Air Force Visits Denver for Regular-Season Finale

April 22, 2009

The Air Force lacrosse team wraps up the 2009 regular season this weekend, April 25, when it visits conference rival Denver. The game is slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. at Barton Lacrosse Stadium.

Last Time Out...
The Air Force lacrosse team won both of its home games last weekend, defeating conference foe Ohio State, 9-6, while registering a 13-6 victory over Detroit.

Playing in heavy winds and snow, the Falcons led for most of the contest versus the Buckeyes, breaking a second-half 5-5 stalemate with four consecutive scores en route to the 9-6 victory. Senior K.J. Landgraf and junior Ridge Flick led the Air Force offense against Ohio State, tallying three goals and two assists each.

Meanwhile, on Senior Day versus Detroit, the Falcons responded to an early 1-0 deficit by scoring seven unanswered goals in the opening half. Air Force, which saw action by every player that dressed, went on to capture the 13-6 victory. Leading the way was senior captain Griffin Nevitt, who notched a season-best five points (three goals, two assists).

Scouting the Falcons...
Air Force enters this weekend's regular-season finale with a 6-6 overall record and 3-1 mark in the GWLL.

Junior Ridge Flick is the Falcons' leading scorer with 29 points on the season, including a team-high 14 assists. Senior captain Griffin Nevitt (14g, 12a) is second on the team with 26 points, while senior K.J. Landgraf and sophomore Vinny Sandtorv share the team lead in goals scored with 20.



Scouting the Pioneers...
Denver enters this weekend's contest with a 7-7 overall record and 1-3 ledger in the GWLL, after splitting a pair of games with Detroit and Ohio State over the weekend.

Junior Charley Dickenson is the Pioneers' leading scorer with 35 points and a team-high 22 assists. Meanwhile, senior Joey Murray, who has a team-best 24 goals, and freshman Mark Matthews (21g, 8a) are tied for second on the team with 29 points each. In addition, Ben Wahler is Denver's top face-off man, winning 153-of-265 (.577) on the season.

The Coaches...
• Air Force is coached by Eric Seremet, in his first season as head coach. Seremet currently holds a career mark of 6-6.
• Denver is coached by Jamie Munro, in his 11th season at the helm of the Pioneers' program. Munro holds a career record of 90-68 at Denver.

Series Records...
This weekend marks the 67th meeting all-time between Air Force and Denver. While the Falcons hold a 51-15 edge in the series, the Pioneers have won nine of the last 10 meetings, including six in a row. Denver won last year's contest at the Academy by a 14-1 margin.

Air Force in the Statistical Rankings...
In the latest national rankings released by the NCAA (through games of April 19), Air Force ranks in the top 25 in four major team statistical categories. The Falcons rank ninth in the nation in ground balls per game (34.83), 20th in man-down defense (.714), 24th in man-up offense (.348) and 25th in face-off win percentage (.519).

In addition, the Falcons have a few players who are ranked among the top 50 nationally in various statistical categories. Midfielder Zack Carroll ranks 28th in the nation in face-off win percentage (.528). Long-stick midfielder Dan Gnazzo ranks tied for 37th in the nation and is third in the GWLL in ground balls per game with 4.0, while junior Ridge Flick ranks tied for 38th in the nation and tied for third in the GWLL in assists per game with 1.17.

How They Rate...
Through games of April 19, Denver ranks in the top 25 nationally in seven team statistical categories, with six categories ranked in the top 20. The Pioneers are fifth in ground balls per game (37.21), seventh in man-up offense (.463), 16th in face-off win percentage (.547), 17th in both scoring offense (10.5) and points per game (16.36) and 18th in assists per game (5.86).

Denver also has a few players who rank among the top 50 in individual statistics. Midfielder Ben Wahler leads the conference in both face-off win percentage (.577) and ground balls per game (5.79), ranking 11th and 16th, respectively, in the nation in those two categories. Charley Dickenson ranks tied for 11th in the nation and first in the conference in assists per game (1.69), while goalkeeper Pete Lowell ranks 39th in goals against average (9.82) and 41st in save percentage (.511). In addition, Brendan Deblois ranks tied for 40th in the nation in ground balls per game with 3.92.

Going to the GWLL Tourney...
Thanks to its win over Ohio State last weekend, Air Force clinched a berth in the 2009 Great Western Lacrosse League Championship Tournament, where it is guaranteed one of the top three seeds. Notre Dame and Ohio State have also earned spots in the league tournament, with Bellarmine, Denver and Quinnipiac alll vying for the fourth seed. Quinnipiac can clinch with a win over Bellarmine this weekend, but a Quinnipiac loss could either give Denver the final spot (with a win over Air Force) or result in a three-way tie (with a Denver loss).

Winning in the GWLL...
With its three GWLL wins, Air Force has already secured its best conference finish since the GWLL became a six-team league in 2001. The Falcons have finished their GWLL slate with a 2-3 record on three occasions--in 2002, 2004 and 2006. Meanwhile, Air Force has now won three GWLL contests in a single season for just the second time since the league's inception in 1994. The Falcons went 3-1 in the GWLL in 1995, defeating Ohio State, Michigan State and Butler, while falling to Notre Dame.

