Eulogizing the 2013 College Lacrosse Season: (20) Army

Patrick McDermott

The Knights' season ended in the Patriot League semifinals, but it was -- in the overall -- a nice campaign from Army in 2013.

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: Army Black Knights

2013 Record: 8-6 (4-2, Patriot)

2013 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): -1.79 (44)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 1.09 (20)

Winning Percentage Change from 2012: +10.48%

2013 Efficiency Margin: 3.91 (20)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2012: +1.51

II. "ATTA BOY!" FACT

  • John Glesener was Army's winner of the "Most Distinguished Effort in Ruining the Souls of the Opposition (Offensive Destruction Division)," but the Black Knights' defense -- anchored by Brendan Buckley and the emerging Sam Somers in the crease -- probably buoyed Army to its success on the season (outside, of course, Glesener's growth and his relationship with Garrett Thul): Army's defense was a lightning bolt sent from the heavens to smote opposing offenses for their foolishness in believing that they could infringe on the Cadets' placid goal nets. Elite defenses come in different forms and operate in unique functions, but in the overall, there aren't many teams in the nation in 2013 that put together the complete effort that Army did at defending the ball:

    ARMY: DEFENDING OUR FREEDOM AND THEIR GOALS
    METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
    Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 25.55 10
    Shots per Defensive Opportunity 0.95 5
    Raw Defensive Shooting Rate 25.06% 8
    Assist Rate per 100 Defensive Opportunities 13.04 5
    Ride Percentage 18.75% 3
    Turnovers per 100 Defensive Opportunities 51.74 7
    Turnover Margin per 100 Opportunities +7.48 10
    Estimated Functional Defensive Opportunities Ratio 88.26% 1
    Estimated Lost Functional Defensive Opportunities Ratio 45.32% 9
    "Run-of-Play" Work Rate Margin +2.34 20
    Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 30.87 46
    Team Save Percentage 56.57% 10
    Strength of Schedule: Opposing Offenses Faced 28.52 55
    There are a few important takeaways from this table: (1) Army -- due to its ride -- did a great job at limiting the number of functional offensive opportunities that it permitted its opponents to gestate in the attack box, limiting exposure to its defense and allowing for its offense to work without the pressure of "answering" the opposition; (2) The rate at which opponents turned the ball over against Army swung the turnover margin heavily in Army's favor, making the opposition play from a position of needing to maximize each ensuing position (pressure that often played in the Black Knights' favor); and (3) Sam Somers wasn't asked to make buckets of saves game-in and game-out, but when he needed to make stops, he was capable of ending defensive opportunities; and (4) The field defense was exemplary, making opponents work for good looks and keeping their heads on swivel. Even though the offenses that Army faced -- in the overall -- weren't exceptional, this is still a team that fared well against its best offensive competition (the Cadets held Syracuse to six goals and Bucknell to nine in their regular season meeting). This was a complete defense for Army in 2013 -- not perfect, but which teams are? -- and it returned solid rewards.

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

  • It's hard to stomach teams that take a gratuitous number of penalties and play in man-down postures a lot, especially if those teams are defensively competent. There's just something about self-inflicted harm that doesn't sit right in my skull -- pushing the envelope is fine, but tailspin after tailspin and ruined aircraft, what has been learned? That's kind of the story with Army this past season:

    ARMY: VIOLATING THE GENEVA CONVENTIONS (LACROSSE PROTOCOLS)
    METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
    Penalties per 100 Opportunities 7.67 60
    Man-Down Postures per 100 Defensive Opportunities 13.70 58
    Man-Down Posture Conversion Rate 34.92% 35
    Man-Down Posture Reliance 20.18% 63
    While Army held a fairly decent man-down kill rate, the volume at which it played in man-down postures -- and the rate at which opponents relied on these circumstances to actually score against the Black Knights -- erodes the superficial belief about Army's man-down reality. (Plus, the added defensive focus necessary to play in man-down has to have a deleterious effect on a defense's overall ability to maintain momentum.) This stuff can catch up to teams (especially because opponents relied on the extra attacker being in their favor to make the scoreboard blink against Army), and a solid case can be made that the Cadets' loose interpretation of permissible behavior on the field burned them in at least two losses this season:

    ARMY'S LOSSES AND MAN-DOWN HELL
    OPPONENT OPPONENT EXTRA-MAN OPPORTUNITIES FINAL SCORE
    Massachusetts 3-7 9-16 (L)
    Syracuse 2-3 2-6 (L)
    Lehigh 0-5 6-10 (L)
    Bucknell 2-3 8-9 (L)
    Bucknell 3-4 9-12 (L)
    Johns Hopkins 2-7 4-9 (L)
    There's lots of *grumble grumble* in there.

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

  • Army is losing a handful of important pieces entering 2014, including Thul and Buckley. Many assets remain, though, and the biggest key for Joe Alberici heading into next spring is continuing to build a developed roster capable of raising hell in the ever-increasing horror show that is the Patriot League. Glesener is the offensive cog, but he needs continued, leveraged support to fill the void that Thul leaves in his wake; is the field defense ready to mature to their potential and past their status and compete in Buckley's absence? Replacement and continuity are Army's biggest focuses at the moment.
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