Top Defensive Units for 2005

Top Defensive Units for 2005

Top Defensive Units for 2005

Top Defensive Units for 2005

#1 Johns Hopkins University

As much as it pains the most diehard Blue Jay haters, there’s just no way to argue with this one. Three Senior starters in Tom Garvey, Chris Watson and Benson Erwin, who have 11 years of combined starting experience between them, Matt Pinto, a junior close defenseman who’s also a returning starter, senior Greg Raymond, the team’s returning starter LSM, and arguably the world’s top defenseman of all time as a head coach. To say they’re stacked is a serious understatement. With Pinto, Garvey, a second team AA last season, and Watson, a four year starter, covering the opposing team’s attack unit in close, there’s really just no weakness to attack. So lets move to the midfield; an offense can definitely attack from the midfield, right? Well let’s remember that a returning starter in Raymond is coming back at the LSM spot and with Benson Erwin at the top short stick defensive middie position for the fourth consecutive season, it’s like having two poles running out top. Erwin shines at a position normally left in the dark and like most other great SSDM’s is viewed as the team’s unsung hero. Put all these players together under the guidance of Coach Dave Pietramala and it’s going to be a long season for offenses coming into Homewood. But as always, high expectations don’t necessarily equal a national championship and the number one spot has annually been the kiss of death for Hopkins.

#2 United States Naval Academy

After posting the second best defensive numbers in the nation last season statistically (out of teams with an even decent strength of schedule they were easily number one) you’d expect there to be some let down this season. But with every one of their key defensive players coming back-including 3 senior close defenseman, a senior LSM and two senior SSDMs- as well as their dual “Most Outstanding Defensive Players” Hendler and Lennon, it only seems as if they’re going to improve. For starters, you know that no one in the nation will be in better shape, hit harder or be tougher than these boys; so they got that going for them, which is nice. Their top defenseman and a 3rd team AA last season Mitch Hendler is back after covering the opponents top attackman week in and week out last season. Joining him at close defense is senior Mike Felber, a returning starter, along with Pat Reilley, another fellow senior with starting experience. Senior goalie turned LSM Seth DiNola has the athleticism to go step for step with any middie in the nation and the returning duo of Clipper Lennon and Dan Harris, also senior returning starters, at SSDM will be giving midfielders fits all season long. Like Hopkins, their experience will without a doubt help them to control offenses; however it’s their hardnosed style of play that will really strike fear into opponents. Were it not for the Blue Jays’ individual defensive talents the Midshipmen might have grabbed the number one spot, as their defense is almost as complete a unit as one could hope for.

#3 University of Maryland

After graduating five of their six starters on defense, including two 1st team all American close defenseman, one of whom was the D1 defenseman of the year, another All American close defenseman, the top SSDM in the nation and the team’s MVP, and another SSDM who’s now starring the NLL, it’d appear that the Terps have some big shoes to fill. But no matter how many defenseman Maryland seems to lose every couple of years, they always manage to record some of the top numbers in the nation soon after. With three returning impact players in sophomore Ryan Clarke- who recorded 1 goal and 2 assists as a freshman LSM, Captains Gavin Webb and Tyler Hereth, two of the teams strongest and most athletic players, there’s definitely no lack of talent. Add Air Force transfer Steve Wittenberg in at close, who could easily sprint through a brick wall, along with two of the nation’s top freshman long sticks in Mountain Lakes’ Joe Cinosky and Darien’s Charlie Wiggins and you’ve got one hard nosed athletic squad. While they might not have the most experience, with defensive coach Dave Slafkosky still at the helm and the recent addition of Terp Alum Jeff Shirk working with the midfielders, it will quickly be very apparent that Maryland’s defense won’t be missing a step.

#4 Georgetown University

While the Hoyas might not have a long list of big time players, they do have probably the top long stick in senior Brodie Merrill, as well as the largest defensive unit on the list. No, it’s not their depth that’s worth noting, it’s the fact that all four of their top defensemen are 6-0 200 pounds and up. Merrill, 6-4 205, was a 1st team AA last year as a junior and is a groundball hawk with Canadian stick skills allowing him to put points on the board. The close defense’s anchor is Reyn Garnett a 6-4 215 pound junior who’s one of the strongest players on the team and a returning All ECAC team member. Joining Garnett on close will be fellow juniors Rob Smith and John Trapp who are also part of the team’s strongest players and are 6-0 210 and 6-2 200 respectively. By gaining a bit more experience under their belts early on this season, they should be able to improve on last year’s impressive numbers.

#5 University of Virginia

Despite a less than stellar defensive effort last year, Virginia’s got a lot to look forward to this season. They’re bringing back two tremendous defensemen in juniors Steve Holmes, who missed all of last season after playing with the UVA football team, and Mike Culver, a “smart and smooth player with the quickest feet on the team.” Aside from having these two ridiculous athletes working around the cage, Coach Starsia also managed to lock in one of the nation’s top LSMs to cover the guys out top. Rob Bateman finished up his undergrad work at Penn State with an extra year of eligibility still in his pocket and decided to try his hand at grad school. Easily the most experienced and best stick handler, he has 4 goals and 20 assists over three seasons, the addition of Bateman brings the UVA defensive unit to another level. Factor in that most teams will most likely be underestimating the Cavs after last season’s performance and chances are that they’ll be turning plenty of heads.

