Saturday, February 1, 2014

2014 lacrosse schedule

(For anyone looking for the updated ACC basketball sims, they are on that page, linked here.)

For the first time in a while, the lacrosse landscape changes from our perspective.  Realignment is a fact of life in this sport, with the conferences shifting on a yearly basis.  This year is no different - a new southern conference appears on the scene, the ECAC gets pillaged, and the ACC gets two new teams for a temporary total of six.

Not only does the conference look different, but UVA's schedule gets its most drastic makeover in years.  Notre Dame is added by virtue of conference affiliation.  There's a new season opener - Drexel remains on the schedule, but this season's first game will be against Loyola, a team UVA hasn't played in I don't know how long.  And there's a new instate team, Richmond, which of course will be included - in fact, UVA is Richmond's first-ever varsity opponent.  All in all, Loyola, Rutgers, Richmond, and Notre Dame appear while Vermont, Stony Brook, and Ohio State depart.

Of course, we'll be looking for a major rebound from last year's disappointment, but analysis of our own team will come next week - for now, just the opponents.

Here's a quick guide to what you'll see:

Conference: their conference, I guess
Preseason rank: media poll and coaches' poll, respectively
2013 computer: Laxpower's rank, out of 63
2013 record: figure it out
Last season: what happened when we played them
2013 O-rating: see below
2013 D-rating: see below
TV: if yes

O-rating and D-rating are my own concoction that I've included in lacrosse analysis for a while now; they consist of a KenPom-esque set of numbers that tempo-free the stats and give you an idea of the efficiency of each team.  National average for 2013 was 15.33.  Roughly (not precisely) over 16.5 puts you in the top quartile and below 13.5 in the bottom quartile, for offense; vice versa, obviously, for defense.

Loyola - Thursday, Feb. 6 - Home

Conference: Patriot
Preseason rank: 16th / 12th
2013 computer: 6th
2013 record: 11-5
Last season: N/A
2013 O-rating: 17.66 (10th)
2013 D-rating: 12.95 (11th)
TV: none

UVA hasn't played the Greyhounds since 1991; since then, they've raised their profile slightly on the national scene.  A national title will do that.  Loyola took home the crown in 2012.  Last season they weren't quite able to match that lofty standard, but they did have a very good year regardless, and made the tourney as an at-large pick.  This year they hop from the ECAC to the Patriot League in an all-sports move to that conference, helping to make the Patriot League lacrosse's largest with nine teams.

The challenge in facing Loyola will be a very strong veteran trio of attackmen in Justin Ward, Mike Sawyer, and Nikko Pontrello.  Ward is a versatile playmaker; Sawyer potted 36 goals in 2013.  Senior goalie Jack Runkel also returns, as do one defensemen and their starting LSM, all upperclassmen.  It's a steep challenge to start the season, more so than Drexel usually provides, and Drexel's no slouch of a team.  Loyola is a veteran bunch that's used to success and will be jonesing for a big win to start the season.

Richmond - Saturday, Feb. 8 - Road

Conference: Atlantic Sun
Preseason rank: NR / NR
2013 computer: N/A
2013 record: N/A
Last season: N/A
2013 O-rating: N/A
2013 D-rating: N/A
TV: none

Richmond is one of four new teams on the scene this year (the others are Boston U., Furman, and Monmouth.)  Their accession to Division I helped spur the creation of a long-expected southern conference, which this year will be the Atlantic Sun and in following years, the SoCon.

As a new team, there's obviously no past data to go on,'s not like they're gonna be good.  The vast majority of the team, of course, is underclassmen.  Even though the game's in Richmond it's likely to be played in front of a partisan UVA crowd and should be a blowout.

