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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Fairfield

The Stags had their season fizzle out in the ECAC Tournament final.

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

FAIRFIELD STAGS
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 12-4 (3-1, ECAC) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 75.00% 6
2013 Record 8-7 (4-3, ECAC) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 53.33% 25
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 68.01% 15
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 48.14% 35
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +19.86% 4*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +20* 3*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 35.62 14
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 30.33 30
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +5.29 7*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +16* 9*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 28.56 22
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 30.78 31
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency +2.22 18*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency +9* 17*
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

Fairfield didn't face a slate of suffocating defenses from February to May, but the Stags' offense was still one of the most accurate shooting units in the nation in 2014. Fairfield absolutely decimated opposing defenses with dead-eye shooting acumen, picking corners and making the most of their attempts. There's something special about a team that shoots the lights out, using a surgeon's touch not to save but rather to incisively impose death on those that come before them.

Digging into the Stags' shooting profile, Fairfield possessed the qualities of an offense that picked their spots to trigger and when they did, the shot either found twine or forced the opposing goalkeeper to make a stop. That's the epitome of an assassin's creed:

TARGET HOT; TARGET LOCKED
METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
Shots per Offensive Opportunity 0.99 61
Shots on Goal per Offensive Opportunity 0.64 44
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Offensive Opportunity 64.36% 3
Raw Offensive Shooting Rate 36.86% 4
Raw Offensive Shots on Goal Shooting Rate 57.28% 4
Opponent Saves per 100 Offensive Opportunities 27.22 3
Opponent Save Percentage 42.72% 4

Looking a little deeper into the individual aspects of those team values, the vast majority of Fairfield's shots -- and shooting accuracy -- came from a quintet of weapons: Colin McLinden, Tristan Sperry, TJ Neubauer, Eric Warden, and Dave Fleming. That group accounted for almost 75 percent of the Stags’ buckets last spring and was responsible for over 70 percent of the team's shots in 2014. Importantly, that quintet's usage rate didn't pull back the team's shooting efficiency; rather, despite the quintet's high usage rate, the five offensive machines were actually connecting at a rate that exceeded Fairfield's overall shooting rates:

THAT'S A CONFIRMED KILL
PLAYER SHT. % SOG SHT.% % TEAM SHTS. % TEAM SOGS
C. McLinden 32.35% 52.38% 13.85% 13.29%
T. Sperry 39.34% 63.16% 12.42% 12.03%
TJ Neubauer 45.83% 71.74% 14.66% 14.56%
E. Warden 38.37% 55.00% 17.52% 18.99%
D. Fleming 34.33% 54.76% 13.65% 13.29%
Quintet 38.14% 59.21% 72.10% 72.15%
Team 36.86% 57.28%
+/- +1.27% +1.93%

That's getting it done, both at a macro and micro level. The Stags' leaned on their biggest guns to smoke the net and they delivered in exemplary fashion.

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

Fairfield's loss to Providence in March was the kind of loss that causes brains to leak out of your ears. The upset -- one that ranks fourth among all Division I results in LaxPower's system and fifth in a log5 environment -- was an insane decision: The Friars, a team that would finish 2014 with a 4-11 record and an adjusted Pythagorean win expectation value that ranked 50th in the country, never trailed the Stags and on two occasions led Fairfield by as many as seven goals. It was a shellacking of the first order, one that would be considered abuse had the Stags not used a late push to make the scoreboard reflect something other than rampant violence.

Looking at projections about the game, it's almost impossible to understand how Providence put such a beating on the Stags:

". . . THAT'S WHEN I KNEW THAT GASOLINE WASN'T A GOOD GATORADE FLAVOR."
OPPONENT RESULT LOG5 LAXPOWER PREDICTED GOAL DIFF. MASSEY WIN PROBABILITY
Providence 11-14 (L) 78.62% +5 85%

The universe can be a heinous bitch when it wants to be.

THE DISTANT FUTURE

2015 is going to be a season of "new" for Fairfield: The Stags will join THUNDERDOME! with murderous intentions this coming spring and the Stags will have at their disposal the brand spanking new Rafferty Stadium. Regardless of what Fairfield looks like on the field -- the Stags will return about 57 percent of their starts from 2014, but will need to fill major holes left by the graduations of Jack Murphy (G), Greg Perraut (D), Toby Armour (D), and Eric Warden (M) -- the Stags will have a very different feel about their existence next spring. Even if there are tempered expectations about wins and losses, there is a built-in excitement about what Fairfield will experience in its 2015 campaign.