Chestnut Hill College junior middie Junji Wiener (left) shields the ball from Coker College’s Mikey Mazzola. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Chestnut Hill College lost its first men’s lacrosse contest in the month of March, but the Griffins bounced back with a vengeance last week, winning each of their first three home games while outscoring their guests by a combined figure of 56-17.

On their way to a 4-1 record, the Griffins dispatched Assumption College on Tuesday (18-4), conquered Coker College on Thursday (16-6), and overpowered American International on Saturday afternoon (22-7). Since the local school was on spring break, the two weekday games each got underway at 1:00 PM.

“We’ve been running things sort of like a pro team this week,” said second-year coach Brian Dougherty. “We’ve been watching a lot of film and working on integrating our 16 new guys into the program. We’re not really putting in a lot of new plays, though. We want to learn what we already have well enough so that we can go fast out there and not have to think about each step.”

CHC had opened the season on February 25 with a 7-6 triple-overtime victory at Mercy College, which was ranked ninth nationally in the pre-season NCAA Division II poll. Next it was off to Erie, Pa. to face number one Mercyhurst on March 3, when the host Lakers leveled the Griffins.

Asked what lessons were learned in that encounter with the top-ranked club, Dougherty replied “First and foremost, we just turned the ball over too many times, and when you do that against Mercyhurst, you end up losing 17-5. We got away with that against some teams that aren’t as strong, but in the long run that type of thing is going to hurt you. “Sometimes we’re just throwing the ball around too casually and not being smart with possession,” he elaborated. “Still, I’m not that unhappy at coming away with a split when we opened up with two top-10 teams.”

None of CHC’s opponents last week were as formidable, and the Griffins took care of business. On Tuesday they whipped in the first six goals to take control in the opening quarter, and they led 11-1 in the third frame before Assumption scored its second goal of the day.

Junior Craig Owen and sophomore Mike Melnychenko each had hat tricks to top a list of 10 CHC goal-scorers. Starting junior goalie Dakota Maurer recorded 10 saves, and Dougherty was able to get sophomore Ryan Duffy into the cage for 15 minutes to make three stops.

Two days later the Griffins hosted Coker, a South Carolina club just starting its first season of intercollegiate lacrosse. The Griffins were in the same position just two years ago.

“Some first-year programs are pretty good,” Dougherty cautioned, “and I’ve found that every time you go into a game thinking you’re just going to work on some plays and get everybody in, you usually end up stinking. The way it worked out, we played pretty well at the beginning, so then we were able to give everybody a chance to play and we had a chance to work on our zone offense.”

Owen got started on a three-goal, three-assist afternoon with a pair of first-period goals to help the hosts go ahead 6-2, but the Cobras held their own in the second round for an 8-4 halftime tally. After the break the Griffins buckled down once more, ringing up the first seven markers of the second half.

Melnychenko came away with four goals and two assists and fellow sophomore Mike Landau had a hat trick with one assist. Junior Mike Duddy, who had scored CHC’s game-winner in the season opener at Mercy, added two goals and an assist, while Maurer made eight saves.

After a balmy week, there was a return to late-winter weather conditions of Saturday. Still, Chestnut Hill fans were in a cheerful mood as bright sunshine greeted the gathering and a dozen different Griffins scored in the game.

In 2011, CHC battled to a three-goal win against American International, and this time out the Griffins broke out of a 2-2 tie but only held a modest 6-4 edge in the middle of the second quarter. The home team then located the gas pedal and stomped on it. They left AIC in the dust in a 12-0 rampage that bridged the second and third quarters and encompassed four of Melnychencko’s six goals on the day.

Freshman Nick Johnson notched three goals and an assist, and Davis had two of each for the victors. Freshman Chris Mertens scored once and assisted on three other Griffin goals.

Dougherty was able to give all four goalies on the roster a piece of the action. Maurer only needed to make two stops in 39 minutes of play, and later there was one save apiece for Duffy, freshman Jesse McGinley, and junior David Cutler.

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