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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Stony Brook

The Seawolves almost did the ridiculous against Albany in the America East Tournament.

Debby Wong-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.

VITAL SIGNS

STONY BROOK SEAWOLVES
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 6-10 (2-3, America East) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 37.50% 47
2013 Record 7-9 (2-3, America East) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 43.75% 39
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 46.83% 36
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 50.10% 33
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -3.27% 42*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -3* 36*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 33.49 22
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 34.46 13
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -0.97 44*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -9* 47*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 37.93 62
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 31.00 33
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency -6.93 60*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency -26* 60*
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

I wrote this about Stony Brook in the team's 2013 decompression:

Possession-generation, possession-generation, possession-generation, possession-generation, possession-generation, possession-generation, possession-generation, possession-generation, possession-generation, stronger play from within the crease, possession-generation, possession-generation, possession-generation, possession-generation.

That's pretty sophisticated stuff. I'm not sure why the government hasn't kidnapped me yet to force me into developing a super-mutant lacrosse team on the moon. You can't find that kind of analysis anywhere else.

Ignoring the note about strong play from the crease, the Seawolves were a major gainer in the possession game from 2013 to 2014. Stony Brook morphed from a possession-deprived team to one where they dominated the bean, primarily due to the fact that the Seawolves -- thanks to freshman Kyle Rowe -- started skull-crushing opponents at the dot. Here's a breakout of the 'Wolves possession metrics in 2013 and 2014: .

GIMMIE GIMMIE GIMMIE
METRIC 2013 VALUE 2013 NT'L RANK 2014 VALUE 2014 NT'L RANK
Opportunities per 60 Minutes Margin -5.22 58 +4.17 5
Faceoff Percentage 40.43% 56 61.02% 4
Clearing Percentage 82.55% 54 83.94% 48
Ride Percentage 9.42% 56 8.49% 62
Percent of Offensive Opportunities from Faceoff Wins 34.55% 37 49.25% 1
Percent of Offensive Opportunities from Clearing Postures 60.20% 14 46.63% 66
Percent of Offensive Opportunities from Opponent Failed Clears 5.25% 56 4.12% 64
Percent of Defensive Opportunities from Faceoff Losses 43.45% 4 35.97% 39
Percent of Defensive Opportunities from Opponent Clearing Postures 47.59% 60 55.46% 37
Percent of Defensive Opportunities from Failed Clears 8.97% 14 8.57% 20

That is a massive profile change, not only with respect to the team's opportunity margin situation but also in how Stony Brook was generating offensive and defensive opportunities. Basically, the team's defensive possession profile in 2013 became the team's offensive possession profile in 2014 (and vice versa). That's definitely something that happened.

The big question, then, is whether this made the Seawolves a better team in 2014 compared to 2013. The answer: It's complicated. Faceoff play isn't a silver bullet to success or failure, and there is tons of stuff kicking around the Internet that confirms that principle. For Stony Brook, however, the team's improvement at the dot -- which subsequently increased the Seawolves' possession margin -- did have a notable effect: It helped mute a defense that struggled to create stops. This is a good thing -- something that is often subordinated to offensive concerns -- and helped maintain the team's competitiveness.

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

Stony Brook -- a team that snuck into the America East Tournament on the last day of the regular season after earning a 14-10 victory against Hartford -- was thisclose to potentially putting Albany on the hot seat for the NCAA Tournament. Shaking off a 10-goal defeat at the hands of the Danes a few weeks prior, the Seawolves -- in a Thursday night bonanza at LaValle Stadium -- rallied from a three-goal deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to build a 16-15 lead with 3:34 remaining in regulation. Then it all fell apart for Jim Nagle's team:

  • The Seawolves won the face-off following the team's go-ahead goal, burning a timeout with 3:22 left on the clock. The officials put Stony Brook in a timer-on scenario less than a minute after the timeout, and Albany -- almost impossibly -- committed a holding penalty. Stony Brook burned the penalty without taking a shot and after a timeout with 1:36 left on the clock, committed a turnover -- caused by Cody Futia -- with 1:15 remaining in regulation. The Seawolves had a 2:20 possession -- that featured a man-up opportunity -- and were eventually dispossessed.
  • Albany cleared into the box with just over a minute left in the game. In the team's approximately one-minute possession that ended with Lyle Thompson beating his man and tallying the game-tying goal with five seconds left on the clock, the ball was on the ground at least three times, each time recovered by a Great Dane. Albany took one shot on the possession -- the Thompson bucket -- and Stony Brook was impotent to stop the seemingly inevitable.
  • Stony Brook won the opening faceoff of the extra period on an Albany violation. 18 seconds after winning the draw -- and coming out of an Albany dead ball timeout -- Blaze Riorden corralled a bouncer from Challen Rogers and ignited the team's clear. Doug Eich -- on a Lyle Thompson helper -- bagged the game-winning bucket 17 seconds after Rogers was unable to convert, finishing a four-on-four situation that exposed the Seawolves' tender defense.

Stony Brook had all the momentum it needed to topple Albany in the team's biggest moment of the season: Home field advantage (the Seawolves were ranked fourth nationally in home field advantage last spring); a surge that had the team playing at the level of a national contender; and the dual motivation to extend their own season while potentially cutting short the year of an archrival. These are opportunities that exist for only scant moments, especially ones that can change the volition of a season or consciousness of a team. There's no shame in losing to the Great Danes, but it's hard to not recognize what Stony Brook was poised to accomplish and then let slip away. The Seawolves had only about a 25 percent chance of victory against Albany but had the Danes on the ropes, defying the projected expectation of a four-goal loss for the team on their home field.

THE DISTANT FUTURE

All that stuff about Kyle Rowe? It's not going to matter for Stony Brook in 2015 -- the sophomore specialist has transferred to Duke for the coming spring. That's probably not a great thing for a program that is looking to find its footing in the America East, a league that has a history of shuffling teams forward and backward on the table as teams rise to and fall from prominence. Moreover, 2015 will serve as Nagle's fourth season at Stony Brook, and there's some pressure to change the program's fortunes: The Seawolves are 20-29 (40.82 percent) overall and 8-7 in conference play under Nagle the last three seasons. There's enough kicking around the roster where the Seawolves can compete the league this coming spring, but Stony Brook needs to break free from the shackles it has been in the last few years.