Ending A Streak...
With its win on Saturday, Air Force ended an 11-game losing streak against Ohio State. The last time the Falcons captured a victory over the Buckeyes was in 1997, when they picked up a 14-13 decision at the Academy.

Continuing A Streak...
The Falcons have now won three games in a row, their longest winning streak since the 2006 season, when Air Force rattled off four straight victories. It is also just the second time since the 1997 season that the Falcons have won more than two games in a row.

On the Penalty Kill...
While Air Force's man-down defense has been solid all season, ranking 20th in the nation and second in the GWLL at .714, the Falcons were particularly strong on the penalty kill in their games against Ohio State and Detroit. Air Force's man-down defense rated at over 90 percent, as the Falcons allowed just one goal in 11 man-up attempts by the Buckeyes and Titans.

Road Warriors...
This season, the Falcons have truly been "road warriors," playing 11 of their 13 regular-season contests away from home. The team's first--and last--two home games came last weekend against Ohio State and Detroit. Air Force has already played in five "true" road games, along with five neutral-site contests, and following this weekend's road game at Denver, will play in at least one more neutral-site contest.

Air Force is one of just two Division I men's lacrosse teams scheduled to play fewer than five home games during the season. The other is first-year program (and upcoming opponent) Detroit, which had just one home contest on its schedule.

High-Scoring Defense...
This season, Air Force has seen 29 points (18g, 11a) scored by its long poles, more than double the output of any other Division I team in the nation. Sophomore defender Bryan Gilbreath, who tallied a pair of goals in 2008, ranks sixth on the team with nine goals on the year, and also has a pair of assists. Senior Dan Gnazzo, playing at the long-stick midfield position, registered his first two goals of the season in the game versus Army, and now has five goals and five assists on the season. In addition, fellow senior long-stick midfielder Jeff Pecora has registered three goals and three assists this season, the first of his career, while freshman defenseman Dayton Gilbreath tallied his first career goal in the win over Quinnipiac and added his first career assist in the win over Detroit.

Nationally, there are just 11 defensemen/long-stick midfielders who have scored at least five points on the season, including three from Air Force.
Top Scoring Long Poles
1. Bryan Gilbreath, Air Force (So., D) 11 pts (9g, 2a)
2. Dan Gnazzo, Air Force (Sr., LSM) 10 pts (5g, 5a)

3. Stephen Waldeck, Stony Brook (Jr., D) 9 pts (5g, 4a)
4. CJ Costabile, Duke (Fr., D) 8 pts (4g, 4a)
5. Dom DeNapoli, St. John's (Sr., LSM) 6 pts (4g, 2a)
Jeff Pecora, Air Force (Sr., LSM) 6 pts (3g, 3a)
Zack Schroeder, Navy (Jr., LSM) 6 pts (3g, 3a)

Wilson Settling In...
While sophomore goalkeeper Brian Wilson saw action in four of the Falcons' first seven games, he earned his first start of the season against Manhattan and has been in the starting lineup ever since. Wilson, who owns a team-best 7.68 goals against average and .547 save percentage for the season, has been even stronger as a starter, with a 7.20 GAA and .568 save percentage in the past five games. His save percentage in conference games in even higher, stopping nearly 60 percent of the shots he has faced.

Although Wilson does not qualify to be ranked in national statistics (goalkeepers must have played in at least 60 percent of their team's minutes), his numbers compare favorably. His overall save percentage would rank in the top 30 nationally, while his 7.68 GAA would rank in the top 10 nationally and second in the GWLL (behind Notre Dame's nation-leading Scott Rodgers).

Winning at the X...
Sophomore Zack Carroll has been solid for the Falcons at the face-off X this season, winning 122-of 231 of his face-off attempts (.528). Most recently, Carroll won 12-of-16 face-offs (.750) in Air Force's win over Detroit. He also had an impressive performance against Quinnipiac, winning 18-of-25 face-offs in the contest (.720), including 13-of-15 in the first three periods of play.

GWLL Player of the Week...
Senior captain Griffin Nevitt was named the GWLL Co-Player of the Week honors following his performance in a pair of games against Ohio State and Detroit. In Saturday's conference game against Ohio State, Nevitt tallied a pair of goals to help the Falcons to a 9-6 victory over the Buckeyes, giving Air Force its first win against OSU since 1997. Nevitt was even more impressive on the offensive end in Sunday's game versus Detroit, stepping up on Senior Day to register a season-high five points (3g, 2a) en route to a 13-6 victory over the Titans.

Air Force Player of the Week...
In addition to earning GWLL Player of the Week honors following the Ohio State and Detroit victories, senior captain Griffin Nevitt was also named the Air Force Athlete of the Week. It marked the second time in his career that Nevitt has garnered the honor, earning the accolade in April 2008.

Up Next...
The Falcons head to the Great Western Lacrosse League Tournament next weekend, May 1 and 3, in Birmingham, Mich. Air Force's seed and upcoming opponent will be determined following this weekend's contests.

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