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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Drexel

The Dragons finally made the NCAA Tournament last spring.

Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

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

DREXEL DRAGONS
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 13-5 (4-1, THUNDERDOME!) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 72.22% 9
2013 Record 11-4 (5-1, THUNDERDOME!) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 73.33% 8
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 61.03% 23
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 57.29% 23
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +3.73% 24*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 0* 29*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 34.12 20
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 36.78 8
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -2.66 50*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -10* 50*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 31.82 37
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 34.17 51
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency +2.35 17*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency +15* 11*
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

The best part of Drexel's 2014 campaign wasn't that the Dragons survived Hofstra -- at Shuart Stadium -- and advanced to the program's first NCAA Tournament appearance. It wasn't that Drexel accumulated 13 wins, tied for the most ever for the program in its 60-plus year history. Nor is it that the Dragons earned four All-America nods -- Nick Trizano, Nick Saputo, Ben McIntosh, and Ryan Belka -- last spring, the second highest number of USILA honors that Drexel has received in a single season (the team had six All-America selections in 1961).

Rather, it's that the Dragons went into the first round of The Big Barbecue and assaulted Pennsylvania -- its crosswalk rival -- in the first round of the postseason, dragging the Quakers to their death despite entering the game as an slight underdog:

MAYOR OF THE SIXTH BOROUGH
OPPONENT RESULT LAXPOWER PRED. GOAL DIFF. MASSEY WIN PROBABILITY LOG5
Pennsylvania 16-11 (W) -2 45% 41.43%

The game completely changed -- and moved decidedly into the Dragons' favor -- late in the second period and early on in the penultimate quarter:

The ending of the second quarter was even more bonkers than the close of the opening quarter: In the last 17.7 seconds of the period, Drexel scored three goals -- the first from Raucci on a vicious split dodge; the second from Saputo calling his own number after winning the faceoff after Raucci's goal; the third from Saputo after winning another faceoff and firing home another bucket -- in around 12 seconds. Before the onslaught in the period's final 20 seconds, Drexel trailed Pennsylvania, 6-4; after the bombing, the Dragons held a 7-6 lead going into the intermission. It was a lead that the Dragons wouldn't lose en route to the program’s first NCAA Tournament win in ever.

Drexel didn't lose any steam coming out of the break, putting four goals on the board in the third quarter's first 6:35, getting two tallies from Jared Boudreau and a goal apiece from Raucci and Chris Fredrick. Counting the raid in the final 20 seconds of the second stanza, the Dragons puts seven unanswered scores on the board in 6:52. The shelling -- one that gave Drexel a decisive 11-6 lead -- would pause after Nick Doktor broke the Quakers' 8:46 scoring drought -- that isn't even that bad! -- with a score to pull Pennsylvania within four.

That rush was so impressive and so devastating that it generated conceptual questions and assertions like "This is why the faceoff is too important," "Penn was overrated and a fraud," "This is why you don't eliminate the faceoff," and "If Drexel was this good, Hofstra was robbed of a tournament bid" (all of which were various shades of not-quite-reality). The Dragons pounced on an opportunity and excelled, changing the narrative around Drexel's program and putting some heat in the NCAA Tournament.

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

The Dragons suffered a mere five defeats in 2014 -- the losses were by a total of 19 goals (the wide-ish margin due to one six-goal defeat and a nine-goal loss) -- and those moments of being overpowered are somewhat difficult to digest given the fact that Drexel was -- save for the team's date against Denver in the semifinals of The Big Barbecue -- the competitive equal to their competition:

"I COULDA BEEN A CONTENDAH"
OPPONENT RESULT LAXPOWER PRED. GOAL DIFF. MASSEY WIN PROBABILITY
Virginia 10-11 (L) 0 46%
at Villanova 10-11 (OT) (L) 0 61%
at Bryant 6-12 (L) 0 58%
Hofstra 9-11 (L) +1 60%
v. Denver 6-15 (L) -4 20%

Drexel was an overachiever in the overall -- the Dragons were about two wins stronger than their adjusted Pythagorean win expectation illustrates -- but it's still relevant that Drexel faced four opponents in 2014 that it could have swamped but, contrastingly, suffered the universe recalibrating their reality. Leaving wins on the table is like having all the ingredients to make homemade lasagna but instead ordering from Domino's, and the only thing that alleviates that sting is that the Dragons' five losses last spring came against opponents with an average adjusted Pythagorean win expectation value of 65.53 percent (basically, some of the strongest teams in the nation).

THE DISTANT FUTURE

Drexel will lose about half of its starts from the 2014 season, including big time contributors like Ben McIntosh (M), Nick Trizano (A), Jared Boudreau (A), Tyler Houchens (D), and Matt Dusek (D). That a lot of musk leaving West Philadelphia, leaving notable holes to fill at attack and in-close at the defensive end of the field (not to mention trying to find a new way to generate offense in the absence of McIntosh, the team's combustion engine). The Dragons are going to feel different in 2015 than they did in 2014, but a core of contributors from last season -- including Nick Saputo, Cole Shafer, Ryan Belka, Will Gabrielsen, and Miles Thomas -- should provide a platform to transition well into the coming spring. Competing in THUNDERDOME! is expected, but an assured return to the NCAA Tournament is not a guarantee for Drexel in 2015.