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(no subject)
    by (#88495) on 2/04/05 @10:04PM
i personally like wat im hearing about rob bateman, but i think that hopkins will be the guys to really be watching cause i think they will go all the way this year. but im still a big fan of navy myself.
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Hopkins #1??
    by (#49967) on 2/05/05 @3:51AM
I can agree from an experience stand point that Hopkins would be number...b/c they sure do have the experience...but I do not think that they are the best unit overall....I mean don't get me wrong I am a die-hard fan and I hope they go all the way.....but in a typical Hopkins game that they win...the offense has the ball for 65-70% of the they do not need to have as much as an emphasis on defense as other teams...Pinto is the only starter that can be a takeaway defenseman that could pressure the guy he is covering to cough up the ball...especially if it is late in the game and they are down a goal or two...Chris Watson is a bit on the slow side and really is just a big body that covers a lot of space and make it tough to get good looks at the goal....Tom Garvey is over-rated....the reason he is effective has he has been against the Powells and Dingmans is because of the quick slides and help he gets on double teams....but on one-on-one match-ups he can get burned real bad....Mike Powell toasted him in the 2004 Final Four...I think that Cuse was overlooked....they have a solid unit that came on late in the playoffs with their zone and only lost one starter....Towson is decent too with Cummins and Turnblacer and 3-year starter Sothoron in goal

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Tom Garvey Kicks Ass!! (nt)
    by (#88662) on 2/08/05 @9:43PM
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Silly kids...look at the facts, not the 'hot list'
    by (#90503) on 2/09/05 @5:24PM
Ok, posting 1 goal and 3 assists is not exactly "toasting" someone. Mike Powell is no doubt a phenomenal player...and for that reason, both Hopkins and Navy had to try to shut him down. For the most part, they did. Unfortunately that opened things up for the other cannons that Syracuse has.
Anyhow, with regards to Tom Garvey, think about some of your reasoning..."the reason he is because of the quick slides and help he gets on double teams..." Uhhhh, that's called team defense. And that's what is the issue/question here. The best returning defense is going to be the best TEAM DEFENSE. And the best in the world to teach that is Dave Pietramala. My opinion is that he is one of the main reasons that Hopkins was given the #1 ranking. But then look at last year's statistics. Hopkins held opponents to an average of 7.62 goals/game on the season while posting an average 12.06/game (Syracuse: 10.94 goals against average). That's all defense right there. They also held opponents to 31.9 shots/game while posting 42.1/game (opponents got 39.8 shots/game against Syracuse). Then the fact that they won 56% of the ground balls over the season (Syracuse won 49%)...all of this adds up to a dominant defense last season. Well, now take into consideration that pretty much all of that defense is returning! Statistically speaking (which all of this 'preseason' bunk is based on), Hopkins is the defense to look at.
One thing I'm surprised that isn't mentioned in fram's analysis is returning goalies...aren't they part of the defense? Anyone remember a particular goalie named Matt Russell (i.e. Navy)? My guess is that he'll probably continue his dominance between the pipes.
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Yeah....and they last won it in '87
    by (#49967) on 2/09/05 @8:54PM
So all of those stats mean squat....cus even if they are that good in the regular season they are "Big Game Losers" when it comes to the playoffs. Besides I said the offense has the ball for like 60-70% of th game so the defense does not need to work that hard to win games.
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    by (#106215) on 5/19/06 @10:29PM
this is complete crap. if their defense was bad, or even decent, their offense wouldn't have the ball as much would they? If their defense wasn't as good, they wouldn't force as many turnovers, so they wouldn't be able to give it to the offense as much. unless the other team's defense never forces a turnover, you never drop a pass, you win every faceoff, and never ever lose possession of the ball, YOU NEED YOUR DEFENSE!!!!!
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    by (#83742) on 2/05/05 @8:26AM
Apparently someone at has a problem with me questioning why UVA is #5 as they deleted my previous post. With 2 players mentioned that have not been playing lax for over a year and a new goalie that isn't Tillman, I would put Cornell or Cuse in the #5 spot.
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    by (#16083) on 2/05/05 @2:04PM

Who's the second player that didn't play last year? Culver and Bateman were both starters at UVA and Penn State, only that other guy didn't play- and he played football- it's not as if he went abroad.
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    by (#2405) on 2/08/05 @1:08PM
F.L., don't write articles and then defend yourself with another screenname. donkey
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    by (#16083) on 2/08/05 @1:13PM
Don't get angry about losing all the free gear to your dad because he won the fantasy league.
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    by (#2405) on 2/08/05 @3:30PM
My Dad is a lax guru. Anyway, what free gear did he receive for his victory? I have not heard of any yet...Is this a conspiracy? Lake Placid rules!
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UVA's goalie
    by (#40548) on 2/14/05 @9:41PM
I agree Tilgman Johnson was a beast in the net but I wouldn't sleep on UVA's goalie this year. Bud Petit did play on the Under 19 team and he is the real deal. I think the biggest thing you lose by Johnson's graduating is his leadership. That will be tough to replace.
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And with Tillman leaving....
    by (#90503) on 2/15/05 @1:57PM also lose his tendency to choke! Ha! I'm totally joking. But, I can only hope they start their season on a better note than last year. I was at last year's season opening tourney in Denver when UVA's defense was completely non-existant against both Air Force and University of Denver. They looked absolutely horrible. And it was just weird to see this goalie that made the most unbelieveable stops in the previous season's championships suddenly get Air Force?!
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    by (#89544) on 2/25/05 @4:43PM
Georgetown, In my opinion will take it all the way the defense is a bunch of giants and no one in their right mind will want to go against 6'2 almost 300 pound dudes. No one will get to the goal without going home to mommy after the game.
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