Friday, April 27, 2012

game preview: Penn

Date/Time: Friday, April 27; 7:30


Record against the Quakers: 3-2

Last matchup: UVA 11, Penn 2; 4/30/11; Charlottesville

Last game: UNC 11, UVA 9 (4/20); Dartmouth 7, Penn 6 (4/21)

Efficiency stats:

Faceoff %:
UVA: 55.4%
Penn: 46.6%

Clearing %:
UVA: 90.7% (off.), 87.9% (def.)
Penn: 83.3% (off.), 85.2% (def.)

Scoring %:
UVA: 37.1% (off.), 30.8% (def.)
Penn: 29.6% (off.), 33.1% (def.)

UVA: 18.86 (3rd)
Penn: 14.11 (41st)

UVA: 13.28 (21st)
Penn: 14.82 (33rd)

So this isn't really that important of a game.  But it's on TV, so here's your preview.

Aw, scratch that.  It's a thing.  Last year it was even more of a thing; the Hoos limped into this game after being the ACC's scratching post and finishing it off with a blowout loss in the ACC tournament.  This year is better, but not completely different; this time we bring a two-game losing streak into this interlude game, so once again we need something to get the screws tightened and ready for the big show.

The real difference this year is that Penn isn't going anywhere.  Unlike last year when they were a semi-surprise tournament team, this year they're 3-9.  They lost to Dartmouth for eff's sake.  BUT.  They also beat North Carolina.  So the main point here, other than tuning up for the tournament, is to not be North Carolina.  And I think that's always an admirable goal.

-- UVA on offense

Like last year, Penn is better on defense than offense.  It's just that this year, they're worse on defense.  Goalie Brian Feeney's sub-.500 save percentage (.486 to be exact) isn't helping.  That's problem #1.  Problem #2 is having to replace two starting defensemen from last year. 

Overall, though, Penn's defense is almost exactly average; the national O-rating (and therefore, D-rating) average is 14.86 at the moment, which puts Penn closer to the average than any other team.  Which leads us to problem #3: the schedule.  LaxPower calls it the toughest in the country.  By RPI it's 7th-toughest.  It doesn't get any easier on Friday, of course, but the point is there's a lot of good teams on this schedule.  Penn hasn't exactly impressed, but they usually don't get blown out of the water, either.

The UVA offense, meanwhile, needs a little recalibration.  Teams have found the formula for defending UVA's potent attack: aggressive man-to-man defense on the midfielders, who are having a tough time creating their own shots, and pack in tight otherwise.  Let Chris Bocklet do all the roaming he wants outside about eight yards or so, but don't allow that doorstep pass that Stanwick and Bocklet have perfected.

Fortunately, Penn's probably been more busy scouting the Ivy League than us.  It's UNC's job to figure out how to stop us; Penn has other fish to fry.  And less athletic defensive midfielders, too, most likely.  There might be some new wrinkles - this is the perfect game to try some dry runs on a few things, if the coaches have such adjustments - but I think the old ones will work just fine.

-- UVA on defense

Penn's offense in a nutshell: balanced but thin.  Really thin.  Penn's got 94 goals on the season; all but 12 have been scored by the starting six.  (The same numbers for UVA: 158 and 46, in case you're wondering.)  Those six players have taken almost 85% of their shots.  Few teams in the country - if any - rely so heavily on their primary scoring.  There practically is no second midfield.

The dangerplayers are attackmen John Conneely and Tim Schwalje.  Conneely is a converted midfielder who's taken over the starring role on the team, and has 19 goals and 13 assists.  Schwalje is also a well-rounded guy with 17 and 11.  But, 12 games into the season and no 20-goal scorer for the Quakers.

This is a team that shows flashes of quality - but only flashes.  Good teams shut them down more often than not.  13 goals against Harvard is a solid showing.  11 against Cornell and 10 against UNC, also good.  Not so good: four each against Lehigh and Princeton and three against Bucknell.  All those are good defensive teams, but still.  Perhaps even worse: only seven goals against Villanova and six against Dartmouth, both below-average teams defensively.

So it's a good test for our defense, in that, if we're on, we can shut them down similar to last year.  One-on-one defense has been a problem lately, particularly closeouts.  The Penn midfielders play mostly a supporting role with the attack bringing most of the production (this is a team that's really desperate for midfielders considering they barely even have a second line) so it'll be the close-in defenders on the spot again.

-- Outlook

No need to get too fancy here: we should beat this team, and probably by more than twice their goal count.  Penn's lack of depth will probably be even more of a hindrance in the altitude.  Like last year, this is a good tuneup for the NCAA tournament; let's hope the result is the same, from here to Memorial Day.

-- Final score: UVA 13, Penn 6

No comments: