Eulogizing the 2013 College Lacrosse Season: (28) Bellarmine

How important was the Knights' effort in 2013? The fact that you knew that they played well is evidence enough.

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: Bellarmine Knights

2013 Record: 7-7 (3-4, ECAC)

2013 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -0.74 (36)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -0.29 (39)

Winning Percentage Change from 2012: +20.00%

2013 Efficiency Margin: 1.21 (28)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2012: +4.26

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • Credit where credit is due: I think it was Terry Foy of Inside Lacrosse that first started screaming about Dillon Ward's ability between the pipes for Bellarmine. (Maybe this after the Knights-Loyola game? I can't remember exactly.) I tend to have a pretty good handle on exemplary play occurring at programs that reside somewhere under the hyper-elite, but even I had missed out on Ward's potential until Foy started shouting with a purpose about the senior keeper. From that point forward it became clear -- if Ward wasn't the best netminder in the nation in 2013, he was in the select group that was part of the conversation. His effort in the crease for the Knights this past season was exemplary, and a solid case can be made that Ward was robbed of Second Team All-America honors (I still don't quite get how Maryland's Niko Amato finished above Ward in the voting). The numbers here illustrate nicely exactly what Ward's effort was last year and what it meant for Bellarmine as a whole (the table reflects, in large part, the Knights' team statistics (individual statistics are noted with an asterisk), but relative to the goaltending metrics, these are heavily influenced by Ward's output given the fact that he played all but the first 30 minutes of Bellarmine's season this year (Will Haas got absolutely smoked against Robert Morris)):

    WELCOME TO THE DILLON WARD SHOW
    METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
    Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 23.36 2
    Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.09 31
    Raw Defensive Shooting Rate 21.00% 1
    Defensive Assist Rate 11.72 1
    Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 42.83 4
    Save Percentage* 66.2% 1
    Strength of Schedule: Opposing Offenses Faced 30.06 37
    Just so we're clear on this: Ward saw an average number of shots per defensive opportunity from decent offenses (including notably above-average offenses in Robert Morris, Loyola, Ohio State, Denver, and Virginia) and shut teams down, anchoring one of the better defensive units in the nation (due in large part to what Ward was able to accomplish in the net) that relied on Ward to make stops and end defensive opportunities. The reliance that the Knights had on Ward to play exceptionally -- and the fact that Ward played at a level that few other keepers approached -- highlights just how good Ward was in his senior campaign. He was valuable, productive, and among the nation's best.

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

  • It all went sideways for the Knights when it shouldn't have. After starting the season 7-2, Bellarmine was in great shape not only for a potential NCAA Tournament invitation, but also to cause havoc in the ECAC: The Knights had already gone 3-2 in the league with wins over Michigan, Air Force, and Fairfield (the losses were against Loyola and Ohio State, both close affairs where Bellarmine had showed well). Then there was the slide that took the shine off the diamond: Consecutive losses to Denver, Hobart, Virginia, Marquette, and Pennsylvania closed Bellarmine's season and locked the Knights out of every postseason possibility imaginable. Some of the losses are reasonable -- look: the Knights are still growing as a program -- but there are three that stick out as notable:

    BELLARMINE'S SLIDE: THE HARDEST THREE OUTCOMES TO ACCEPT
    OPPONENT LOG5 CHANCE OF VICTORY FINAL SCORE
    Denver 35.59% 10-11 (2OT)
    Hobart 62.80% 8-9 (2OT)
    Marquette 75.34% 8-9 (OT)
    All losses aren't created equal; for Bellarmine, this is especially true. The loss against Denver stings as the Knights were noted underdogs entering the game but had the Pioneers in a position where Bellarmine could have walked away with a victory that it arguably didn't expect. The loss against Hobart -- a team it was highly favored against -- crushed the Knights' soul as a victory over the Statesmen would have put Bellarmine into the ECAC Tournament (the Knights held the tiebreaker against Fairfield). And the loss to Marquette was icky as Bellarmine was superior to the first-year Eagles all season long; that's a game that the Knights needed to win, regardless of circumstances or season volition. It was a season that started with promise for Bellarmine but deteriorated rapidly and painfully.

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

  • The mission statement for The American Outlaws -- one of U.S. Soccer's supporters groups -- is to unite and strengthen American soccer fans. That's kind of the mentality that Bellarmine needs to take: To grow and prosper, the Knights need to continue a daily journey of progress; the whole will rise as assets are added. I think we all forget that the Knights played their first full Division I schedule in 2007 (the team played a predominantly Division I slate in 2006); this is a program that is still finding its way through the wilderness (and has had three different head coaches in that time). Bellarmine is getting where it needs to go, but a focus on the process is more important than anything right now for the Knights.
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