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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: St. Joseph's

The Hawks dramatically improved between 2013 and 2014.

Howard Smith-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

ST. JOSEPH'S HAWKS
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 11-4 (6-0, NEC) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 73.33% 7
2013 Record 5-11 (1-5, THUNDERDOME!) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 31.25% 51
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 62.40% 22
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 19.67% 59
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +42.73% 1*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +37* 1*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 34.14 19
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 23.40 61
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +10.73 1*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency +44* 1*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 29.93 29
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 34.44 52
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency +4.51 5*
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

St. Joseph's didn't enter 2014 with a lot of fanfare: The Hawks' move to the Northeast Conference last spring was notable, but it was another team buying up real estate in the conference -- Hobart -- that ultimately drew more attention than St. Joe's. When the 2014 season met its conclusion, though, it was the Hawks -- a team that hadn't touched 10 wins since a 12-4 effort in 2000 -- that became not only one of the NEC's biggest stories, but also provided the experience of one of the nation's best feel-good adventures.

No team in the county displayed as much improvement as St. Joseph's did last year. In LaxPower's rating system, the Hawks moved 24 positions forward, a full seven positions of rank increase better than Rutgers. In an adjusted Pythagorean win expectation environment, the Hawks' 37-position change was, again, the most dramatic in all of Division I. In function, St. Joseph's shed its 2013 identity of being one of the weakest teams in the nation to becoming an average to above-average team in just one season, a maturation that exists with greater importance than the team's superficial 30 percent increase in raw winning percentage. The Hawks were a viable and dangerous concern in 2014, a mere two seasons removed from a disastrous 0-12 effort in 2011.

Taylor Wray and his staff built something impressive where only a shaky foundation once stood. And that growth came without the usual signals:

  • The Hawks were picked only fourth in the preseason NEC coaches poll, a far cry from the eventual 6-0 NEC regular season effort that the team would put together.
  • St. Joseph's had on its roster just one player -- Pat Swanick -- that earned all-league honors in 2013 (in fact, Swanick was the first player in program history to earn THUNDERDOME! postseason honors).
  • The Hawks were just 19-17 against NEC opponents prior to their inaugural run through the league. 19-17.

2014 was a great season for St. Joseph's, one that could provide an important platform for the program on a go-forward basis. The momentum that the Hawks created last season was as strong as any team in the nation, and how the program pivots from its remarkable season is almost as important as the effort it took to generate its performance from a season ago.

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

For all that was wonderful and heartwarming and beautiful about the year that St. Joseph's created in 2014, the Hawks will forever have its season defined -- at least in part -- by the team's double overtime loss to Hobart in the NEC Tournament. Just a week prior to meeting the Statesmen on Hawk Hill, St. Joseph's went to Geneva and administered a seven-goal skull-crushing of Hobart in Central New York. The Hawks appeared poised to dispatch the Statesmen on their home field and advance to the NEC Tournament title game for a shot at the NCAA Tournament, but those hopes were burned to dust once Hobart went on a 5-1 run over a 27:28 stretch to knot the game at eight and change the entire volition of the contest.

But it's not even that St. Joseph's lost control of a game that seemed destined to pocket as the intermission approached. It's that the Hawks were in a knife fight when all signs pointed to St. Joseph's neutralizing the threat with a nuclear bomb before the Statesmen were able to mobilize:

". . . AND THAT'S WHEN I WOKE UP IN THE TUB WITH NO PANTS ON."
OPPONENT RESULT LOG5 MASSEY WIN PROBABILITY LAXPOWER PREDICTED GOAL DIFF.
Hobart 9-10 (2OT) (L) 72.83% 74% +3

Jake McHenry's game-winner less than two minutes into the second extra period will always provide a dagger's sting (not to mention Taylor Vanderbeek's man-up bucket with 11 seconds remaining in regulation that allowed for McHenry to bag the victory), but at a macro level, the Hawks shouldn't have been in the situation they found themselves in against Hobart on their home field at the most important moment of their season.

THE DISTANT FUTURE

This fact is almost unbelievable: St. Joseph's will return over 90 percent -- !!!!!! -- of its starts from a season ago. That's insane. The only starts that the Hawks lose from 2014 are due to Johnny Simanki's graduation last spring (Simanski started in 14 of the 15 games he played in last year). Of the 136 starts from 2014 returning in 2015, seven are seniors or redshirt seniors while another four will play their junior seasons in Philadelphia. The Hawks are going to have experience and upperclass leadership as the 2015 season approaches, two valuable tools to maintain -- or elevate -- the position the program earned on the national landscape last season. There is high potential for St. Joe's to contend again in the NEC next spring.