Eulogizing the 2013 College Lacrosse Season: (57) St. Joseph's

Taylor Wray has a few nice things happening on Hawk Hill.

You spent the better part of four months meticulously dissecting the 2013 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 63 teams and their 2013 campaigns, mostly because everything needs a proper burial.

I. VITAL SIGNS

Team: St. Joseph's Hawks

2013 Record: 5-11 (1-5, THUNDERDOME!)

2013 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -2.57 (53)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -2.47 (53)

Winning Percentage Change from 2012: -8.75%

2013 Efficiency Margin: -12.05 (57)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2012: -4.21

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • There's something to be said about adopting a style and not deviating from it. Whatever way I calculate it, St. Joseph's was the slowest team in the nation last season, playing somewhere between 58 and 65 possessions per 60 minutes of play (the former value is an older way of calculating opportunities; the latter value is a different way that screws around with identifying "hidden" possessions). The Hawks, a relatively young bunch (67.5 percent of the roster was underclassmen), were drastically patient last season, taking their time in the offensive end and letting opponents bomb away in the defensive end with little molestation -- the Hawks ranked 13th nationally in shots per offensive opportunity (more on this below) at 1.17 per trip and 51st in defensive shots per opportunity at 1.19. This is controlled, pragmatic lacrosse, and St. Joseph's stuck to the script all year: In just five of its games in 2013 (Lehigh, Marquette, Penn State, Delaware, and Towson) did St. Joseph's play 63 or more total possessions; in six of its games (High Point, Pennsylvania, Mercer, Drexel, Hofstra, and Michigan), the Hawks played at or below its season average of possessions per 60 minutes of play (interestingly, the only game that St. Joseph's won in that subset was against High Point). The Hawks knew how they wanted to play last season and they pressed the approach all season long. This is a stylistically draconian way of getting things done, and the Hawks wrapped themselves in the severity.

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

  • After taking an important step forward between 2011 and 2012, St. Joseph's regressed from 2012 to 2013. That's something that programs that are going through growing pains experience, but the Hawks' drop off -- especially under a similar schedule situation that the team faced just a season ago -- was somewhat disappointing given the gains the program made in Taylor Wray's first season in Philadelphia. There are lots of reasons for this -- the Hawks' aforementioned youth; the odd disappearance of Ryan McGee; etc. -- but where St. Joseph's went this season in terms of growth didn't match what they did in Wray's first year on Hawk Hill. What sticks out more than anything about the Hawks' profile is the trouble that the team had with possession of the bean: St. Joseph's ranked just 61st in adjusted offensive efficiency; no team held a raw offensive shooting rate worse than the Hawks' 19.96 percent mark; the team struggled to share the ball, generating just 12.02 assists per 100 offensive opportunities (61st nationally); opposing goaltenders ate up St. Joseph's offense, generating saves on about 41 out of every 100 Hawks offensive opportunities (60th in the country) and holding a 63.60 save percentage (62nd nationally); and the Hawks were fairly loose with the ball, committing turnovers on around 49 percent of their offensive opportunities (50th in the nation). Given that just two of the Hawks' top 10 point-generators last year were underclassmen (not counting McGee (he played just two games)), that kind of offensive performance is somewhat expected. However, this was still -- despite Pat Swanick's talents -- one of the five worst offenses in the nation last season.

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

  • Wray is still in the process of overhauling St. Joseph's existence. This takes time, and continued player development -- especially given all the youth that dotted the roster last year -- and talent acquisition is key. Life should be a little easier in the NEC compared to THUNDERDOME!, but the Hawks still need to start executing like a program with momentum in its favor. For St. Joseph's it's not about wins and losses; it's about becoming a stronger team, and the Hawks need it at both ends of the field. It's about building around centerpieces (like Swanick) and pushing the team's identity down opponents' throats. Growth -- in finding offensive might; in performing in specialty situations; in sustaining efforts from one season to the next -- is the elixir that St. Joseph's needs.
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