The Colgate Raiders were an interesting team in 2011. No star players that really jumped out at you. No big wins that stare you in the face and make your jaw drop.
Their 11-5 record does make the average lacrosse fan wonder how the Raiders didn't make the NCAA tournament in 2011 but when you analyze their schedule, as mentioned above, nothing jumps out to you.
Yes, a 10-8 victory over Maryland would catch the average lacrosse fan's eye but we all know that game was played on May 8th and Maryland had just won the ACC Championship over Duke. They were going to the NCAA tournament and the Colgate game was just a roadblock before entering the tournament and facing North Carolina on May 15th.
A 5-1 Patriot League record was impressive, although their loss came at the hands of 14-3 Bucknell, who ended up winning the conference and almost beating Virginia in the first round of the 2011 tournament.
Most years a 5-1 in conference record will get you to the tournament, especially a conference that has Army, Navy and Bucknell but with the strength of other teams in the country and the schedules they had in 2011, Colgate saw themselves on the outside looking in as the debate came down to their strength of schedule and with not one win against a ranked team, its hard to make the NCAA tournament.
Then came the off-season, which saw their 11 year head coach jump ship to take over the vacant position at Stony Brook. Former coach Jim Nagle went back home to Long Island and left Colgate after 11 years behind the helm.
In comes former Army assistant coach Mike Murphy, who coached in the Patriot League for eight years before being offered the head coaching job at Colgate. A defensive minded coach, Murphy was able to turn the Black Knights into one of the better defensive units in the country. Bringing in some top recruits, the past three seasons has seen the Black Knights have All-Americans both in the cage and on close defense.
"I couldn't be more excited to be given the opportunity to be the head coach at Colgate. Colgate is the perfect fit for me. I can't wait to start working under Dave Roach, who has brought a lot of excitement around campus."
So now all eyes are on 2012. Colgate returns their starting goalie, Jared Madison, as well as their leading scorer from 2011, Peter Baum. Baum was recently named to Inside Lacrosse's preseason second team All-American list. Baum scored 34 goals last year and finished the season with 49 points en route to earning first team All-Patriot League honors.
"It is always a challenge playing in one of the best conferences in the nation," said Murphy. "But it helps having one of the top players in the nation in Peter Baum along with Jared Madison who has the potential to being the best goalie in the Patriot League."
Murphy does have a challenge ahead of him in 2012 as he lost three of his top scorers from 2011. Murphy will look to captains Jeff Ledwick and Kevin Gordon to help Baum out on the offensive side of the ball, as Ledwick is the only real threat (besides from Baum) from 2011 that returns. Ledwick had 12 goals and three assists last season from the attack position.
Another position that is lost is at the face-off X where the Raiders lost Jim Carroll, whose 163 wins at the X in 2011 were good for third best in Colgate single season history. Junior Robert Grabher will step in at the X. Grabher took 35 face-offs last year, winning 17 of them, good for a winning percentage of 49.
On defense, the Raiders are anchored by junior captain James Queeney. Queeney followed the footsteps of graduated close defenseman Greg Perkins, who took on the opposing team's top player every game. That will be Queeney's job in 2012. Joining him on defense will be Bobby Lawrence, a sophomore from Summit, N.J., who led the team in groundballs (30) and takeaways (17). Lawrence quite possibly might take over as the team's top close defenseman and that will be a fun battle to watch come February.
There is no doubt Murphy will rely heavily on Baum and will look to find offense from incoming freshman as well as senior captain Kevin Gordon. The backbone of the team will be Madison in goal and with Murphy's history, there is no reason not to believe this team will be a very solid defensive unit.