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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Holy Cross

Holy Cross' motto in 2014: "Welp!"

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

HOLY CROSS CRUSADERS
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 3-12 (1-7, Patriot) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 20.00% 59
2013 Record 7-8 (2-4, Patriot) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 46.67% 34
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 24.57% 59
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 37.45% 48
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -12.88% 58*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -10* 53*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 29.65 42
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 29.45 39
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +0.20 38*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -3* 38*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 42.81 67
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 31.91 38
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency -10.90 63*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency -25* 59*
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

Holy Cross' offense didn't lose much steam between 2013 and 2014 despite the fact that the Crusaders' lost James Kennedy, one of the most important offensive weapons that has come through Worcester in recent seasons. The void that Kennedy left prior to the 2014 season was significant: Kennedy had served as the centerpiece to the Crusaders' offensive concern his last three seasons for Holy Cross, making 45 starts in that stretch and leading the team in points in each year. Kennedy's absence created questions around whether Holy Cross could continue its offensive production at similar levels to what Kennedy's presence provided, and yet those concerns were somewhat unfounded: Sean Wilkinson, an unknown at the national level after appearing in only nine games in his freshman campaign for the Crusaders in 2013, stepped to the fore and filled Kennedy's shoes with little issue.

Wilkinson's season -- while not earning All-Patriot League honors -- was one that ultimately provided stability for the Crusaders: His 43 points (after registering just one in 2013) were almost evenly split between buckets (21) and helpers (22), and his ball-carrying responsibilities did not result in an overusage of offensive opportunities (Wilkinson was third on the team in shots while shooting 35 percent on the season). Wilkinson appeared comfortable in his role in 2014 (despite the high number of turnovers he committed), one that he did not inhabit in 2013, and did a solid job at making things happen for an offense that lost a major piston to its combustion engine. For Wilkinson to accomplish this as only a sophomore is even more impressive, providing hope for a program that will return its top five point-generators -- including Wilkinson -- for the 2015 season.

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

Holy Cross' defense took a massive and ultimately deadly step back between 2013 and 2014. The change in the Crusaders' adjusted defensive efficiency value was the worst nationally and the team's ranking change in adjusted defensive efficiency was in the bottom five in the country. Pivoting from being an average-ish defense to one that ranked dead last in adjusted defensive efficiency helps illustrate the team's dramatic decrease in expected and actual winning percentage, but that isn't as important as this fact: Holy Cross -- across defensive metrics -- cratered in their defensive production from 2013 to 2014.

WHA' HAPPENED?!
METRIC '13 VALUE '13 NAT'L RANK '14 VALUE '14 NAT'L RANK
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 31.91 38 42.81 67
Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.00 13 1.30 64
Shots on Goal per Defensive Opportunity 0.64 28 0.75 63
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Defensive Opportunity 63.33% 58 57.99% 28
Raw Defensive Shooting Rate 30.78% 48 32.27% 64
Raw Defensive Shots on Goal Shooting Rate 48.61% 37 55.65% 66
Defensive Assist Rate 15.75 22 25.73 67
Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 32.68 36 33.40 35
Team Save Percentage 54.51% 39 44.35% 66
Strength of Schedule: Opposing Offenses Faced 29.39 50 30.39 46

Holy Cross ran a lot of inexperience on the field this season -- notably Jack McGovern and Parker Greiwe -- but the defense never seemed to coalesce in the absence of Daniel Schmader and Matt Ward. The volume of shots that the Crusaders yielded this past spring -- as well as the quality of those shots -- was stunning, quantifiable rates that put Michael Ortlieb in difficult positions to make stops and function in a reasonable capacity. The quality of the opposing offenses that Holy Cross faced last season didn't differ all that much from what the Crusaders saw in 2013, but what was given to those offenses in 2014 to exploit differed drastically between seasons. There is little mitigation here: Holy Cross had a huge issue with its defense, and it was a major ceiling-limiter for a program that moved into a solid position in 2013.

THE DISTANT FUTURE

There are a lot of decent assets in place for Judd Lattimore -- recently named Holy Cross' new program navigator -- to play with in 2015. The offense is going to have experience and Lattimore's staff -- which includes Ryan Klipstein in the offensive coordinator role, a former lightning bolt for Bucknell during his playing days with the Bison -- can build from that end of the field to try and move out of the depths of the Patriot League. Holy Cross' potential development may be a little quicker than other programs that go through a head coaching change, but an assured increase in victories isn't cast in stone as canonical law. The Crusaders' future isn't bleak for the coming spring and there are notable points that indicate that Holy Cross could challenge for one of the final spots in the Patriot League Tournament.