Eulogizing the 2012 College Lacrosse Season: (5) Lehigh

Mar 16, 2012; Greensboro, NC, USA; Lehigh Mountain Hawks cheerleader performs in the second half against the Duke Blue Devils in the second round of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Greensboro Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

You spent the better part of four months meticulously dissecting the 2012 college lacrosse season. You shouldn't stop now because cold turkey is a bad way to go through life, man. College Crosse is providing decompression snapshots of all 61 teams and their 2012 campaigns, mostly because everything needs a proper burial.

I. VITAL SIGNS

Team: Lehigh Mountain Hawks

2012 Record: 14-3 (5-1, Patriot)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -0.39 (40)

2011 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -0.85 (42)

Winning Percentage Change from 2011: +38.60%

2012 Efficiency Margin: 10.45 (5)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2011: +12.98

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • Kevin Cassese is an offensive guy, but what he and defensive coordinator Brendan Callahan put together last year in Bethlehem was one of the nastiest defenses not only in the Patriot League but also the country. While it didn't get the kind of attention that Johns Hopkins' or Notre Dame's defenses got -- and I'm not completely sold that Lehigh's defense was quite in that territory -- the Mountain Hawks were a tough nut to crack in 2012, stymieing opposing offenses in two important ways: (1) Rising sophomore Matt Poillon turned into one of the most important back-stops in the land, holding the nation's fourth-best save percentage at 59.7 and ending about 34 percent of Lehigh's defensive possessions with a save; and (2) The guys out in front of Poillon helped insulate the then-freshman keeper from high exposure, keeping their heads on a swivel with strong on- and off-ball marking (the Mountain Hawks finished the season ranked ninth nationally in defensive assist rate and eighth in caused turnovers per defensive opportunity (in part due to the team's 10th-ranked ride)). This balance -- between a goalie prodigy and a complete defensive unit (led by Ty Souders and Mike Noone) -- produced great results, holding all but three teams -- Villanova (in what was a freak performance for Lehigh), Colgate, and Maryland -- to under 10 goals. That's not just a great effort; that's execution (and a surprising level of execution given where Lehigh was in 2011 with a defense that finished the season ranked 56th in adjusted defensive efficiency).

III. "YOU'RE GROUNDED UNTIL YOU QUALIFY FOR THE AARP!" FACT

  • WARNING: THIS IS EXTREME NIT-PICKING; IF YOU SEND ME AN EMAIL COMPLAINING ABOUT MY NIT-PICKING, I WILL GET A HAMMER AND RE-ARRANGE THE DENSITY OF YOUR SKULL. Lehigh didn't exactly dominate the possession game last season (the team finished 19th in possession margin on the year at almost plus-one possession per 60 minutes of play). Owning possession margin isn't necessarily a "must-have" for success opportunity, but it does help generate good results depending on certain performance touchstones. Where the Mountain Hawks struggled a little bit in tipping possession percentage in their favor was at the dot: Ryan Snyder did a decent job on the whistle, winning about 50.00 percent of his attempts (helping Lehigh to a below average 48.29 face-off percentage on the season). That's not terrible, but with the way that the Mountain Hawks cleared and rode last year, getting a little more production off of the dot may have allowed Lehigh to really suffocate the opposition (formula: fewer possessions + impossible defense to crack = offensephyxiation). The proof here may be in Lehigh's results: In the eight games in which Lehigh owned possession percentage, the Mountain Hawks' average margin of victory was +6.5; in the nine games in which Lehigh lost the possession percentage battle, the Mountain Hawks' average margin of victory was +1.3.

IV. MR. FIX-IT HAS A ONE-FIX ENGAGEMENT, AND IT'S . . .

  • The "fix" isn't necessarily a "fix" but rather a desire: Keep it all together and show me 2012 wasn't an aberration. Lehigh has all kinds of potential to be very dangerous again in 2013, but the history of this program hasn't exactly been one where back-to-back season of double-digit wins is a common occurrence. The Mountain Hawks' learned how to win big in 2012; now the charge is whether they can keep winning big, which is something that a lot of programs struggle to overcome.

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