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Brutal schedule doesn't hinder RMU lacrosse program

| Friday, March 23, 2012

Congratulations, Drew McMinn. You're the new head coach of the Robert Morris men's lacrosse team. Oh, and good luck — you're going to need it.

McMinn didn't hear those words when he was hired last September, but maybe he should have.

Robert Morris (5-3) has played seven of its first eight games against teams that have been ranked nationally or have received votes. Further, only one of those contests was at home.

"We're always trying to get the best schedule possible," said McMinn, who's been with the program for six years, the past two as RMU's offensive coordinator.

RMU's wins have come against Bellarmine, UMBC, Air Force, Ohio State and Hobart, the losses to Denver, Colgate and Bucknell, three teams in the current top 20.

"Once that schedule is in place, it's not in our control," McMinn said. "So, we just worry about doing everything that we can to improve."

Which, translated, means to score more goals, a tenet of McMinn's up-tempo system. Robert Morris has led the country in goals per game the past two seasons, last year checking in at 13.8.

That number has dipped to 11.4 this season — still in the top third nationally — but it should improve now that the Colonials are out of the briar patch.

"With our style of play, we're obviously aggressive in a lot of scenarios," McMinn said. "There are teams where it might have been better for us to slow the ball down — in hindsight — but we're also able to catch some teams off guard with the pace we bring from the first whistle."

Kiel Matisz and Jake Hayes have been RMU's offensive leaders, tallying 24 and 19 goals, respectively.

Tornado in town

Geneva pitcher Julie DiLonardo (Plum) has won 52 games the past four years, but only her eight this spring have counted for anything, with the Golden Tornadoes finally eligible to compete for the Presidents' Athletic Conference title after a four-year transition from NAIA to NCAA Division III.

The Golden Tornadoes (9-9) went 52-18 against PAC opponents during the transition period, only to watch other teams hoist championship trophies.

"Everybody is excited that we can compete for the PAC title because the past three years we haven't been able to — and we've been a dominant team in the PAC," said DiLonardo, who set the school's career wins record over the weekend. "It will be nice to finally be able to get something for that."

Hynson strikes gold

Lost in the hubbub of California (Pa.) University swimmer Melissa Gates snagging her second and third national titles last week, IUP senior Jackie Hynson broke the NCAA Division II 200-yard butterfly record last week to claim her first national championship with a time of 1 minute, 58.84 seconds.

Ostergard, Cramer sign

Two Robert Morris hockey players signed contracts with ECHL affiliates this past week: forward Ron Cramer with the Cincinnati Cyclones (Nashville Predators, Florida Panthers) and goaltender Brooks Ostergard with the Chicago Express (Columbus Blue Jackets).

Cramer, a New Wilmington native, had 21 goals and 40 assists during his career, the 10th-best point total in RMU history. Ostergard is the program's all-time leader in goals-against average at 2.73. His 39 wins and 2,776 career saves rank second in program history.

Around the district

Robert Morris women's hockey coach Paul Colontino was named the National Coach of the Year by U.S. College Hockey Online. ... Slippery Rock pole vaulter Cameron Daugherty owns the top mark in NCAA Division II this season: 5.05 meters, attained at Sunday's Shamrock Invitational in South Carolina. ... Edinboro junior Kiara Brown (Ambridge) was named a first team All-American by the Women's Basketball Coaches' Association. ... Caitlin Nealer, who helped Valley's softball team to a PIAA Class AAA title last spring, has become Allegheny College's top pitcher, posting an 8-0 record and 0.40 ERA, with 66 strikeouts in 522/3 innings.

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