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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Pennsylvania

A tough loss to Drexel in the NCAA Tournament closed the Quakers' season.

Howard Smith-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.


2014 Record 11-4 (4-2, Ivy) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 73.33% 7
2013 Record 8-5 (3-3, Ivy) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 61.54% 19
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 68.88% 13
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 71.37% 12
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -2.48% 39*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -1* 32*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 31.33 31
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 30.85 23
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +0.48 36*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -8* 46*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 24.18 2
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 22.87 1
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency -1.31 40*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency -1* 33*
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.


Over the last two seasons Pennsylvania has run with one of the strongest defenses in the nation. The team's scoring defense rankings in the last two years -- 19th in 2014 (9.27 goals per game); first in 2013 (7.38 goals per game) -- doesn't quite do justice to what the Quakers have forced opponents into accepting in the program's push toward the highest levels of team defense. Looking at the team's defensive profile in a tempo-free environment and with greater detail, Penn's defensive emerges as not only a legitimate concern but also one of the least forgiving units in the nation:

Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin -0.23 31 -0.13 39
Estimated Lost Functional Defensive Opportunities per 60 Minutes 15.00 3 14.45 9
Estimated Lost Functional Defensive Opportunities Ratio 51.44% 2 45.21% 11
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 22.87 1 24.18 2
Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.05 22 1.04 17
Shots on Goal per Defensive Opportunity 0.56 7 0.58 11
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Defensive Opportunity 53.58% 1 55.78% 10
Raw Defensive Shooting Rate 22.17% 3 25.50% 9
Raw Defensive Shots on Goal Shooting Rate 41.38% 6 45.72% 17
Defensive Assist Rate 14.29 7 13.79 8
Opponent Turnovers per 100 Defensive Opportunities 55.21 2 49.62 12
Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 37.07 48 31.61 45
Team Save Percentage 58.62% 6 54.28% 17

That's not "aggressive nasty"; that's "execution nasty." Riding a core of underappreciated defensive studs -- Maxx Meyer, Brian Feeney, Matt McMahon, Alex Blonsky, etc. -- the Quakers were able to assemble a defense that efficiently tore the soul directly from the chest of their opponents. A lot of defenses that assault their competition have the luxury of playing in possession advantages, allowing for fatigue mitigation as well as the opportunity to force opposing offenses into rushing to generate tallies due to the limited number of touches permitted. For Penn, though, the Quakers' defensive might the last two seasons is characterized almost exclusively through pragmatic and impenetrable defensive performances.


I took a buttload of heat from Drexel fans when I wrote the Quakers-Dragons NCAA Tournament preview last May (and drew even more anger with the Denver-Drexel game the week that followed). Most of the hate thrown my way was from Dragons fans that thought I was underrating Drexel or otherwise throwing massive shade at the Dragons. It wasn't pure rage aimed at me, but it was something that approached "What a friggin' moron!" This isn't out of the ordinary -- the Internet is basically a reverse panic room where everyone is crushed into the same space and are required to scream their feelings in an attempt to survive -- but it was somewhat unique in these circumstances: Drexel was good, but Pennsylvania was arguably better (at least based on each team's full resumes).

And that's what's so mind-bending about the way the Dragons straight-up crushed Penn at Franklin Field: The better team doesn't always win (no doink), but it's rare -- especially at apex points in a season -- to see an underdog uncork a prodigious ass-beating on a favorite. Pennsylvania's ceiling was higher than that of Drexel's, but the Dragons were infinitely stronger than the Quakers in a spot where Penn couldn't afford to put in an uneven effort. The numbers -- numbers don't win games, but the numbers still carry an incredibly high rate of predicting results -- still back up the notion that the Quakers bonked in a situation that would have been tight yet workable for the Ivy League's champion:

Drexel 11-16 (L) 58.57% +2 55%

Instead of thinking about the Quakers' season in the context of a run to the national quarterfinals, Pennsylvania's 2014 campaign is characterized as one where the Quakers played in a dreadful Ivy League Tournament final with Harvard and bled out on the turf against a Philadelphia rival. The end is generally intended to reflect what built into the finale, but the Quakers aren't afforded that -- rightly or wrongly -- in the context of its latest run through Division I lacrosse.


Mike Murphy has some work ahead of him and his staff going into 2015. 56 percent of Penn's starts from last year have disappeared, including important contributors like Zack Losco (M), Brian Feeney (G), Meyer (D), Blonsky (D/LSM), Reid Tudor (D), and Danny Feeney (FOGO). This isn't a total rebuild for Pennsylvania next spring (four of the team's top five point-generators from a season ago return and McMahon is positioned well to anchor the Quakers' defense), but Penn is going to look different in 2015 compared to how the team ran in 2014. Getting a defensive identity in place is paramount for the Quakers, and the speed and efficiency to which Pennsylvania gets that done could impact the team's volition next year.