2014 College Lacrosse Preview: The Second-Year Programs

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

I remember when Marquette and High Point were *this* tall.

The most important thing for Marquette and High Point last season was to learn how to get on and off the bus like a Division I team. Wins and losses mattered (for the Eagles and Panthers last season, their wins over Air Force and Towson, respectively, were defining moments for each program), but they mattered only in the context of the following question: In the reality of college lacrosse, is the team performing at a baseline level of competence? Growth and development is painful, but foundational aspects of program momentum are necessary cogs to creating a lacrosse machine.

Looking back at last season, both Marquette and High Point had solid campaigns in their first efforts. Neither would be confused with a high-major conference contender, but both were in the sweet spot of where new programs have found residence in recent seasons. Some of the detail here is both promising and expected:

MARQUETTE AND HIGH POINT: FRESHMAN EFFORTS
METRIC MARQUETTE HIGH POINT
Record 5-8 3-12
Adj. Offensive Efficiency 27.69 (46) 24.47 (59)
Adj. Defensive Efficiency 37.74 (57) 38.04 (58)
Adj. Efficiency Margin -10.05 (54) -13.57 (60)
Pythagorean Win Expectation 27.69% (54) 20.31% (59)
S.o.S.: Opponent Adj. Offensive Efficiency 30.21 (35) 29.32 (48)
S.o.S.: Opponent Adj. Defensive Efficiency 30.66 (33) 31.12 (40)
S.o.S.: Opponent Adj. Efficiency Margin -0.46 (33) -1.80 (45)
S.o.S.: Opponent Pythagorean Win Expectation 46.53% (39) 44.32% (46)

Between the two programs, Marquette arguably had a better season than High Point. The Eagles played a more difficult schedule, finished with more wins than the Panthers(including a head-to-head 14-6 defeat of the Panthers), overachieved by about a win-and-a-half, and generally performed at a higher level than their peers from North Carolina. The efforts of the two teams in 2013 , though, are only an indication of what 2014 may hold for each program. Here's a short outlook on each program heading into their second campaigns at the Division I level:

High Point

Head Coach: Jon Torpey
Nickname: Panthers
Conference: Atlantic Sun
Best Chance(s) for Victory: Sacred Heart, Michigan, VMI, Mercer, Furman, Richmond
Crime Scene Investigation(s): North Carolina
Two Unrelated Notes:

  • High Point could exceed its win total from 2013 simply by playing with some consistency in conference play. The Panthers beat Mercer last season, Richmond and Furman are peer programs that should provide High Point with preferable circumstances to find victory, and -- based on 2013 performances -- the Panthers would be a strong favorite (about a 75 percent favorite) against VMI in 2014. Going from three wins to four wins as a baseline expectation doesn't sound like much, but when you consider that the team has just six dates on its calendar that look like potential wins, getting those four is necessary for program entrenchment.
  • Austin Geisler was a solid for the Panthers last season and could serve as a major component to High Point's potential success in 2014. The Virginia transfer started 14 games for the Panthers in 2013 (all but the team's season-ending date against Drexel) and held a 51.2 save percentage. His play between the pipes was important for the Panthers last year for more than those reasons, though: The team relied heavily on its goalkeepers to end defensive possessions. On the season, High Point's keepers killed almost 40 percent of the team's defensive possessions with a save while standing under relatively high fire (the Panthers yielded about 1.16 shots per defensive opportunity) and playing about three more defensive possessions per 60 minutes of play compared to their opponents. If Geisler -- or Anthony Porcetta -- is able to come correct in 2014, that could significantly increase High Point's defensive efforts.

Marquette

Head Coach: Joe Amplo
Nickname: Golden Eagles
Conference: Big East
Best Chance(s) for Victory: ???
Crime Scene Investigation(s): Lehigh, Ohio State, Duke, St. John's, Notre Dame, Denver
Two Unrelated Notes:

  • Marquette wasn't included in College Crosse's Reverse Survivor preview despite the fact that the Golden Eagles may have scheduled above their heads. The reason for this was pretty simple: Marquette showed flashes of destined competence in 2013; the thought was that the Eagles -- despite difficult circumstances -- may be able to knock off some combination of Marist, Jacksonville, or Detroit before the calendar turned to April. Regardless of that position, though, Marquette is staring at an incredibly difficult task in 2014. This 15-game schedule that the Eagles composed would make many average teams look remedial. The end result could be a 2014 campaign that provides Marquette with fewer wins than in 2013 but actually reflects a stronger effort from the Eagles. In function, Marquette in 2014 is somewhat mirroring what Michigan did in 2013.
  • When you look at new programs or programs that struggle, something always sticks out: In statistics that tie to fundamental skills, these programs often lack in performance. Marquette last year, though, didn't look -- according to these statistical metrics -- exactly like a program fresh on the scene (although there are instances that scream "Neophyte!"). Here's what Marquette looked like in those selected metrics last season; they may serve as points to follow as 2014 develops:

MARQUETTE IN "FUNDAMENTAL" METRICS: 2013
METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
Raw Offensive Shooting Rate 29.64% 19
Offensive Assist Rate 15.09 45
Raw Faceoff Percentage: 42.90% 53
Raw Clearing Rate 87.45% 23
Penalties per 100 Opportunities 5.36 28
Man-Down Postures per 100 Defensive Opportunities: 10.04 24
Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 48.42 47
Unforced Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 27.49 58
Opponent Caused Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 20.92 24
Turnover Rate Margin -6.01 48
"Run-of-Play" Work Rate (Groundballs) Margin +2.79 18
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