- ReLaxing Luke
Northeast Conference 2019 Projections
In this article, we will be going over my projected order of finish in the Northeast 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!
Wagner has struggled to be competitive for multiple years now; however, there is some hope for them to show improvement in 2019. The defense was rather solid last year: allowing 9.93 goals per game and having a .205% conversion rate in man down situations. When your defense holds a team to 9 goals a game, you should be winning at least half of your games.
Sadly, while the defense played well, the offense did not. The Seahawks averaged 6.96 goals per game and only scored 97 in total. Those numbers are astonishingly low for a D1 lacrosse program. The Seahawks turned it over 228 times, which needs to go below 200 for 2019. The bright spot for Wagner is they return a great defenseman in Riley Owens (20 groundballs, 9 turnovers) so the defense should be solid in 2019; therefore, if someone can step up on offense with the loss of Andrew Streilein (22 goals, 12 assists), the Seahawks may be able to sneak up on some teams.
The Statesmen are best known for their Hobart drill today than what they have accomplished on the field recently. Luckily, they have some talent on offense returning, but are faced with the same question marks on defense that have troubled them for a while now.
In 2018, the Statesmen scored 10.07 goals per game but gave up 10.71 a game. Eric Holden (22 goals, 17 assists) returns at attack while Matthew Pedicine (.659% on faceoffs) returns at the faceoff X. If the defensive side of the field can lower their average by 2 goals given up per game, then Hobart should be able to surprise some conference foes.
5. Sacred Heart
The Pioneers have shown improvement in the past couple of years, but come into 2019 with plenty of question marks. The biggest question mark comes on offense, where Sacred Heart must replace Julian Garritano, Mike Calvagna, and Kevin Cop, their three best offensive players.
The defense wasn’t too impressive last year either as they gave up 11.72 goals per game; however, they did force 132 turnovers, so they play hard and aggressive. Sacred Heart also needs to play better on the road if they want to make their conference tournament, as they were 2-6 in away games in 2018. The Pioneers have potential to make their conference tournament, but there are too many question marks on both sides of the ball for me to confidently put them into the top four.
4. Mount Saint Mary’s
Mount Saint Mary’s has improved over the years and I think this is the year where all the hard work to become a threat in the NEC come to fruition.
The Mountaineers had a good offense last year: averaging 11.21 goals per game. They also return their best offensive players with Matt Haggerty (14 goals, 11 assists) and Henry Berg (7 goals, 11 assists). The man up only converted on 25% of their chances so that is something they must improve on, but things look bright for the offense.
The defense is the biggest question mark. They gave up 12.50 goals a game, which is not a recipe for success. The D did play well in man down situations though, allowing opponents to score only 26.3% of the time. Zach Roberts (12 groundballs, 2 turnovers) will return as the anchor of the defense and will have to be the leader of the group for the Mountaineers to show improvement on the defensive side of the field.
The Mountaineers still aren’t good enough to compete with the top three teams in the conference, but they will beat Hobart and Wagner, and with them having Sacred Heart at home this year, I’m giving the edge to them as I think being on the road is what made the difference in their 1 goal loss to the Pioneers in 2018.
3. Robert Morris
Robert Morris had a dream season in 2018. They had an offense that scored 11.56 goals per game, but lose Jimmy Perkins (31 goals, 30 assists). That means the pressure will be on attackman Matt Schmidt (36 goals, 15 assists) to shoulder the load. Schmidt will have a good 2019, but he does need to increase his assists if he wants his offense to be firing on all cylinders even with the loss of Perkins.
The defense was amazing last year, only giving up 8 goals per game. They forced 169 turnovers and picked up 506 groundballs, which is insane! They lose some key players on the defensive side, but return Will Ewing (19 groundballs). Ewing will be counted on to anchor the defense and keep that goals against average down.
The Colonials also upset ranked Penn State and Marquette while winning the NEC and winning the NCAA play-in game against Canisius before losing to Maryland in a hard-fought game. The Colonials will be good again, but being the hunted is different than being the hunter and I think teams like Bryant and Saint Joseph's will be too hungry for revenge to allow the Colonials to make a repeat for the NCAA tournament. I have them being knocked out in the first round of the NEC tournament in an upset.
Bryant is never a sexy team, but they are always well coached and competitive. Their 2018 stats were not up on their website, so I cannot get into details on their best returning players. The Bulldogs win more than they lose and that is why I have them finishing second in the conference. Bryant is ranked #25 in preseason so they have some hype coming into this year. The Bulldogs have won the NEC a couple times in the past few years; however, I have them falling just short in the championship game against the last team on the list.
1. Saint Joseph's
The Hawks started 0-3 in 2018. The wheels could have fallen off the bus, but strong leadership by coaches and players turned the disappointing start into an 11 game win streak before they ultimately fell short of an NCAA playoff bid by losing to Robert Morris in the NEC championship.
The Hawks had a great defense last year, giving up 8 goals a game. Their man down allowed a .234% conversion rate and they were a quick starting team. The defense only allowed 26 goals all year in the first quarter, while the offense scored 44, allowing them to put teams in a hole early. The offense was solid last year by averaging 10 goals a game, but they lose their top two players (Chris Blewitt and Kyle Cain). Neither side of the ball has guys returning that are standouts, according to the statistics, but those do not always show how good a player is.
Saint Joseph's was the best team in the NEC during the regular season, and I think they will be hungry to show that their lone conference loss against Robert Morris in the championship was a fluke. They will be hungry to earn what they feel they should be theirs and that makes the difference.