago, they made it all the way to the finals, where they lost to another Weymouth Club doubles team, Peter and Maddie Dewire also of Hingham.
Craig Larson can be reached at email@example.com.