Drexel - Saturday, Feb. 15 - Away

Conference: CAA
Preseason rank: NR / NR
2013 computer: 24th
2013 record: 11-4
Last season: W, 13-12
2013 O-rating: 18.66 (8th)
2013 D-rating: 16.81 (46th)
TV: none

There are two symptoms here of the altered schedule - one, that Drexel won't be the season-opening game for the first time in over 10 years, and two, UVA used to cram the early-season schedule with midweek games and play none at all between their big Saturday games in the second half of the year (the Hopkinses and ACC games of the world); this year there's a full week between Richmond and Drexel and another full week between Drexel and the next game, Rutgers.

The Dragons weren't a deep offensive team last year, with really only seven players they could rely on for consistent scoring.  (By which I mean a goal a game, at least.)  Four return: midfielders Ben McIntosh and Ryan Belka, swingman Frank Fusco, and attackman Nick Trizano.  McIntosh scored 38 goals last year, leading the team, and is also the leading returning distributor.  Drexel also returns the lion's share of their defense, but that wasn't a good defense last year and relied on two freshman goalies.  Cal Winkelman took the job midseason from Will Gabrielsen and was a clear but modest improvement, registering a .514 save percentage.  Drexel returns a high-quality faceoff man in Nick Saputo, but must fix their defense and fill some large holes and find some depth on offense.  This could be a bellwether game - UVA should find this game medium-easy if the Hoos are back to usual strength and may struggle if not.

Rutgers - Saturday, Feb. 22 - Home

Conference: Big East
Preseason rank: NR / NR
2013 computer: 44th
2013 record: 2-13
Last season: N/A
2013 O-rating: 13.85 (45th)
2013 D-rating: 15.26 (30th)
TV: none

Another unfamiliar opponent rolls into Klockner, and the first of three future and totally untraditional Big Ten teams on the schedule.  This is Rutgers' last season in the Big East before next year's formation of Big Ten lacrosse.

Their 2-13 record last year was rotten as hell, made worse by the fact that their only wins were over Manhattan and Wagner, two of lacrosse's absolute worst.  The record belied the stats, though; both the Laxpower computer and my tempo-free agree they weren't quite as bad as that record.  Their downfall was a lack of scoring.  Attackman Scott Klimchak scored 32, but was one of only six players with double-digit goals, and only one of those had more than 14.

The defense was at least respectable, though, finishing just inside the top half of the tempo-free ratings, thanks in large part to standout freshman goalie Will Alleyne.  Alleyne posted a save percentage of .596, an excellent number, let alone for a freshman.  He and nearly all of last season's team return, including elite FOGO Joseph Nardella, who boasted a .622 win percentage.  The Scarlet Knights aren't really a Big East contender and probably no threat to make the NCAA tournament, but they should be much improved over last year and finish with a much more respectable record.

Mount St. Mary's - Tuesday, Feb. 25 - Away

Conference: NEC
Preseason rank: NR / NR
2013 computer: 45th
2013 record: 6-9
Last season: W, 18-11
2013 O-rating: 15.91 (20th)
2013 D-rating: 18.52 (53rd)
TV: none

It goes to show that records can be deceiving, when Mount St. Mary's is a notch below Rutgers in the computer rankings despite winning four more games.  Conference competition has much to do with it, of course, as the NEC is one of the lowlier in the country.

Lowly is exactly where Mount St. Mary's will be this year.  The team was rapaciously hit with eligibility expiration.  Of the 155 goals and 90 assists the team scored last year, returning players account for 7 and 1, respectively.  Absolutely mind-blowing losses.  Nobody's going to recognize this team this year.  And despite a pretty solid offense last year, the Mountaineers had a porous disaster zone of a defense.  Having to replace everyone from the goalie to the attackers to the FOGO isn't going to help that situation - there's like, one lone defenseman starter returning.  The Mount has been somewhat competitive of late, more so than usual, but this should be a blowout of VMI proportions.  The only drama will be how soon we call off the dogs, and can the third and fourth string finish the quest for 20 goals?

