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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Bryant

The Bulldogs beat Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and people went nuts.

You spent the better part of four months meticulously dissecting the 2014 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 67 teams and their 2014 campaigns, mostly because everything needs a proper burial.

VITAL SIGNS

BRYANT BULLDOGS
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 16-5 (5-1, NEC) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 76.19% 5
2013 Record 8-11 (4-1, NEC) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 42.11% 43
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 64.07% 19
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 53.25% 30
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +10.82% 12*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +11* 8*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 30.58 37
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 25.73 54
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +4.85 8*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +18* 6*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 28.18 19
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 28.74 23
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency +0.56 25*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency +4* 24*
Downloadable Team Profile (.pdf)

*These ranking values consider only the programs that competed in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. Accordingly, Boston University, Furman, Monmouth, and Richmond are not considered.

"ATTA BOY!" FACT

Bryant's 2014 campaign will forever be defined by the Bulldogs' defeat of Syracuse in the Carrier Dome in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and rehashing the upset -- let's be honest: there were bigger upsets in Division I last spring; it's just that Bryant's came at the right time of the year and against an opponent that everyone has heard of -- seems somewhat pedantic. Instead, let's look at something else about the Bulldogs' effort last year: Gunnar Waldt's emergence as a maniacal soul-eater in the cage for Bryant.

Waldt's first season in the crease for the Bulldogs in 2013 was a solid one: Holding a 56.20 save percentage a seeing a high volume of shots in his save radius, the then-redshirt freshman earned Northeast Conference All-Rookie Team honors and found a place on the All-Northeast Conference Second Team. He quietly performed admirably in adverse circumstances, pulling together a 7-5 record in his 12 starts. In 2014, though, Waldt punched the accelerator and stuffed his way into the nation's collective consciousness: Starting 20 games for Bryant last spring (earning almost 95 percent of the team's total minutes between the pipes), Waldt suffocated opposing offenses with an insane 59.32 save percentage while facing 714 shots. His effort in the dirt garnered him third team All-America honors and the Northeast Conference's Defensive Player of the Year trophy. Digging into Bryant's goalkeeping profile (which is essentially Waldt's goaltending profile), the nation probably should have invented other accolades to bestow on the second-year keeper:

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALDT!
METRIC VALUE N'TL RANK
Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 39.09 5
Team Save Percentage 59.11% 4
Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.21 59
Shots on Goal per Defensive Opportunity 0.66 36
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Defensive Opportunity 54.57% 7
Raw Defensive Shooting Rate 22.31% 2
Raw Defensive Shots on Goal Shooting Rate 40.89% 4

Waldt didn't face an unrelenting slate of opposing offenses that tied him to a pole, blindfolded him, offered him a cigarette, and took aim at his bodily person to terminate his existence, but this is still an impressive goalkeeping profile: The Bulldogs' defense relied on Waldt to make stops while yielding a high volume of shot attempts -- the majority of them on cage -- per defensive opportunity. As far as Bryant getting what they desired from Waldt between the pipes, the Bulldogs could not have asked for more.

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

Controllable Dumb StuffTM wasn't a strong point for the Bulldogs last spring:

WHY ARE MY HANDS ALL STICKY?
METRIC VALUE N'TL RANK
Extra-Man Opportunities per 100 Defensive Opportunities 12.21 53
Extra-Man/Man-Down Postures Margin -3.38 61
Team Penalties per 100 Opportunities 6.13 42
Penalties Margin -1.12 56
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Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 47.38 47
Turnover Margin -6.01 54
Unforced Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 24.59 42
Opponent Caused Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 22.79 40

There are mitigating aspects to this: Bryant was an exceptional man-down team in 2014 (opponents only converted on 21.33 percent of their opportunities with a personnel imbalance in their favor and collected less than 10 percent of their total goals scored against the Bulldogs from man-up buckets); Bryant shot pretty well -- 28.88 percent, 24th nationally -- despite turning the ball over a lot; and the team's possession margin -- north of five possessions per 60 minutes of play -- muted some of these deficiencies. But, how good would the Bulldogs have been if they valued the bean and had a handle on their defensive aggressiveness? That's the issue: These itty bitty aspects of play build into bigger concepts. The Bulldogs had a fantastic campaign last year, but maybe -- at least from a high level -- it could have even been even better.

THE DISTANT FUTURE

Bryant will lose right around 40 percent of their starts from 2014. Those lost starters were valuable and experienced contributors for the Bulldogs: Colin Dunster, Dan Sipperly, and Alex Zomerfeld accounted for over a third of Bryant's total points last season while Matt MacGrotty made 58 starts for Bryant and was a first team All-NEC performer his final two seasons in Smithfield. These were anchor performers for the Bulldogs and are no longer available to navigate the Bulldogs through the elevated reality that the program has created for itself. In the vacuum of their departures remains a host of talented and reliable players -- Kevin Massa; Waldt; Shane Morrell; Tucker James; Kyle Mummau; Cody O'Donnell; etc. -- that will guide the team's transition into whatever Bryant will become next year.

This isn't an impossible transition for the Bulldogs to overcome, but there is a compounding issue going into 2015 that Bryant hasn't really had to deal with before: Bryant isn't definitively the NEC's apex predator next spring. St. Joseph's -- a team that gave Bryant fits last season and returns loads of contributors from 2014 -- is lurking in the water, Robert Morris is always a pain to deal with, and Hobart has some talent and is capable of making life difficult in the league. Bryant is clearly in the hunt for the NEC's automatic invitation in 2015, but the Bulldogs will not earn it without getting some work done.