The 2014 season is complete -- *single tear* -- and that means that it's time for College Crosse to highlight the best of Division I lacrosse this year. These awards and certificates of amazing human achievement will appear in four parts. The honors, however, are not redeemable for any form currency, mostly because macroeconomics is a lie.
Most Resilient Team
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The history books will likely show Notre Dame as having a strong 2014 season: A 12-6 record, winners of the ACC Tournament title, and owners of the NCAA Tournament silver medal. That superficial recapitulation of the Irish's year, though, ignores the fact that Notre Dame trudged through a driving storm of feces falling from the sky while coming out into the sun smelling pretty well.
There is a solid argument to be made that the Irish were the nation's most resilient team, pulling together 12 victories -- slightly underperforming to the 14 that the team's adjusted Pythagorean win expectation indicates -- while facing near-impossible circumstances:
|Strength of Schedule (Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation)||67.60%||1|
|Strength of Schedule (Opposing Offenses Faced)||35.29||1|
|Strength of Schedule (Opposing Defenses Faced)||30.26||12|
|Home Field Advantage||-1.72||66|
|Home Winning Percentage||50.00% (3-3)|
|Average Opponent Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation of Home Games||66.12%|
|Number of Wins Against Top 20 Opponents (Pythagorean Win Expectation Values >64.00%)||8|
|Upsets Won (log5 Chance of Victory < 45.00%))||1|
|Record in Toss-Up Games||3-1|
|log5 Chance to Re-Win the ACC Tournament||22.84%||(3/4 ACC Teams)|
|log5 Chance to Beat Albany||50.63%|
|log5 Chance to Beat Maryland||47.58%|
|log5 Chance to Beat Duke||42.33%|
Let's be clear about this: Notre Dame played the nation's hardest schedule, won an ACC Tournament in which two teams -- Duke and Maryland -- had better odds to hoist the league's trophy, earned eight wins against the nation's best teams, played a brutal home schedule and didn't rely on home games to generate wins (Notre Dame won more games on the road (four) and in tournament settings (five) than at Arlotta), only needed to pull one upset to get to its dozen wins, won 75 percent of games in which the outcome could have gone either way, pulled out two victories in the NCAA Tournament that were toss-up scenarios, and battled the Blue Devils to the wire in the national title game despite being an underdog. Teams don't emerge from this profile with a 66.67 winning percentage, but that's just what the Irish did.
Best New Head Coach
Matt Kerwick, Cornell Big Red
Division I lacrosse featured three programs featuring new head coaches this season -- Jon Basti at Sacred Heart, Greg Raymond at Hobart, and Matt Kerwick at Cornell. While Kerwick inherited a situation vastly different than what Raymond and Basti had to work with, Kerwick managed to maintain Cornell's position among the nation's elite, driving Cornell into the NCAA Tournament and finishing the year with an 11-5 record (a record consistent with the team's 71.02 percent adjusted Pythagorean win expectation (10th nationally)). Kerwick's work this season was quietly sophisticated: Taking a team that suffered major asset losses from 2013 (including Rob Pannell, one of the most important figures in Cornell lacrosse history), Kerwick guided the Red to nine consecutive wins to open their campaign -- including victories against Virginia, Yale, and Pennsylvania -- in the shadow of the sanctions that dogged the team's fall period. Three consecutive losses to Harvard, Syracuse, and Hofstra took some shine off of Cornell's diamond, but the team rebounded with solid wins against Brown and Princeton, giving the program its ninth double-digit win season in the last 10 years.
Digging into the dirt of the Red's effort in 2014, Cornell: (1) overperformed in four games (away to Binghamton, home to Canisius, away to Pennsylvania, and home to Dartmouth); (2) hit their marks in wins against Virginia, Yale, Colgate, Brown, and Princeton; (3) performed as expected against Pennsylvania in the Ivy League Tournament and against Maryland in the NCAA Tournament; and (4) underperformed in the three-game slide that followed the team's nine-game winning streak. For Kerwick to have the Red in a position to meet or exceed its destiny in over 80 percent of Cornell's games this season is solid, especially considering the conditions that the Big Red faced before the season even began.
Kerwick isn't guaranteed of keeping his office chair at Cornell this offseason -- his interim tag hasn't changed -- but among programs with a new head coach in place, the Red received important value from Kerwick in 2014.
Best Thompson Trio Performance
Albany at Massachusetts, March 8, 2014
The Great Danes' 25-10 shellacking of the Minutemen at Garber Field was easily the best performance that the Thompson Trio put together this year. Lyle, Miles, and Ty combined for 23 -- !!!!!! -- points against a Massachusetts defense that, until they met Albany, had yielded only 22 goals against four opponents. (The Minutemen would finish the year ranked 50th in adjusted defensive efficiency, giving up double-digit goals in five of their last eight games.) The performance from the Thompsons was simply bonkers:
- Lyle led the way with 11 points on four goals and seven assists. His four goals came on just five shots (all of his shots were on goal), turning the ball over only once. Lyle's 11 points accounted for 30.56 of the Danes' total points during his time on the field. His estimated points per 100 offensive opportunities was just north of 35.48, basically a tactical nuclear weapon racing toward a hot target. (For comparison purposes, Massachusetts -- as a team -- generated 36.67 points per 100 offensive opportunities while Lyle was on the field. No big deal -- Lyle was almost as productive as an entire opposing offense.)
- Miles ended his day with seven points on six goals and an assist. It only took Miles eight shots to get his half-dozen tallies, putting all of his bullets on goal and turning the ball over only once. Four of Miles' six goals were generated through a Lyle assist, and the brothers' relationship against Massachusetts helped Miles generate goals on about 19 percent of Albany's estimated 31 possessions while Miles was on the field. Let's put that another way: In his approximately 45 minutes of playing time, the Minutemen outscored Miles -- not Albany, Miles -- by about four goals points per 100 offensive opportunities (the Minutemen scored on about 23 percent of their offensive opportunities while Miles was on the field; Miles scored on about 19 percent of Albany's offensive opportunities while he was on the field). Miles was -- individually -- almost as efficient as UMass' entire offense.
- Ty had a ho-hum performance, bombing five goals on 10 shots, getting 60 percent of his attempts on cage and holding a 16.67 save percentage against Zach Oliveri, the lowest of the three Thompson against Massachusetts.
The Thompson Trio absolutely drubbed a middle-of-the-road team, one that was average on the national landscape but received an elite beating at the hands of Albany's powerful triumvirate.