Independents 2019 Projections
Due to the nature of independents being in no conference, this article is projecting how successful each team shall be during the 2019 season. The order is according to who will be the least to most successful.
Lowest on the list is the Hampton Pirates. Hampton is the first and only HBCU D1 college lacrosse program. The Pirates have been steadily improving, but they are still one of the lower teams on the totem pole. They have yet to be competitive with lower level teams such as VMI, Wagner, and NJIT. I think the Pirates have enough experience and depth to compete with these lower level D1 programs in 2019; however, even if they win some of those games, they have D2 teams on their schedule, so I have to dock them for that. There is nothing wrong with playing against D2 programs as D2 lacrosse is played at a very high level, but until Hampton can prove they can handle a full straight-up D1 schedule, they will have to stay at the bottom of the list.
The Pirates have some talented players returning with Johnson Pierce (26 goals, 9 assists, 22 turnovers), Derian Williams-Sturdivant (16 goals, 10 assists, 29 turnovers), andElliot Johnson III (16 goals, 7 assists, 14 turnovers) returning on offense while Juwan Woodson (20 groundballs, 2 turnovers) returns on defense. The man up was a stunning .617% but the Pirates only had a .829% clear rate, which held them back. We will see if Hampton can improve with the young guns returning as veterans.
Utah is next on the list and there isn’t much one can project for the Utes. Utah is a brand new D1 team and while a very good club lacrosse program, D1 is a lot different. They haven’t proven themselves yet, but I expect they shall get a few wins this year due to a very experienced coaching staff. Utah will take its lumps this year as all new programs do, but hopefully this year can set them up for success in years 2-3 (maybe we’ll get lucky and there will be a new D1 men’s PAC 12 team by then).
2. New Jersey Institute of Technology
The Highlanders limped to a 1-15 record in 2018 and the only positive is it’s hard to have a performance worse than that (unless you’re the 2017 Cleveland Browns). I cheer for all programs to succeed, especially the newer ones, but success has not come easy for NJIT and there doesn’t seem to be many signs that it is arriving anytime soon.
The Highlanders only scored 6.56 goals per game and gave up 12.38 per game. They had 251 turnovers and an abysmal .794% clear rate. The good news is NJIT returns their top two scorers in Aaron Forster (30 goals, 13 assists) and Cole Robillard (20 goals, 7 assists). If one or two more teammates could step up and support this duo, then I think the offense could improve upon their average by 2-3 goals.
I hope the guys that put all their time into building this program have their hard work pay off soon. 2-3 wins would be an amazing accomplishment for the 2019 squad.
1. Cleveland State
Cleveland State went 4-10 last year, but they are an up and coming new program. This will only be their third year of being a D1 lacrosse program and you can already see the growth in the team.
Cleveland averaged 8.64 goals per game while giving up 11.34 a game. Their man up only scored 25% of the time, which is what dragged them down to 4 wins. Michael Wilson (20 goals, 7 assists) returns for his second season, and can only be better than his first go around the block. I think 6 wins is very doable for CSU this year and anything less would be somewhat of a disappointment.