2011-04-16 Albany Law School Tournament Report

By Matt Montalvo and Alex Trotta

Game #1
Final Score:

  • SUNY Binghamton – 14
  • RPI – 0

The Devils first game was once again the first of the day, beginning at 9am, luckily the whole traveling team was on time and minus a few pieces, (Seniors Al Nardi and Noah Reichman, and sophomore Max Khalilullah) were ready to take the field. The Devils scored first when Junior Evan Haber (prop) scored by taking the ball out of a maul formed off of a line out near the goal line. Junior Marc Ardito (scrum half), kicked to touch to set up the line out and had great placement on many of his kicks throughout.

The Devils were able to keep the penalties to a minimum allowing them to assume control of the game from the early goings. The rucks were again very stable like last week, and team was able to get a few counter rucks to steal the ball away. One of the Devil’s explosive fullbacks Junior James Konicoff back from injury after missing last week’s tournament, set off the second score with a return half the length of the field, weaving in and out of defenders until passing to Junior Garrett Adams who would off load to junior Spencer Mendelson (flyhalf) for the try. Konicoff would convert both kicks in the game.

A narrow field and strong tackling kept RPI from breaking the line or gaining any momentum as the Devils went on to win in a shutout. The win was not without costs as Senior Eric Lewis-Clark (2nd Row) who had assumed captain duties finished the game on an injured leg that may require an X-ray, he would not return to action. Senior Jungmin Morris (flanker) who was also returning from injury, damaged his back when falling on an opposing player’s spiked cleats, Morris would come off in the 2nd half and would not play again on the day. The space a flanker was filled by junior Alex Trotta.

Key Players: Freshman Dan Smith (fullback)

Game #2
Final Score:

  • SUNY Binghamton – 39
  • Rutland Men – 0

The Devils would move to the Albany Law field for their next game, as well as the rest of the tournament. With Lewis-Clark out Haber would move to 2nd Row, and freshman Ben Stang started at prop; junior Ardito was named captain for the match. The field was much larger than the previous one, but the wing didn’t take advantage of the space as the pack dominated the game throughout scoring 6 tries between them. The first try of the game was scored by junior Nick Palazzolo off an 8-man pick to the weak side, running low and fast Palazzolo went almost unnoticed by the defense and crossed the try line after shedding a tackle. Haber would score two tries in the game one off a penalty pods formation near the goaline and another after hurdling a defender and being tackled into the try zone from about 10 meters out. Rutland had no answers for Binghamton in the 2nd half as freshman Chris DeRise took a pods penalty and waded through defenders to finally stretch out for the first try of his career.

The wing got their chance to score also as junior Nicolas Esposito (inside center) flew into the try zone off a switch from Mendelson. With the team solidly ahead subs Brian Gillespie (endwing) and freshman Jack Smith (2nd row) were brought on to keep everyone fresh. Junior Sam Ahmed (Hooker) scored off a pack heavy wing play late in the game. After another well placed kick to touch Garret Adams scored off a black call from the line out thrown in by Alex Trotta who was moved to hooker. The wind was blowing throughout the day making the kicks difficult, the team went 2/7 on conversion kicks, utilizing kickers Konicoff, Esposito, and Senior Ryan Garrigan (end wing).

The win extended Binghamton’s tournament shutout, and put them in as the number one seed going into the semifinals.

Key Players: All the Forwards

Final Score:

  • SUNY Binghamton – 19
  • Albany Law – 0

In the semifinals the Devils were up against the hosts Albany Law who they had beaten in the semifinals of last year’s tournament. The wing really exploited the larger field in this game, making it to the edge multiple times for long runs, the first of which resulted in a try for junior Matt Montalvo (end wing). The wind really picked up this game causing a few wing passes to be taken off course and hang in the air. As a result Binghamton set up multiple pod phases to draw in Albany Law and then sent the ball to the wing with shorter lower passes. Again Montalvo brought the ball deep into opposing territory from a long wing play until being tackled at near the goal line, from there Senior Bill Heatherington (flanker) took the ball into try zone off a pick and go. The wing would combine for another try after Konicoff got into space and passed to Montalvo who out ran everyone to score near the sideline.

To keep the team ready for a possible final game many subs were called on including sophomore Tom Roeder (fullback), juniors Jesse Goldblatt (fullback), Dan Wilson (wing), and Joe Mead (2nd row), and senior Gavin Boehem (flanker). The subs played great holding Binghamton’s shutout to 3 straight games. Senior Ryan Garrigan (end wing) would convert 2 of 3 conversions, even with the wind.

Key Players: Freshman Seth Stang (prop) and Spencer Mendelson.

Final Score:

  • SUNY Binghamton – 14
  • Cortland Herd – 7

Prior to the championship game, Cortland have advanced in the tournament because two of the teams in their group had dropped out. Therefore, the Herd came into the finals relatively fresh compared to the Devils who had played three games in their march to the finals.

To begin the game, the Devils came out relatively flat and the Herd took advantage of it. Their size and hard running combined with the Devils fatigue allowed the Herd to march down the field and score the first try of the game (this would be the only try the Devils would allow). Immediately after that the Devils tightened up there defense but could not muster an offense in the first half. At half time, the team rally around each other and started the second half revitalized. Scrumhalf Mark Ardito played like a man possessed, making hit after hit which only helped fuel the Devils. The Devils finally got on the scoreboard when Chris DeRise broke the game line and forced himself into the try zone while dragging several Cortland players with him. The kick was converted by Ryan Garrigan which tied the game up at 7.

