Robert Morris duo paces lacrosse team
Kiel Matisz will take three weeks to study for an exam. Jake Hayes doesn't mind waiting until the night before.
Matisz doesn't worry much about what he wears. Hayes cringes each time he sees his friend pull a pair of crew socks up to his calves.
Matisz is a righty and, at 6-foot-5, uses a power game. The 5-5 Hayes tends to rely more on speed to get off his left-handed shot.
As different as the Robert Morris lacrosse team's odd couple may be, they're united in scoring a boatload of goals, enough to carry the Colonials to their best season.
“Kiel and I see each other really well,” Hayes said. “I think the chemistry is really high between us. It's just been working out really well this year.”
Matisz and Hayes are the only set of teammates among Division I teams to rank among the top 15 in points and goals per game: Matisz at 4.3 and 2.6 (ranked fifth and 15th), Hayes at 2.9 and 4.0 (15th and fifth).
They are also more than likely the only scoring tandem in the country to be separated by 12 inches of height.
“For me, finding him on the field is pretty easy,” joked Hayes, whose Colonials will play No. 20 Bryant today with the regular season Northeast Conference title and postseason tournament hosting rights on the line.
They play on the same side, with Hayes typically to the right of Matisz, who uses his gigantic frame to maintain possession before feeding Hayes, a player whose speed gives opposing defenses fits tracking him.
That formula has helped Robert Morris (10-3, 4-0 NEC) average a Division I-best 14.38 goal, which, if it holds, would be the third consecutive year RMU led the country in offense.
Part of that success, Matisz and Hayes explain, is the Colonials' running of sets rather than plays, giving players the freedom to improvise and make split-second decisions.
“I hear a lot of my buddies — who go to other Division I universities — talk,” said Matisz, an economics and marketing double major and a national finalist for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. “They don't have nearly as much freedom on offense.”
They also don't have players like Matisz and Hayes.
One busy day
Last Saturday won't soon be forgotten around Grove City. Not only did the men's tennis team win its 22nd consecutive Presidents' Athletic Conference title — getting wins from PAC Player of the Year Peter Riley at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles — but the women's water polo team captured its third consecutive Collegiate Water Polo Association Division III title with a 10-3 victory over Washington & Jefferson. Chelsea Johnson, the CWPA Player of the Year, scored five goals in the championship game to give her 293 during an impressive four-year career.
A big win
Needing to beat the No. 9 team in the country to make the playoffs for the first time in program history, the Indiana University (Pa.) women's lacrosse team did just that, knocking off Lock Haven, 14-13, on Thursday to claim the No. 5 seed in next week's Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference tournament. Colleen Berlin had four goals, and Stephanie Bianco and Becca Vogt added three apiece for the Crimson Hawks (11-5), who will meet the loser's of today's game between Mercyhurst and No. 14 Gannon in the quarterfinals Tuesday.
Around the district
Junior Steven Hill threw the first no-hitter for Penn State since 1995 last Saturday, striking out three and allowing one walk during a 2-0 win over Iowa. ... The IUP women's basketball team will open the 2012-13 season with an exhibition game against Division I heavyweight Connecticut. ... Derek Smith, a junior infielder for the Pitt-Bradford baseball team, leads NCAA Division III in hitting at .538.
Jason Mackey is a freelance writer.