Syracuse - Friday, Feb. 28 - Home

Conference: ACC
Preseason rank: 2nd / 1st
2013 computer: 10th
2013 record: 16-4
Last season: L, 9-8
2013 O-rating: 17.47 (12th)
2013 D-rating: 13.02 (12th)
TV: ESPN3 (ESPNU delay)

These guys are showing up in more or less the same place on the schedule, only now it counts for the conference.  Syracuse's addition to the ACC, as you know if you've been reading long, is highly welcome around these parts, on account of us being the only ACC team that already played them every year anyway.

The Orange are picked as one of the national favorites by the media; I might place them a touch below that level, as they lose a couple of very crucial offensive players and they get only average goaltending from Dominic Lamolinara and below-average face-off work from Chris Daddio.  They'll get excellent scoring punch from a top attack line of Kevin Rice, Dylan Donahue, and Derek Maltz.  These guys are small but plenty talented (well, Maltz is a big dude, but the other two are nowhere near it.)  Syracuse will also get to add Nicky Galasso to the lineup this year, a familiar name from his time at North Carolina.  Galasso has struggled with injuries during his career but, if healthy, could be that X-factor that gives Syracuse the nudge they need to be a real national contender.

Cornell - Saturday, Mar. 8 - Away

Conference: Ivy League
Preseason rank: 18th / 16th
2013 computer: 1st
2013 record: 14-4
Last season: L, 12-11
2013 O-rating: 20.35 (4th)
2013 D-rating: 11.94 (4th)
TV: none (WTF)

By most metrics Cornell was one of the country's best teams last year and proved it with a trip to the Final Four as an unseeded team, utterly demolishing the 6 and 3 seeds along the way before falling in a close one to eventual champion Duke.  The voters have given them a very lukewarm chance to repeat that performance, no doubt having much to do with the newfound large holes in their lineup.

Elite scorers Rob Pannell and Steve Mock are gone, as well as several other scorers and longtime goalie A.J. Fiore.  Some pieces remain: Connor Buczek and Matt Donovan are the top two returning scorers, with 35 and 27 goals, respectively.  Doug Tesoriero has always been an extremely tough face-off man, and two of three starting defensemen return in Tom Freshour and Jordan Stevens.  But the early part of the season will be spent learning where their offense is coming from, and to further the difficulty, they'll be doing it with a new coach after Ben DeLuca was fired over a hazing investigation.  Cornell may spend a year re-finding their way in a tough Ivy League, with Princeton, Yale, and Penn all ranked ahead in the media poll.

Notre Dame - Sunday, Mar. 16 - Away

Conference: ACC
Preseason rank: 5th / 5th
2013 computer: 15th
2013 record: 11-5
Last season: N/A
2013 O-rating: 15.68 (24th)
2013 D-rating: 11.58 (3rd)

Bringing the Domers into the conference - and expediting the process - gives the ACC a tournament autobid for the first time.  It means having to play them, though.  The Irish come into the conference after enough time among the nation's top teams to be taken seriously as an ACC-worthy team.  They've long been known as one of the country's stiflingly elite defensive teams, with just enough offense to hold their own.

Most of their core offense returns, with starting attackmen Matt Kavanagh (32 goals in 2013) and Conor Doyle likely to be joined by top second-liner John Scioscia.  Jim Marlatt is the top midfield scoring option and a solid two-way player, and two of three starting D-men return with Stephen O'Hara and hulking senior Bryan Buglione.**  There's every reason to believe Notre Dame will be just as tough to score on as always and probably again good enough on offense to make a run at the Final Four.

(The Italian name here is a little bit of a jarring presence among a roster rather fittingly loaded with Irish ones.  Seriously, even for a preppy sport like lacrosse, it's noticeable, with O'Hara, Kelly, Connolly, Doyle, Corrigan, etc. all up and down the list, as well as multiple instances of Pat, Liam, Conor, Ryan, and Kyle.  It's like the Irish national team instead of the Fighting Irish.)

