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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Hobart

Raymond's first season by the lake netted the team five wins.

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

HOBART STATESMEN
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 5-10 (3-3, NEC) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 33.33% 52
2013 Record 6-8 (2-5, ECAC) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 42.86% 40
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 38.20% 47
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 40.73% 41
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -2.53% 40*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -6* 44*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 28.64 52
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 30.02 34
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -1.38 48*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -18* 54*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 31.19 34
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 32.66 44
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency +1.47 22*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency +11* 15*
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

Hobart's defeat of St. Joseph's in the semifinals of the Northeast Conference Tournament came out of nowhere, a result that LaxPower ranks as the 17th most notable upset of the season. The Statesmen's effort at the apex of the team's season was totally unrelated to how Hobart had performed in similar circumstances throughout the season:

  • Prior to Hobart's meeting with St. Joseph's in the league tournament, the Statesmen went 0-4 in games in which the Statesmen had a less than a 30 percent chance of victory. Hobart's average margin of defeat in those games was six goals, the Statesmen's closest margin of defeat in this specific cohort of opponents being four tallies (against Cornell).
  • Less than a week prior, the Hawks pasted Hobart to the tune of a 15-8 shellacking in Philadelphia, the margin of defeat being tied for the highest that the Statesmen experienced in 2014 (Hobart went through a seven-goal loss against Bryant in Rhode Island earlier in the year).
  • Prior to the team's meeting with the Statesmen in the conference tournament, St. Joseph's was undefeated -- 9-0 -- against opponents in which the Hawks had at least a 70 percent chance of victory in a log5 environment. The Hawks' average margin of victory in those games was just over six goals. St. Joseph's had straightforwardly assaulted competition that it was stronger than before their date with the Statesmen.

There was little reason to believe that Hobart would drop the Hawks on Hawk Hill. And yet, the Statesmen ended up pulling through a difficult situation to earn an impressive 10-9 double overtime victory against top-seeded St. Joseph's. It's still hard to comprehend how the Statesmen were able to advance to the league's championship despite all the factors that indicated that Hobart would fall to the Hawks like a bus engulfed in flames taking a detour through a dynamite factory. Hell, the Statesmen never led St. Joseph's until Jake McHenry powered home the game-winning goal on a Cam Stone helper 1:38 into the second extra session. That's nuts: Hobart played from behind or square -- the team was tied with the Hawks just twice -- for the entirety of the game against a superior opponent that had shellacked it less than seven days prior.

Hobart's magic didn't appear against Syracuse this past season, but it did emerge at arguably the Statesmen's most important point in the year.

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

Hobart went through a lot of tough stuff in 2014 -- a coaching change, a conference switch, transfers, an injury to Alex Love that caused the Statesmen to reapproach their offense, etc. -- that had an impact on the team's overall ceiling this past spring. Those things aside -- and they are reasonable expectation-setters for a program that hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 2004 -- there was something that stuck out as especially icky for the Statesmen in 2014: The team didn't do a great job at creating functional offensive opportunities for an offense that relied on volume to make the scoreboard blink, and Hobart's inability to create functional offensive opportunities concomitantly impacted the team's ability to generate tallies on an efficient basis.

That's a dangerous formula for attempting to find success. Leaning on possession volume to generate buckets creates difficult circumstances, but exacerbating that situation with a dearth of functional offensive opportunities and a possession deficit further mitigates preferable opportunities to snap the necks of the opposition. This table illustrates some of the Statesmen's issues in this particular area:

DRATS!
METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin -3.48 53
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 28.64 52
Offensive Opportunities per 60 Minutes 30.44 50
Estimated Functional Offensive Opportunities per 60 Minutes 27.08 55
Estimated Functional Offensive Opportunities Ratio 88.98% 58
Clearing Percentage 82.29% 57

The focus here isn't on the possession deficit that Hobart played in last year; rather, the focus is on the creation of functional offensive opportunities and the team's struggle to consistently achieve their potential in that area. The Statesmen were one of the worst clearing teams in the nation in 2014 and earned over 62 percent -- 10th nationally -- of their offensive opportunities from clearing postures. However, the team turned less than 90 percent of their offensive opportunities into possessions with box penetration last spring, a mark that was achieved -- in part -- due to a horrendous performance on the clear. Those blown offensive opportunities robbed Hobart's offense of valuable chances to heat-seek twine, postures that the Statesmen needed to sound the goal horn. Losing an estimated three functional offensive opportunities per 60 minutes of play due to fractured clears cost the Statesmen around a goal per game on the offensive end (not to mention a yielded goal per 60 minutes of play). That's an important difference in competitive relateability, especially considering that Hobart lost three games this season by two goals or less.

THE DISTANT FUTURE

Get healthy, get the young cats that Hobart has to come along and fill gaps, and move Raymond's vision of the program along. Look: There is some strength in the Northeast Conference, but there's no reason that the Statesmen can't contend in the league. Hobart -- according to at least one site -- has been fairly average over the last 10 seasons but has been a bottom third-type team over the last three years. A little bit of vigor by the lake can rejuvenate a viable product. The only issue is whether Hobart has assets in place to make that move fairly quickly. The Statesmen aren't dead, but the shine on their diamond is a little worn. It may take some time, but Hobart is not inescapably drowning.