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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Vermont

The wins were up for the Catamounts last spring, but what does that mean?

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

VERMONT CATAMOUNTS
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 5-8 (0-5, America East) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 38.46% 46
2013 Record 4-10 (1-4, America East) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 28.57% 52
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 36.93% 49
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 23.80% 56
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +13.13% 8*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +7* 16*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 27.44 54
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 26.10 52
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +1.33 32*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -1* 35*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 29.53 26
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 34.10 50
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency +4.57 3*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency +24* 3*
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

Vermont hadn't won three games in a row -- a bona fide winning streak that comes with a fancy pizza party at a petting zoo -- since the 2006 season. That's seven years of failing to string together three victories in succession, a seemingly impossible dearth of consistent winning that had eluded the program for almost a decade. Not only did the Catamounts break that ignominious distinction in 2014 with consecutive victories against Dartmouth, Boston University, and VMI, but the team was thisclose to stringing together a six-game win-a-palooza, something the program hadn't accomplished since 1993 (Vermont actually won seven in a row that season en route to a 10-5 record).

Now, Vermont didn't wrestle live bears in its three-game winning streak this past spring: Registering kills against Dartmouth, Boston University, and VMI doesn't earn you a medal that you can show your grandson while quietly rocking in a rocking chair on the porch. But for the Catamounts, a program that has struggled to find ways to win, it is important: Vermont put together fairly dominating performances in these three games, outscoring their opponents by an average of almost seven goals and holding serve in these three contests in which the Catamounts were decided favorites (the team held an average 71.19 percent chance of victory in a log5 environment against these opponents). Simply winning in succession -- in games in which the team should have won -- was an important development for Vermont in 2014, and the fact that the wins came against decidedly "meh" competition means little for a program that is looking for some -- any! -- forward momentum.

And the fact that the Catamounts pivoted from a one-goal loss to Richmond to pound out two more victories in a row added a special layer of holy-crap-this-is-actually-happening to Vermont's year. That stretch of games -- from Dartmouth through Sacred Heart -- looked like the sweet spot for the Catamounts to generate wins last spring. Vermont cashed in almost entirely on what was presented to them, falling to the Spiders in a toss-up game that could have gone in either team's direction.

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

The key to ruining things on offense -- and I'm talking about really ruining things, moving past fire and explosions and awesome weapons that somehow weaponize and shoot cats at things that result in a fiery explosion -- isn't just to have an offense that can't consistently make the scoreboard blink. No way, kemosabe. If you want to really crater an offense, you need to do a few things: (1) You have to deny your offense functional offensive opportunities by using clears as an opportunity to chuck the ball into the seats to hear the beautiful clang! of rubber meeting aluminum; (2) When the offense actually has a functional offensive possession, it should totally turn the ball over at a bonkers rate that makes you wonder whether the bean is diseased; and (3) The offense should rely on volume to score, operating with an inefficiency that exacerbates the first two things as it needs the precious possessions that are so fervently destroyed.

Got that? Good. Here's what that looks like when Vermont adopts those theories and plays 13 games with those principles creating their universe:

DAMN HIPPIES
METRIC VALUE NT'L RANK
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 27.44 54
Clearing Percentage 82.46% 56
Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 52.81 56
Offensive Opportunities per 60 Minutes of Play 33.96 17
Estimated Functional Offensive Opportunities per 60 Minutes of Play 30.37 28
Estimated Functional Offensive Opportunities Ratio 89.44% 55
Estimated Lost Functional Offensive Opportunities per 60 Minutes of Play 14.35 61
Estimated Lost Functional Offensive Opportunities Ratio 47.24% 57

The Catamounts played seven games this season in which it scored 11 goals or more (six of those games came against competition expected to win fewer than 40 percent of their games), but that's more attributable to Vermont playing at the third fastest pace in the nation than the team's offense ripping holes through space-time. The scenario that Vermont faced this past season was essentially what the noted roughneck Bruce Willis faced in the documentary Armageddon: Looming disaster all around.

THE DISTANT FUTURE

In Ryan Curtis' eight seasons in Burlington, Vermont is 33-83 overall (28.45 percent) with an 8-32 (20.00 percent) America East record. The Catamounts have an average 4-10 record in this eight-year stretch with an average 1-4 conference performance. The Catamounts are still in a build, one that has spanned almost a decade under Curtis and is approaching a difficult point: The America East has designated lacrosse as a "core sport" with predators that are improving while Vermont remains stuck in neutral.

This is a concern for a program with little established history. If the America East pulls away from the Catamounts (especially if Massachusetts-Lowell can surpass Vermont's capacity), the Catamounts' situation becomes even more difficult to reverse. This isn't to imply that Curtis isn't right for the job; rather, it's that the Vermont program still has much work to do before things start to spin in the right direction for a relatively outpost program in New England. Vermont powered down its schedule last spring and earned five wins; it's difficult to see where the Catamounts can go unless the roster's talent and execution starts to rise in important ways.