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Quick start key for Air Force men's lacrosse in search of first NCAA tourney victory

May 6, 2014 Updated: May 6, 2014 at 9:57 pm
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Air Force defeated Michigan 15-12 at Falcon Stadium Saturday, March 29, 2014. Photo by Mason Trinca, The Gazette

Air Force men's lacrosse fans headed to Wednesday's 7 p.m. NCAA Tournament play-in game may not want to miss the opening 10-15 minutes.

It is during that span that the ECAC postseason champion Falcons may set themselves up for the first NCAA victory in program history. In its wins this season, No. 17-ranked Air Force (10-5) relied on quick starts to seize the momentum and boost confidence.

"A quick start sets the tone for us," said senior Tommy McKee (39 points, 28 goals). "We are an offense-oriented team and it's important for us to get a good, fast start."

They hope to do so at the expense of first-year program Richmond (6-10), which qualified for the tournament by winning the Atlantic Sun playoffs championship.

For the Falcons, winning their first ECAC title was a milestone for a program enjoying its first winning season since 1997.

"We knew the best way for us to get to the NCAAs was winning the ECAC so we focused on that," said senior Mike Crampton, who set the program record for single-season goals with 41. He is three points away from matching the Falcons' modern era single-season points mark of 60. "We made it this far but we are not done yet."

Wednesday's winner advances to a 3:15 p.m. Sunday first-round game at No. 1 Duke on ESPNU.

Neither AFA nor Richmond has an edge in NCAA experience with the first-time visitors taking on a Falcons program playing in its third tournament game and first since 1988.

"I think it does level the playing field a little bit," Spiders coach Dan Chemotti said. "We know that Air Force is a really, really scrappy team. They play hard. Air Force is a quality team and one we respect; no doubt."

Falcons coach Eric Seremet said the opportunistic Spiders often score during breakdowns or in transition off turnovers instead of set plays.

"Ohio State tried to do that to us (in the ECAC tournament) and we responded well," he said. "I am more worried about us. We need to come in playing with adrenaline and high emotion to get a good start."

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids and are available at Falcon Stadium.

Air Force junior Keith Dreyer is second on the team with 45 points, including a team-best 28 assists. The Falcons have three other players with at least 36 points, with McKee tallying 39 and seniors Erik Smith (22 goals) and Kyle Cassady (23 goals) 36 points apiece.

Richmond is paced by freshman Mitch Goldberg with a team-leading 31 goals (40 points), while sophomore Brad Burnam adds 37 points (team-high 23 assists).

CC travels to Amherst to open D3 tournament

A balanced Colorado College offense anchored by a stout defense travels to take on No. 14 Amherst (Mass.) College in their NCAA Division 3 Tournament opener at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

"We have five players with 20 points or more and another five with at least 10. That is part of what makes us a tough team to defend against," Tigers coach Sean Woods said. "Our defense is strong on the back end with (goalie) Chase Murphy and good defenders in front of him."

The Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference coaches noticed. The sophomore goalkeeper is the league Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season, while freshman Jack McCormick is Newcomer of the Year.

Murphy was joined on the all-SCAC team by senior attacker Tyler Allen, senior midfielders Will Harris and Jack Kreitler (team-high 36 points, 28 goals), senior long-stick midfielder P.J. Higgins, senior defender Scott Prior and sophomore defender Tim Jenkins. McCormick (25 points, 14 goals) earned honorable mention.

The Tigers (10-5) and Jeffs (12-4) both received at-large berths. The winner advances to the quarterfinals May 14.

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