Now all the momentum was with the Devils and they were constantly in the Herds zone but were unable to get into the try zone. The Devils came close several times such as when Winger Matt Montalvo made a run down the sideline and as he dove into the try zone was tackled which resulted in a knock on in the try zone. When regular time expired the score remained 7-7 which resulted in a 10 minute overtime. In was in overtime when the play of the tourney occurred. Deep in Cortland territory the Herd had a wing out, Junior inside center Nicholas Espositio came firing off the line and delivered a bone crushing hit on the Herd inside center which resulted in the ball springing lose. Esposito quickly bounced up and chased down the ball and scored the game winning try. The kick was converted by Ryan Garrigan and Devils won their second consecutive tournament. Devils: 14 Herd: 7.

MVP of final game: Nicholas Esposito.

Coaching Notes:
Game 1: RPI beat us in the opening game last year because we did not deal well with their forward charging style and not ready to play at kickoff. This year the team attacked RPI on their side of the gain line, both offensively and defensively. The team left Binghamton at 5:45am so they could be on time and the team was ready to warm-ups by 8:30. Chris DeRise started off the day like he would play all day with some aggressive runs and several important tackles.

Game 2: Binghamton took advantage of Rutland’s low numbers at breakdowns and lack of back line speed to counter-ruck, aggressively offload in tackles, and attack the gaps in defense en route to 39-0 score.

Game 3: Binghamton got out to an early 19-0 lead over Albany Law on the back of some quick phases with ball moving wide. The early success led to us losing our shape offensively and the ball being moved too early to the sidelines. The issue was addressed during the half and while there were no additional scores, the shape and constant pressure prevented Albany Law from getting out of their own half for the remainder of the game. Bill Heatherington taught yet another master class on back row play and counter-rucking. Matt Montalvo had a great game finishing a couple tries with excellent changes of direction to get over the line.

Game 4: Cortland’s size, aggression while carrying the ball, and a fly-half that could kick them out of trouble meant that our team defense needed to be aggressive across the gain line while the back three needed to play at a depth that would leave out team vulnerable to any line breaks. Nick Esposito (12), who had struggled at times defensively during the day, normally a strength of his game, led the defensive back line against our biggest opponents yet, tackling everything that came his way and due to the pressure applied by Spencer Mendelson (10) and Ryan Garrigan (playing 13 wearing 14), was able to scoop up a loose pass, evade two more defenders and score. The team stayed patient even after going down a try for more than twenty minutes and achieved success due to their persistence and patience defensively.

Tournament Notes

Many times good players don’t get mentioned in the match reports because they didn’t standout. Everyone who played, played well and was deserving of a mention in the match report. Everyone. I mentioned to the sideline during one of the early games that playing substitutes is not so much a matter of offensive prowess, but a trust in their defensive effort and tackling. The substitutes took this statement to heart, allowed nearly every starter a rest and have earned their next opportunity through their additions to the team defense. The starters set a fast, physical, positive pace all day. The positives listed were the best of the best on a day with many positives. The negatives are details, details that once addressed will definitely leave the team markedly better and will not be ignored, but still details, I drove home pleased with the day’s performance win or lose. (Even glad for that teacup of a trophy!) Garret Adams and Marc Arditto filled in coolly and admirably as team captains this weekend, while Evan Haber earned tournament MVP honors for being “everywhere, every time we needed him.”

Front line defense was excellent. One try conceded the entire tournament, this was a point of emphasis in the fall and I am particularly proud of the way you all have played defense this spring. The forwards and midfield back line continually fired off the line defensively, tackled well, and were very physical. The scrum-half cleaned up the majority of what was left over, leaving the fullback with a rather average afternoon tackling. No names here as everyone was impressive and made critical tackles. Well Done!

Lineouts continue to get better week after week. Alex Trotta and Sam Ahmed have worked hard on improving their throwing technique, while the rest of the forwards have improved in lifting, jumping, and speed of movement. Conversion kicking and penalty kicking was difficult with some really windy conditions. Ryan Garrigan and James Konicoff did not let the weather bother them and converted the majority of the reasonable kicks. Many fewer penalties this week, we played on side “more often” and kept our mouths shut, especially in the face of some chippy play in the final.

Room for improvement
Defensively the shape and cooperation among the back three can still improve, the two teams with effective kicking fly-halves found too much space between the back three, preventing counter-attack opportunities and most importantly forcing the team to defend near our own goal line. In addition, the few counter-attacking opportunities were missed through poor initial positioning or poor decisions, we can get more opportunities to score out of these fractured defenses.

Room for Lots of Improvement
Forcing the ball wide too early. This allows the defense to run straight to the sidelines at angles that cuts off the players running the sidelines. We turned over too much possession because players were continually running against the sideline with limited running/passing/offloading options. Big skip passes are also more difficult to catch which would account for many of the knock-ons. Combine this with a very strong gusting wind, a wet ball, and chilly temperatures, some of the handling problems become very predictable.

Good job Devils and enjoy spring break!