Dartmouth Capitalizing on Foundation Set Over Past 8 Years
Fri Mar 10 2023 | Justin Lafleur | College
College Men Dartmouth
Mitchell Myers won 21 of 39 faceoffs in Dartmouth’s comeback win over Hobart.
Prior to Tuesday’s game at Hobart, Dartmouth head coach Brendan Callahan told his team a story.
A story from 2015, his first season leading the program.
Following a 20-5 loss at No. 2 Notre Dame eight years ago, midfielder Jack Connolly asked Callahan what the team needed to do to compete with a team like the Fighting Irish.
Callahan responded honestly, saying that Notre Dame has been doing things the right way for a long time. It may take 10 years of doing things a certain way to build the foundation for success.
Has that time come for the Big Green? It sure looks like Dartmouth is beginning to reap the rewards of not only their own hard work, but also the hard work of years of student-athletes who have come through the program. Callahan wanted to make sure the current student-athletes didn’t lose sight of that — and make sure they knew they were ready for the next step.
What would ensue over the next few hours was proof. Dartmouth went down 7-1 in the first half but stormed back to pull even by halftime on the way to a wild 20-16 win inside the Thomas B. Poole ’61 and Family Sports Dome.
The win improved Dartmouth’s record to 4-0, good for its best start since 2003, the same year Dartmouth last won the Ivy League championship. Dartmouth also handed the Statesmen their first-ever loss inside the Poole Family Dome.
“Those guys started building the groundwork eight or nine years ago,” Callahan said. “This year, the guys have been carrying it through with the work they’ve done in the offseason, and we’re starting to elevate the program to a new level. What we were able to do at Hobart, and so far this season, is a sign of that.
“But we’ve got a long way to go and a lot of work still to do.”
The Big Green are one of four undefeated teams remaining in Division I men’s lacrosse, along with Virginia, Notre Dame and Cornell. They’re now eyeing their first Ivy League victory since 2015. The results are beginning to come, and they know they’re going about the process the right way.
“We’re four games into a 12-game season, and it’s the deepest and one of the most athletic rosters we’ve had in my time here,” Callahan said. “From an experience standpoint, we’re learning what it takes after we were close a year ago.”
Callahan is referring to close Ivy League contests. The Big Green lost by a combined four goals against two Final Four teams in Cornell (8-7) and Princeton (12-10), among several other competitive conference games.
Dartmouth entered this season hungry, and that hunger has been on display. The Big Green have already done things they haven’t done in a long time. Dartmouth opened by topping Merrimack, then beat Holy Cross 17-6 for its largest margin of victory since 2004. A home win over Siena followed, setting up Tuesday’s showdown at Hobart.
Dartmouth entered Tuesday third nationally in scoring defense (allowing just eight goals per game). The Big Green scored 20 goals for the first time since 2008, with 19 coming over the game’s final three quarters. Reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Week Emmett Paradine led with 10 points via seven goals and three assists, becoming the first Division I men’s lacrosse freshman to reach double figures in a game this spring.
“I had a shortie on me and was doing what I was coached to do, dodge the low wings and try to get to my shots,” Paradine said. “Guys were moving off-ball and finding themselves. I was trying to feed them, play with my head up, and if they didn’t slide, I was going to the goal.”
A midfielder, Paradine is one of many exciting pieces in place. The Big Green also have experience on attack, including sophomore Colin McGill, who has five or more points in three games this season. Dartmouth features two veteran defensemen who have received All-Ivy recognition in their careers in fifth year Peter Rizzotti and senior Andrew Johnston. An All-Ivy faceoff specialist in Mitchell Myers, who led the nation in faceoff percentage entering Tuesday, certainly helps, and he went 21-for-39 against Hobart’s Adam Shea, who is consistently among the nation’s best faceoff specialists (winning more than 56 percent of his career draws).
There were stretches when Myers struggled against Shea, but he focused on the next faceoff attempt, which ties into another important message Callahan shared prior to the game.
“I had no idea when I said it in the pregame that it would be this important, but our mentality was to win the next play,” Callahan said. “To win big games, they feel like this; there are some things that go your way and some things that don’t. The mentality was to win the next play. No matter what happened, good or bad, let’s focus on winning the next faceoff, the next ground ball, or the next offensive or defensive possession.”
The Big Green responded to adversity all game and outscored Hobart 19-9 over the final 42:38. In less than eight minutes (from 12:38 to 4:49 of the second quarter), Dartmouth spun off a 6-0 run to pull even at seven.
Dartmouth didn’t trail in the second half, but Hobart pulled even at nine and then at 11 in the third quarter. The Statesmen used a 3-0 fourth-quarter surge to get back within 16-15 with 8:29 remaining, but the Big Green continued to win the next play on the way to their first win against Hobart since 1955.
What’s perhaps most encouraging for Callahan is that the group is finding ways to win, even in less-than-ideal circumstances.
“To do what we did on two days’ rest, a five-hour bus trip and conditions causing us to come inside, we had a lot of chips stacked against us, and I couldn’t be prouder of the team,” he said. “If you draw a picture in your head of what a perfect game would look like, everything’s clean, it goes your way, you start the game and you’re up and you’re making plays.
“But that’s not how most games go, and we certainly haven’t had that go our way yet, which is exciting because it still means we have a lot where we can grow on and get better. The tenacity and resilience of this team to find ways to get it done when we don’t have our ‘A’ game has been impressive.”
After a 12-day break from games due to final exams (Dartmouth runs on trimesters), the Big Green next play Sunday, March 19, at North Carolina before heading to Hampton two days later.
Then it’s Ivy League play, during which Dartmouth hopes the last nine years of work will pay dividends. The mindset among the group is of added confidence, while understanding their work has just begun.
“Our confidence is if we show up and play well and play our best, we’ll have a chance every time we step on the field,” Callahan said. “But then if you put the film on from Tuesday, there’s so much improvement to be made. If you can step back and take a realistic look at not just the result, but also how we got to it, that’s where you stay humble because you put the film on and see we have a long way to go.”