NCAA Notes: Furman Has Come a Long Way from 1-12


Richie Meade, the former longtime Navy coach now in his fifth season at Furman, says the Paladins have been waiting for the breakthrough win to which they came tantalizingly close at North Carolina.

In the short history of men’s lacrosse at Furman University, it arguably qualifies as the most exciting day the Paladins have produced.

Never mind that it ultimately ended on a sour note. Never mind that Furman fell on Saturday against high-powered, heavily-favored, ninth-ranked North Carolina, which showed both weakness and pedigree by sending a wild game into overtime before surviving in Chapel Hill 15-14.

Early in its fifth season in Division I, Furman has been making progress under head coach Richie Meade, the school’s first varsity coach. After being forced out following a largely successful 17-season tenure at Navy, highlighted by the Midshipmen’s run to the NCAA title game in 2004, Meade moved to Greenville in 2012 to take the job at South Carolina’s oldest private institution of higher learning.

One season removed from a strong showing in the Southern Conference, a year in which Furman shared the regular season crown with Richmond before falling to the Spiders in the league tournament to end with a 7-8 record, the Paladins came so close to pulling off their biggest-ever signature victory.

“We’ve been in a lot of good games against some really good teams,” Meade said. “We’re at the point where we’ve got to feel, or at least we should feel, that we can play with a team like Carolina. For five years, that’s the win we’ve waited for.”

It nearly happened. Once Carolina senior attackman Chris Cloutier scored his fourth goal with 5:09 left in the third quarter to put the Paladins in a 12-6 hole — Cloutier was the Tar Heels’ 2016 postseason hero who pushed Carolina to its first NCAA title in 25 years — Furman seized and held momentum in stunning fashion over the next 19 minutes.

With seven players doing the scoring, Furman went on an improbable 8-1 run that rocked the Tar Heels. Sophomore attackman Chad Kruezer started the rally with 3:27 left in the third quarter, junior midfielder Zach Scott scored the first of his two goals to cut the Carolina lead to 12-8. By the time Scott scored his second goal with 5:09 left in the fourth quarter, the game was tied at 13.

Sophomore attackman Mike Liscombe then scored an extra-man goal three minutes later to give Furman a 14-13 lead.

In the end, the Tar Heels overcame their young, shaky defense and the 17 turnovers that nearly negated their 21-for-32 faceoff dominance and a 13-save effort by Paladins sophomore goalie Alec Van de Bovencamp.

Cloutier scored his fifth goal — to go with five more from midfielder Tanner Cook — to force OT. Tar Heels midfielder Justin Anderson then denied a monster upset bid with his only goal of the day 91 seconds into the extra period.

Furman, which has only six seniors on its roster, has played Ohio State and Penn State close in recent years. A year ago, the Paladins went on a program-best six-game winning streak in conference play to become a legitimate NCAA tournament contender, before losing twice to Richmond, an opponent they have yet to beat.

Furman has come a long way since the 1-12 squad took major lumps in the school’s inaugural 2014 season. In its first three seasons, Furman’s record was 7-32, not unusual for a Division I start-up operation that schedules some big boys.

Carolina, which is dealing with some inexperience at midfield and on defense in 2018, has played Furman every year. Before Saturday, the Tar Heels had won their first four games against the Paladins by a combined score of 59-16.

After nearly making history in their fifth encounter with the Tar Heels, the biggest win in Furman’s Division I life remains the 8-7 decision over conference rival Air Force last year, a victory that confirmed the Paladins as league title contenders.

Furman (0-2) comes to Baltimore to face Sacred Heart on Saturday at Homewood Field. The teams will face off at 11 a.m.

“When I first got here, there wasn’t even a lacrosse ball at Furman,” Meade said. “It takes a year or two to figure out who your guys are. You lose guys to transfers and attrition. Now, we’ve got three classes behind the seniors that are pretty solid. I feel like we’re on solid ground now.”

‘That’s Maryland’

As second-ranked Maryland opened its first season as defending NCAA champions since 1976 in College Park on Saturday, a steady rain fell and some familiar questions were about to be answered — or at least begin to be answered.

How would the Terps look against nonconference rival Navy, minus those familiar stars on offense (attackmen Matt Rambo, Colin Heacock and Dylan Maltz) and those familiar forces on defense (Tim Muller and Isaiah Davis-Allen)? How would they react after learning that senior defenseman Bryce Young would be unavailable due to an undisclosed injury?

It was only one game, but Maryland looked like, well, Maryland.

The Terps controlled tempo, gave up few easy offensive looks, took smart shots, shook off some faceoff issues and took control. They were never in danger, while splashing their way to a methodical 10-4 win.

Returnees Tim Rotanz (three goals) and Connor Kelly anchored a midfield rotation that introduced Terps fans to highly touted freshman Bubba Fairman (three goals). Jared Bernhardt and Syracuse transfer Logan Wisnaukas were a handful with two points apiece on attack.

On defense, Michael Adler stepped in for Young capably. Junior defenseman Curtis Corley, senior long-sitck midfielder Matt Neufeldt and senior defensive midfielder Adam DiMillo were the unit’s glue.

Maryland improved to 89-3-1 in season openers by scoring at least two goals in each quarter and by shutting out Navy in two quarters.

Following Tuesday’s 13-7 over Marist, the Terps are 2-0.

“[The Terps] still hang their hat at the defensive end. That hasn’t changed, even though some names and faces have changed,” said Navy coach Rick Sowell, whose team fell to 0-2. “They handle the ball well. They look for the quick strike on offense, but they are really patient.

“They graduated some guys, but they’ve got guys ready to step in. They’re high-end recruits. Those are pretty good athletes running around out there with great stick skills and coaching. That’s Maryland.”

So Far, So Good for Ohio State Faceoff Duo, Goalie

Ohio State coach Nick Myers did not hesitate when asked what he liked most about the Buckeyes’ 2-0 start, following wins over Cleveland State and Boston University by a combined score of 28-15.

The losses of faceoff stud Jake Withers and goalkeeping stalwart Tom Carey loomed large in Myers’ mind, as the season opener approached.

A year after playing in its first NCAA title game, Ohio State — which lost 9-6 to Maryland on Memorial Day — is off to a good-looking start at those two vital specialist positions.

For now, the Buckeyes are going with a 1-2 punch on draws, and sophomore Christian Feliziani (19-for-28) and freshman Justin Inacio (15-for-19) have done their jobs. In goal, senior Matthew Smidt is averaging 11 saves and has stopped 59.5 percent of the shots he’s faced.

Certainly, the quality of opponents will get exponentially tougher for the Buckeyes. But so far, so good.

“When you lose an All-American at faceoff and goalie, there’s always uncertainty, and those were big question marks,” Myers said. “You see [the new guys] doing it in practice and you feel good. But you’ve got to see that happen in games. It’s early, but we’re seeing good things.”

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