Johns Hopkins - Saturday, Mar. 22 - Home

Conference: Independent
Preseason rank: 13th / 11th
2013 computer: 3rd
2013 record: 9-5
Last season: L, 15-8
2013 O-rating: 16.79 (14th)
2013 D-rating: 11.17 (1st)

Part of the reason the Big Ten is on my shit list these days is because of Hopkins.  A natural fit in the ACC, they chose to go B1G for next year - the conference and the school wanted access to each other's research powerhouses, and the need to add a sixth lacrosse school was really more of an excuse than a driving force.

Anyway.  Neither here nor there for this season.  Like Cornell, the voters are skeptical of the Hop's ability to return to the national elite after being slammed by graduation.  Offensive ringleader Wells Stanwick does return, but 17-goal scorer Ryan Brown is the only other primary returner on offense.  The Blue Jays must also replace their outstanding netminder Pierce Bassett as well as most of their defense.  Nobody seriously expects them to drop out of the picture entirely, as Stanwick might singlehandedly keep them in a lot of games and they should be able to find some offense where needed.  But they're not quite the usual dreadnought this year.

VMI - Tuesday, Mar. 25 - Home

Conference: Atlantic Sun
Preseason rank: NR / NR
2013 computer: 62nd
2013 record: 1-12
Last season: W, 18-4
2013 O-rating: 9.19 (63rd)
2013 D-rating: 20.31 (62nd)
TV: none

Ever little more than a scrimmage that counts, the VMI game moves to the middle of the season to accommodate the schedule shuffle.  VMI is never good, they're not going to be good this year, and I'd suggest that the move to the A-Sun might be good for them except that they always get rocked even by the worst teams in the country.  Like, Wagner, the only team to finish below them in Laxpower's computer.  Losing their top two scorers and goalie to graduation is not bloody likely to improve their situation, and they'll probably go one-win even in their new conference of brand-new programs.

Maryland - Sunday, Mar. 30 - Away

Conference: ACC
Preseason rank: 6th / 6th
2013 computer: 5th
2013 record: 10-4
Last season: L, 9-7; W, 13-6
2013 O-rating: 18.36 (9th)
2013 D-rating: 12.26 (8th)

Is this the last year for Hit A Terp With A Stick Week?  I'm not sure how I feel about that exactly; Virginia-Maryland really should be a thing and the douche factor is rather less in lacrosse than in sports where the coach boasts about never losing to Virginia and then hilariously reels off long losing streaks to Virginia.  On the other hand, if they don't value the game, why should we?

Defense should be Maryland's strong suit this year, with standout goalie Niko Amato in his senior year and all three starting defensemen - Casey Ikeda, Goran Murray, and Michael Ehrhardt - all back as well.  Lately the Terps have relied on a balanced scoring attack, but most familiar names are out the door, with only Mike Chanenchuk and Jay Carlson returning among double-digit goal scorers from last season.  Poll voters placed Maryland near the bottom of the ACC, but they'll at least be tough to score on.

North Carolina - Saturday, Apr. 5 - Away

Conference: ACC
Preseason rank: 3rd / 2nd
2013 computer: 2nd
2013 record: 13-4
Last season: L, 10-7; L, 16-13
2013 O-rating: 18.36 (9th)
2013 D-rating: 12.26 (8th)

The defending ACC champs should be among the favorites to repeat this year.  A couple of key losses will be overshadowed by returning scoring punch in Joey Sankey and Jimmy Bitter, both 30+ goal scorers in 2013.  UNC will additionally have some real midfield sniping power in returning starter Chad Tutton and perhaps a second-liner from last year, Ryan Creighton, who put almost 90% of his shots on goal in 2013.

Turnover-generating defenseman Kieran McDonald is out the door this year, but Carolina is fairly deep on defense and should be able to replace him; not only that, but they rode a freshman goalie within a hair's breadth of the Final Four last season, so they should get high-quality net play from Kieran Burke this year and far into the future, too.  Since the Heels attend a class-optional school (sorry, couldn't help myself) they should be well-focused on bringing back the ACC title to Chapel Hill and will be a formidable obstacle.

