June 15-21, 2006
Thin green line
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
Le Moyne lacrosse’s defense catapulted it to perfect season
The cliché would have you believe that while offense sells tickets, defense wins championships. For Le Moyne lacrosse this season defense did both.
Senior longstick defenseman Travis Tarr, an Auburn High School product, was among the more recognizable names in local sports this spring. Tarr, the reigning Division II player of the year, was a preseason mention for the prestigious Tewaaraton Award. He repeated as Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 and helped form a defensive unit that carried the Dolphins to their second NCAA Division II title in four years.
Once upon a time, the program from the little Jesuit school on the east side of Syracuse languished in the shadow of mighty Syracuse University, with its 22-year final-four streak, its bevy of All-Americans and its status among the top programs in the nation.
This past spring, however, it was difficult to open a sports page without seeing a headline trumpeting another Le Moyne lacrosse success. Tarr said the key to the defense’s success this past season was that each player performed within the bounds of his position.
“Everyone had a role to play and they were happy with that role,” said the recent graduate, who received the William C. Schmeisser Award as the top defenseman in Division II. “We play solid position defense and the guys off the ball were just as important as the guy on the ball,” Le Moyne coach Dan Sheehan said.
Sheehan was quick to point out that each unit needed to be solid for the Dolphins to achieve the kind of success they’ve had over the past half decade. “Over the past four or five years, our defense has been very, very solid; but we’ve also had a solid offense,” the coach said. “What is the identity of Le Moyne lacrosse? I think that’s a great question. I think it’s fundamental lacrosse [from both our defensive unit and our offensive unit].” Tarr believes that fellow longstick defenseman Chris Doran, a product of the East Syracuse-Minoa program, was worthy of similar honors.
“He was right there with me,” Tarr said. “Sometimes I think he played better than me. We could have been co-defensive players of the year.” Doran was selected for USILA All-America first-team honors along with attackman Mike MacDonald; middie Alex Bily, a West Genesee product; and faceoff specialist Chris Moore, another former ES-M Spartan. Matt Juriga, a close defenseman from Chenango Forks High School in the Southern Tier, earned honorable mention All-America status. Tarr had been recruited by several Division I programs but a lack of size and footspeed would have likely relegated him to the bench early in his college career. UMass, Penn, Navy and Fairfield all showed interest. Tarr said it finally came down to choosing between Le Moyne and Fairfield. Initially, a letter of interest from Le Moyne went directly into the waste-paper basket but the efforts of Dolphin coach Dan Sheehan and the potential to play right was finally enough to lure Tarr. “I have no regrets about my career,” Tarr said. “It was better than I ever imagined although this is what I had hoped for.” Tarr’s lacrosse savvy and game preparation enabled him to overcome a slight lack of athleticism.
Against Merrimack, for example, Tarr held the leading scorer in Division II, Greg Rogowski, to one goal in two games. During the regular season, Rogowski, who averaged 7.07 goals per game, scored one. In the Northeast-10 Conference Tournament championship, Tarr and the rest of Le Moyne’s defensive unit blanked the quick and diminutive attackman. “We all knew what he wanted to do,” Tarr said. “I had confidence in my teammates to step up.” “It’s easy to get caught up in match-ups,” Sheehan said. “But this team really understood the match-ups.” Having defensemen with the talent of Tarr, Doran and Juriga and a goalie of two-time All-America Jared Corcoran’s caliber took a considerable amount of pressure off of Le Moyne’s offensive middies. It also propelled the Dolphins’ offense. “Travis could pick up the ball and turn it into a fast break at the other end,” Sheehan said, elaborating that it spoke to a fundamental understanding on Tarr’s part of ground balls and clearing.
He added that in the national championship against Dowling in Philadelphia, Juriga, Doran and Tarr were frequently across the midfield line and defensive middie Nate Evans was responsible for scoring the winning goal. Sheehan noted that excitement around the Le Moyne community has never been higher. He hopes that the enthusiasm will perhaps translate into a new facility not just for lacrosse but for the school in general. “I think the word ‘stadium’ scares people. We don’t need the Carrier Dome on our campus,” Sheehan said. “But a multi-purpose facility with a turf field would do tremendous things for our college community, and not just for lacrosse.”