American East Conference 2019 Projections
In this article, we will be going over my projected order of finish in the American East Conference. This article does not take into account how far a team may go in the postseason. It is only focused on how a team will finish in their conference during the regular season and conference tournament, if they qualify for a spot. Enjoy!
Sorry Bearcats, but it was between you and Hartford for the bottom spot in the conference. The Bearcats were a young team last year, and showed a little improvement as the year went on, but their season has a massive black stain left upon it due to all the blowouts the Bearcats endured. They deserve credit for scheduling teams like Syracuse, but instead of them playing the Orange and others tough, Binghamton was sacrificial slaughter to the lacrosse gods.
The stats show these blowouts as the Bearcats gave up 193 goals in 2018 while scoring 120. The offense only had a .205% man up conversion rate, and to make things worse, they lose their top two scorers from 2018 (Thomas McAndrew and Stephen Petrell).
The bright spot for Binghamton is they won some games down the stretch in 2018, but the Bearcats are still in the cellar of my AEC conference projections.
The Hawks were at the bottom of the AEC standings at the end of the regular season, but where many see darkness, I see light. Hartford finished 3-10, but they were only beat by double digits once, a 6-16 loss to Albany.
The offense scored 9.85 goals per game while the defense allowed 12.31. The Hawks had a good man up with a .426% conversion rate, but they did have 56 minutes in penalty time—which is way too much. The defense should be better this year with some guys coming back, but they lose their top three scorers from 2018. The best offensive player coming back is attackman Dylan Jinks (18 goals, 12 assists). Time will tell whether Jinks can be “the guy” on offense. Either way, expect Hartford to be improved on the defensive side of the ball, which will lead to at least one more win.
The Retrievers were competitive in most of their games last year, and have an excellent defense returning (7.77 goals against average), but if it weren’t for their upset win over #1 Albany, no one would find anything memorable about their 2018 campaign. I have the Retrievers just missing out of their conference tournament because the offense hasn’t proven it can consistently show up in large games. The offense played well against Albany, yes, but if one looks at their stats in March, the Retrievers only scored 35 goals. It is no wonder they only won one game in March (7-4 against Marist). In all, the Retrievers only scored 89 goals in 2018. If UMBC’s offense is more consistent this year, they will make the AEC tournament, if they did not improve over the offseason, they will be sitting at home in May.
4. UMass Lowell
The Riverhawks had an amazing 8-8 season in 2018. Many would find an 8 win season quite mediocre, but the Riverhawks only recently fielded a D1 lacrosse team in 2015. Their records before 2018 were the following: 1-13, 4-12, and 4-12. They won more games in 2018 than they had the previous three seasons combined.
The most impressive stat from last season is their .516% man up conversion rate. A knock on the Riverhawks is they turned the ball over 234 times and lose their top three scorers: Sean Tyrell, Jon Phillips, and Matt Balter. That means the pressure will be on senior midfielder, Austin Lane (25 goals, 11 assists), to keep the offense rolling.
I have the Riverhawks making the AEC tournament again in 2019, but bowing out in the first round to the top seed, and eventual conference champion. Nevertheless, coach Ed Stephenson has done an excellent job at UMass Lowell, and I have confidence he will keep building them in the right direction.
3. Stony Brook
Stony Brook had a tough start to 2018, although they were competitive in a majority of their games played; however, the Seawolves turned it all around, going 5-1 in conference before losing in the first round of the AEC playoffs to Vermont. Losses to Albany and Vermont in conference are nothing to feel bad about. I expect the Seawolves will finish third in the conference this year, as I think they will get knocked out in the first round of the conference tournament to Vermont. The Seawolves do have 23 upperclassmen on the 2019 squad, so that experience could pay dividends in terms of accomplishing more.
One of these upperclassmen is offensive leader Tom Haun (22 goals, 14 assists) who is backed up by Jack Walsh (8 goals, 25 assists) on attack. One killer for Stony Brook is they must improve their special teams. The man up only had a .308% conversion rate and allowed a whopping .5% conversion rate on man down. Those numbers will kill you in the close games they will participate in.
The Catamounts had an outstanding season in 2018, going 12-4. They made the conference championship game, but had an abrupt end to the year when it was Albany they matched up against. Vermont plays in the 2019 college lacrosse season opening game against Utah, a game they will be favored in, so we’ll get a decent idea of how talented Vermont is quite early.
The Catamounts scored 165 goals while allowing 129, but lose Ian MacKay (39 goals, 20 assists). Luckily, senior attackman Dawes Milchling (20 goals, 13 assists) returns to lead the offense. Vermont also returns defensive leader Warren Jeffrey (27 groundballs, 4 turnovers). One thing Vermont must improve upon is their clearing. They only had a .852% clear rate, which is not good enough if they want to challenge Albany for the conference crown.
I expect Vermont will have double digits in the win column again this season, and could even improve upon their total from last season; however, with Albany in the conference, I have their season ending in the conference championship to the Great Danes.
In a pick that shocks no one, I have the Great Danes finishing as the top dog in the AEC. The gap between Albany and the rest of the conference field is simply too great for someone to be a serious threat to dethrone the Great Danes. Yes, they lost to UMBC, but I somewhat attribute that to them going in overconfident and sleep walking through that game while the Retrievers played the game of their lives. If it weren’t for Yale, Albany would have been in the NCAA championship game (probably winning), and they will be a contender for it all in 2019.
While the Great Danes lose Connor Fields, they return Tehoka Nanticoke (50 goals, 32 assists) and Jakob Patterson (42 goals, 7 assists) to an offense that averaged 14.42 goals per game. The defense was also dangerous, allowing 8.63 goals a game. The defense is fortunate to bring back stud long pole Erik Dluhy (29 groundballs, 7 turnovers) as well. The one question mark for Albany is at the faceoff X, where they lose TD Ierlan to a transfer to Yale.
Even with the transfer of TD Ierlan, Tehoka Nanticoke and company will be almost impossible for anyone in conference to stop, and they will not allow inferior competition in the AEC to derail their national championship dreams.