After six previous appearances in the MCLA Division II national semifinals and one trip to the national championship game without anything to show for it other than heartbreak, Dayton finally broke through last year, winning it's first title. Now the hard part begins: trying to repeat.
Flyers' coach Joe Venturella sat down with MCLA.us to commence the offseason's "5 Questions" series.
MCLA: It was a magical run in 2015 with the Flyers becoming the first sixth seed to win the Division II national championship. I'm sure you and the players enjoyed the accomplishment for a while, but when did the team's attention turn to 2016? Was it difficult to turn the page?
JV: It was a wonderful run in the tournament, but it has been a process to focus the guys on the coming season throughout the fall. As a staff, we really turned the page on the season as we started the process of scheduling over the summer. Trying to fill it with quality opponents while keeping the weather challenges of the Midwest in mind, and also making sure we are in a position to make the postseason in both the CCLA and nationally, was where we started. The team had a little tougher time as they didn't have to worry about the coming season until fall ball started, but we focused on improving overall during the fall and competing for open spots.
MCLA: You graduated a strong senior class. Who are the players you envision stepping into some of the key positions that are up for grabs this spring?
JV: There are several players who were role players last year who I expect to fill some big shoes from the graduating class. Ross Sattler in goal will be a very good player for us, with two junior returners -- Dan Caponi and Nolan Hoffman -- most likely filling the starting close defense spots. Several freshmen defensemen will be getting playing time early and often, as well. Midfield will still be deep, with several players filling spots there. Returners Mark Stypula, Matt Kausel, Trey Davis, Patrick Sheehan and Connor Clancy will all see an increase in playing time. A few freshmen will also be stepping in right away, specifically Jacob Rogan, Tom Danner and Tyler Jonhnston. At attack, there are some solid sophomores in Ryan Cass and Michael Glaser who will step in right away. There are also some freshmen -- George Sechrist and Sam White -- who will see a bunch of time throughout the year.
MCLA: One of the hallmarks of Dayton in the tournament was the ability to win tight, one-goal games. The quarters, semis and championship all featured the smallest of winning margins. Can that experience transfer over to this season or is it something that will have to be re-learned?
JV: Winning one goal games is a skill like any other, but I expect with the returners we have along with the way we practice everyday for it to be something we learn throughout the season.
MCLA: The CCLA has always been a very strong conference. Should we expect another dogfight this spring and what does your non-conference schedule look like.
JV: The CCLA will always be tough competition, and this season will be no different. Indiana Tech, Grand Valley State, Siena Heights and Grove City should all be in, or near, the top 20 to start the season. Lourdes will also be improved from last year, and will be a tough game for anyone on their schedule. The rest of our schedule is much the same with three UMLC teams, several SELC teams and a couple of GRLC squads on there, as well. The schedule will certainly be a very good test for us.
MCLA: What’s the team’s biggest challenge heading into the season?
JV: The biggest challenge will be getting everyone focused on the prize again. We always talk about winning the last game of the season as our goal, and getting better every day as a means to get there, but getting everyone on the same page all the time will be a challenge. The seniors that we lost were a big part of that, so finding the next set of guys to take over those roles on this years team is going to be a process.