Look: Jim Rogalski's first season at Lafayette went just about as expected, a 3-10 campaign that featured wins over Wagner, High Point, and a surprising result against Georgetown. Building the Leopards into a consistently competitive program is going to take time: Lafayette is a mere 33-98 over the last 10 seasons and its two strongest efforts in that period -- an 8-6 campaign in 2010 and a 6-7 effort in 2009 -- are outliers in the Leopards recent history (the team has won three games or fewer seven times in the last 10 years). Patience is important and Lafayette's development is more critical than its wins and losses at this point.
Here are some schedule highlights and games of note:
February 15: Wagner; March 7: @Navy; March 15: Boston University; March 29: Mercer; April 1: @Monmouth; April 8: Manhattan
Whatever victories that Lafayette can put together are likely coming from that group of six opponents. Opening its season with the Seahawks could prove valuable for a program that desperately desires momentum; seeing Navy relatively early in its Patriot League campaign is also a plus for a Lafayette team that has won just one conference game in the last three seasons (a 2012 victory over Holy Cross). The games against some of Division I's freshest faces are important from a confidence standpoint -- if the Leopards can exert a measure of dominance over Boston University, Mercer, and Monmouth, Lafayette will not lose ground in the hierarchy that dominates college lacrosse. Almost half of the Leopards schedule is winnable games -- despite the overall quality of those wins -- and there's value in learning how to win and what victories entail. That's the culture that Rogalski needs in Easton and he could find indicia of that in 2014. Competing for league titles, at this point, is less pressing than confirming strength over what should be some of the weaker teams in Division I this coming spring.
February 22: Colgate; March 1: Army; April 11: @Bucknell; April 18: Lehigh
The Patriot League didn't do Lafayette much favors in the construction of the Leopard's league slate this season:
- "Tell Lafayette what they've won!" "Lafayette: You win the prize of opening with Army, who is running with John Glesener and his complete disdain for the opposition, and Colgate, who is running with The Human Dump Truck -- Ryan Walsh!" "Prizes are nonrefundable, Lafayette. Enjoy the Patriot League!" Starting 0-2 isn't a great way to generate energy.
- The only way the Patriot League could have made Lafayette's existence more difficult at the end of conference play would be if the conference had put Loyola as one of the three teams that the Leopards would finish with to end their league regular season. Instead of closing the petting zoo and slaughtering all the animals inside to create unnecessary petting zoo corporate profits, the Patriot League exercised a measure of restraint, forcing the Leopards to only see the Bison and Mountain Hawks -- Lafayette's traditional season-ending opponent -- in mid-April. Lafayette isn't likely to have a glowing conference record going into those two dates, and with avenues to the Patriot League Tournament potentially closed at that stage of the season, these are possible lickings that limit Lafayette's ability to build a bridge to 2015.