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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Lafayette

Marquis status wasn't happening for Lafayette in 2014.

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

LAFAYETTE LEOPARDS
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 2-11 (1-7, Patriot) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 15.38% 61
2013 Record 3-10 (0-6, Patriot) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 23.08% 54
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 12.65% 65
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 29.45% 53
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -16.80% 60*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -8* 47*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 21.13 65
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 28.42 43
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -7.29 62*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -18* 54*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 35.88 59
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 36.33 56
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency +0.44 26*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency 0* 31*
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

Lafayette suffered from some serious possession starvation this past season: Playing at an approximate 4.70 possession disadvantage to their opponents, the Leopards struggled to run square with their enemies in 2014. The Leopards, though, could have been in a tougher possession posture had the team not unleashed a ride that helped Lafayette mitigate some of their opportunity issues:

 

LAFAYETTE'S POSSESSION PROFILE
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
Faceoff Percentage 38.42% 60
Clearing Percentage 77.43% 65
Ride Percentage 20.09% 5
Percent of Offensive Opportunities from Faceoff Wins 28.50% 59
Percent of Offensive Opportunities from Clearing Opportunities 59.63% 16
Percent of Offensive Opportunities from Opponent Failed Clears 11.87% 4

Lafayette got nothing out of its faceoff game last spring and while the team got the bulk of its offensive opportunities from defensive stops that led to clearing postures, the Leopards struggled to consistently matriculate the ball into the box on those clears. The team's saving grace -- if that's even the right term -- was its effort on the ride. The team's raw riding rate is impressive, but it's the percentage of offensive opportunities that Lafayette earned from successful rides that shows a sense of self that seeks to address a possession problem. Many teams simple whine and moan about faceoff woes that feed into possession issues but don't seek to close that gap with a ferocious ride that generates extra possessions. Lafayette recognized that opportunity and took advantage of it this past year.

Maybe this is an easier to understand the concept: Lafayette earned 45 offensive opportunities through opponent failed clears in 2014; had the Leopards rode at the national average -- 13.96 percent -- the team would have earned only 31 offensive opportunities through opponent failed clears. Based on the team's adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency values, that's about three goals that Lafayette would not have scored in 2014 and about five goals it would have yielded. That's an eight-goal swing attributable to not playing full-field defense, not to mention the fact that Lafayette's possession deficit increases to 5.76 if the team rides at the national average. Recognizing this opportunity and executing it earns the Leopards a pizza party of its choosing at a reasonably priced restaurant, pies limited to only one topping apiece (do I look like I'm made of $1,000 bills?!).

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

The Leopards' offense was dreadful in 2014. The team scored at least 10 goals only once -- in the season-opener against Stony Brook -- and averaged just six buckets per game. The team's tempo-free profile illustrates a lot of the Lafayette's offensive issues this past spring -- click the downloadable profile above to make your eyes bleed -- but there is none bigger than this: The Leopards took a step back on the offensive side of the ball and didn't appear destined for that reality at the sunrise of their campaign.

Lafayette returned six offensive players -- Sonny Round, Brian Bock, Morgan Westby, Jake Mann, Cory Scheuerle, and John Floyd -- that earned starts in just about half of the games that they played in 2013; these six cats accounted for 70.52 percent of the Leopards' points in 2013, a core of players that were young but positioned with a season of experience to help elevate or, at a minimum, maintain Lafayette's offensive fortunes. Instead, the Leopards' offense cratered in 2014, generating tallies on less than a quarter of their offensive opportunities and shooting just 19.80 percent (second-to-last nationally), an almost seven percent decline from 2013. The team's possession deficiency didn't help the Leopards' offense make the scoreboard blink, but Lafayette would have needed cargo crates full of possessions to create a higher goal output and mute the team's offensive efficiency issues. (A solid argument can be made that the Leopards' offense was more problematic than the team's possession deficit situation, at least from a wins-and-losses standpoint.) Lafayette did not appear condemned to this this offensive decline in 2014, even if the team did exercise some new faces in the offense over the course of the season. And yet, ball don't lie.

Simply: The Leopards' offense was lost, one that is in the conversation as the nation's least productive from a myriad of perspectives. Oddly, Lafayette ended the year in that position despite maintaining features that created cognitive dissonance in the reality.

THE DISTANT FUTURE

There's good news and bad news. Jim Rogalski is entering Year Three of his time at Lafayette, a pivot point for his tenure. With two years of culture implementation behind him, Rogalski can likely focus more on the product on the field than the transitionary items that often devour new head coaches. The bulk of the team's offensive contributors also return from 2014, with consistency at attack a high likelihood and some bodies through the midfield that have field experience to build from. In short, there is indicia that the steps back that Lafayette took in 2014 will turn into some forward momentum in 2015.

The bad news is that the Patriot League is only getting tougher and the Leopards are going to need to deal with that situation in 2015 with a defense that loses assets in Jake Hyatt, Mac Ahsler, and Brendan Gover. Holy Cross just brought Judd Lattimore aboard to navigate the Cruasders' ship, showing hints that Holy Cross is willing to get serious about their program. Navy made strides in 2014, even if that development yielded only a 4-10 record. And the meat of the conference -- Loyola, Army, Lehigh, Colgate, and Bucknell -- has varying shades of heat that are well ahead of Lafayette's current status. There's urgency in the Patriot League to compete, and the Leopards aren't going to be given circumstances to grow at their own pace.