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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Air Force

The Falcons pushed into the NCAA Tournament last spring after winning the ECAC Tournament.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

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

AIR FORCE FALCONS
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 11-6 (3-1, ECAC) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 64.71% 18
2013 Record 7-7 (2-5, ECAC) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 50.00% 28
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 65.69% 17
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 54.55% 28
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +11.15% 10*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +11* 8*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 36.91 10
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 31.39 21
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +5.52 5*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +11* 15*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 29.76 28
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 28.47 21
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency -1.28 38*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency -6* 44*
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

Air Force has made three NCAA Tournament appearances in the Falcons' history -- 1971, 1988, and 2014. As May of last spring approached, though, it wasn't an absolute certainty that the Falcons were going to collar an invitation to The Big Barbeque: After back-to-back losses to Ohio State and Quinnipiac, Air Force limped into the ECAC Tournament as the event's three-seed. Then, as if the Falcons found the secret to powering lacrosse through nuclear energy, Air Force accelerated to speeds that had eluded the program in late-April:

MACH 2
OPPONENT RESULT LOG5 LAXPOWER PREDICTED GOAL DIFF. MASSEY WIN PROBABILITY
at Ohio State 14-7 (W) 51.94% -1 51%
v. Fairfield 9-8 (W) 47.39% 0 49%

The win over Ohio State was a brutal slaughter: Mike Crampton dumped in five goals on 10 shots while three other players deposited at least two buckets against a strong Buckeyes defense. In totem, the Falcons scored on an insane 45 percent of their offensive opportunities, assaulting Ohio State with an efficient and devastating offense while making the most out of a plus-10 possession margin advantage. Air Force turned a functional toss-up game into a high-grade ass-beating.

Against Fairfield -- then ranked 14th in the nation -- the Falcons used a three-goal run in the third period to break open a 5-5 tie at the intermission. Air Force would not pop the cushion it built in the penultimate period, tallying the game-winning goal at the 8:31 mark of the fourth quarter. The Stags would finish 2014 ranked 14th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency (35.62) but the Falcons would hold Fairfield to scoring on under 30 percent of the team's offensive opportunities. (The Stags' 20:34 scoring drought that started at the 0:57 mark of the second period and ended at the 10:23 mark of the final quarter ultimately defined the game for both teams.)

Air Force put together two fantastic performances when it absolutely needed to get work done. That's what makes a team's season -- when factors are not in your favor and you still crush some skulls.

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

I'm just going to leave this here and back away slowly:

THE SHOOTING AND GOALKEEPING PROFILE FROM HELL
METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.01 11
Shots on Goal per Defensive Opportunity 0.59 17
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Defensive Opportunity 59.13% 40
Raw Defensive Shooting Rate 30.13% 52
Raw Defensive Shots on Goal Shooting Rate 50.96% 54
Defensive Assist Ratio 61.25% 60
Defensive Assist Rate 18.56 43
Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 29.17 58
Team Save Percentage 49.04% 54
Strength of Schedule: Opposing Offenses Faced 31.61 30

It's a minor miracle that the Falcons finished in the top half of the country in adjusted defensive efficiency with that profile. Opposing offenses weren't pulling the trigger all that often in Air Force's defensive zone yet those opponents -- average offenses in totem -- were shooting at a high rate and the Falcons' keepers were generating stops at a high rate. Is there a military code word for "Icky"? If so, this is that.

THE DISTANT FUTURE

Air Force hasn't released its 2015 roster yet so I'm ballparking the team's returning/departing values based on the listed 2014 roster. Based on that run, the Falcons look like they'll be losing around 48 percent of their starts from last season with most of those losses coming on the offensive end. The departure of the quartet of Crampton, Tommy McKee, Kyle Cassady, and Erik Smith is a difficult set of bodies to loses: Those cats constituted four of the team's top five point-generators from last spring and that quartet accounted for over 60 percent of the team's total points from 2014, over 66 percent of the team's total goals from last year, and over half of the Falcons' helpers last year. For all intents and purposes, Air Force will need to replace two-thirds of its starting attack and two-thirds of its first midfield, those losses functioning as the glowing core of the Falcons' offense last season.

Maybe a year of independence and backpacking throughout the country to find games will help Air Force find its soul and purpose.