Digging Deeper: Evaluating Wagner's Win

Ed. Note: Scrubbing out Wagner's first win since April 2010? Yup, that's front page-worthy. Enjoy!

When a team goes winless over the span of 721 days, it's noteworthy. Thus, when a team breaks their win-less skid that lasted 721 days, it's even more noteworthy. Sir HoyaSuxa did a fine job writing up a post about Wagner's first victory of the year -- don't worry Sacred Heart, someone was bound to drop a game to the Seahawks -- but I wanted to take a deeper look in a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of the landmark victory for a mostly hapless lacrosse team.

Going into the game, Wagner had about a 12% chance of winning against Sacred Heart by my calculations using my efficiency ratings. 10% of that came from being on home field. Needless to say, they were out matched. One of the ways I like to look at individual games is using my version of a Four Factors graph. In basketball -- especially college hoops -- there are what are called the Four Factors. These four statistics are what contribute most to winning basketball games. Intuitively it makes sense. In looking through the things that contribute to winning lacrosse games at the team level, I've come across four main components*:

  1. Offensive/Defensive Efficiency
  2. Possession Percentage
  3. Turnover Percentage
  4. Clearing Percentage

Here's what the factor graph looked like for the Wagner game as a whole:


Click (all) image(s) to enlarge.

The First Quarter

The Seahawks and the Pioneers lined up for the opening face off which was won by Sacred Heart's Stephen Kontos -- a trend that emerged pretty quickly -- and gave SHU the quick opening possession. After controlling the ball for almost two full minutes which yielded a couple of shots and a ground ball scoop, Wagner got a ground ball of their own and a quick successful clear. 30 seconds later, the transition opportunity was cashed in by Colin O'Rourke and Wagner was off and running. They'd for Sacred Heart into a few more turnovers -- a necessity as they lost five of the six draws taken in the first quarter -- and move into the offensive attack. Their second goal came a couple minutes after forcing a turnover and a prolonged offensive possession. Eventually, Wagner enjoyed a 4-1 romp through the first fifteen minutes.


In losing five of the six face offs, Wagner put it's defense in an precarious position but they held strong. Going six-for-six on defensive clears allowed Wagner to actually win the possession battle (nine to seven) for the only time all day. They had to work to get the ball back after SHU's domination at the x, but their persistent defense paid dividends.

The Second Quarter

Then the second quarter started. SHU controlled the pace and nearly four-fifths of the possessions. The Pioneers rode excellent clearing rates (100% is excellent, I hear) and domination at the x (another five-out-of-six) to a period that pushed the already-pressured Seahawk defense seemingly beyond repair. Sacred Heart would score five straight in the second to grab a 6-4 lead at the half.


The Third Quarter

Well, the third didn't exactly go as planned either. Wagner desperately needed to cool Stephen Kontos at the x, but it just never happened. Sacred Heart would win all five face offs taken in the period, allowing them to control 10 of the 17 offensive possessions. Extending their lead to 7-4 by scoring the sixth straight goal of the game, SHU started to put a strangle hold on the Seahawks. At this point, all 307 in attendance (actual, reported figure; not me making up a number to poke fun at the attendance) likely assumed that Wagner was gonna Wagner, but they didn't. Wagner scored twice to pull the game to 7-6 before Matt Gannon would give the Pioneers a two-goal edge heading into the final period.


The Fourth Quarter

Wagner, predictably, lost the opening draw in the fourth quarter, but SHU's Tom Sardelli was whistled for pushing (thirty seconds). This turned the ball over to the Seahawks who set up shop on their extra-man opportunity. Mike Hurley fired a shot wide but it was backed up by teammates. Then, about a minute after Sardelli's infraction, Wagner struck on a shot by Brian Faughnan. Flood gates: thy shall open.

Sacred Heart's Brian Kelly was whistled for a 1:00 slashing penalty, giving the Seahawks another extra man opportunity. Kontos lined up to take the face off for SHU but was beaten by John Andrejack. Wagner's EM team would set up and strike about forty-five seconds into the penalty and we had a tie game at eight.

Around the 6:50 mark, Wagner would force a failed clear and then a turnover and had Sacred Heart scrambling. The Seahawks called a quick time out sensing the importance of this possession and they came out and executed to perfection. Just 19 seconds after the time out, Wagner's William Hedges tallied an unassisted goal which proved to be the game winner, putting Wagner up 9-8.

The Seahawks would add two more late in the game, sending the 307 in attendance home seeing some sort of history with a 11-8 victory.


Wagner scored on all five of their offensive possessions -- helped by five extra man opportunities (where they scored twice) -- by forcing SHU into turnovers with a good ride. Wagner also grabbed six of the ten ground balls available in the quarter to help secure the victory.

The Final Tally


Overall, Wagner lost 20 of the 23 face offs on the day to Stephen Kontos. Still, they capitalized on three of the nine EMO's on the day which helped equalize such a large possession advantage for SHU (36 possessions to 24). Was this a game that Wagner should've won? Probably not. They were out-possessed, didn't have a major advantage in clears but did force more turnovers than SHU. The Seahawks benefited from the extra man. Wagner scored almost as many extra man goals (3) as Sacred Heart had extra man opportunities (4). That personnel advantage helped Wagner score at a highly efficient 45.8% in this 60-possession game. When a team scores that efficiently, you're not likely to win.

Just ask Wagner. Their opponents score 40% of the time they have the ball this year.

* = Actually, there are five. I forgot to include Groundball Percentage but I realized that after I penned up this entire piece. I'll look to include that in any future works on individual games and it'll be the Five Factors.

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