Duke - Friday, Apr. 11 - Home

Conference: ACC
Preseason rank: 1st / 3rd
2013 computer: 4th
2013 record: 16-5
Last season: L, 19-16
2013 O-rating: 20.93 (2nd)
2013 D-rating: 14.19 (20th)

UVA' annual bugaboo comes into this season with the added distinction of being the defending national champs.  Their modus operandi last season was to overwhelm with offense, and they came within a few hundredths of a point of being the most powerful offensive team in the nation.  The two top goal-scorers, Jordan Wolf with 57 and Josh Dionne with 45, both return to ensure the Blue Devils' offense remains a nasty challenge.  Playmaking attackman Case Matheis also returns, as do a couple of potentially powerful midfielders, sophomores Myles Jones and Deemer Class.

Not only is Duke's offense an absolute machine, but with FOGO Brendan Fowler they can play make-it-take-it; Fowler took 526 face-offs last year and won over 64%, setting an ACC record for face-offs won and winning the NCAA championship Most Outstanding Player.  Senior defensemen Henry Lobb and Chris Hipps return to anchor the defense, and both stand 6'4".  One weak point may be in net, where Kyle Turri unseated (the never much good) Dan Wigrizer last year, but still failed to reach a .500 save percentage.

Still, in the disagreement between the media and the coaches over who's the preseason favorite (the coaches picked Syracuse) I'd have to side with the media.  Duke is an offensive juggernaut right now, and unlike Syracuse, brings back most of their best players.  Call 'em the favorite to win the ACC and a leader in the national title race.

Bellarmine - Saturday, Apr. 19 - Home

Conference: ECAC
Preseason rank: NR / NR
2013 computer: 28th
2013 record: 7-7
Last season: W, 12-7
2013 O-rating: 12.11 (57th)
2013 D-rating: 12.12 (7th)

Unlike in recent years past, this game takes place before the ACC tournament.  Bellarmine has done a nice job building itself up to a competitive level despite jumping to D-I only as recently as 2006.  This year, though, they face an uphill climb.  Of their major scorers, only midfielder Cameron Gardner returns, and Bellarmine never was a prolific scoring team to begin with, ranking near the very bottom in offensive efficiency below such luminaries as Manhattan and Vermont.  They'll also have to replace all-everything goalie Dillon Ward.  The ECAC is an emaciated (and soon to be extinct) conference, having lost Denver and Loyola, but the Knights even so will find it tough to gain much ground.


It's tough to see a losing season in UVA lacrosse, but let's also keep in mind how close so many of the games really were.  OT loss to Syracuse, one goal down to Cornell and OSU, two to Maryland.  Flip a couple of those games and UVA is in the tournament, more than likely.

This year, the tournament is, as predicted, bigger, a change announced in the fall.  The tourney goes to 18 teams, the inevitable result of the addition of auto-bid conferences, of which the ACC is now one.  The four lowest-ranked autobid teams in the RPI will go to the play-ins (these almost certainly will be out of the A-East, A-Sun, NEC, and MAAC) but the upshot is that the chance for at-large bids stays just as it was last year, with eight available.  (Edit: Actually, now that I think about it, one extra, since the ACC champ, which always took an at-large spot, now is accounted for in the autobids.)  And also that winning the ACC tourney, which (despite the utter worthlessness of the POS ACC website, which says nothing about the subject) appears to be restricted to four teams.  It'll be vital to not finish in the bottom two - and both polls have UVA doing just that.  (We're 8th and 7th, but the coaches decided that the ACC completely owns lacrosse and put all six teams in the top seven.)

So we'll have to do something in the ACC besides lose every game, but certain other teams on the schedule - notably Cornell and Hopkins - also appear somewhat vulnerable.  From just a schedule standpoint, UVA stands to improve, though we're not going to be seen as a top conference contender unless we pull off an upset or two.

No comments: