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Eulogizing the 2014 College Lacrosse Season: Siena

The Saints went undefeated in the MAAC last spring.

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

SIENA SAINTS
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 11-6 (6-0, MAAC) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 64.71% 18
2013 Record 8-9 (4-2, MAAC) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 47.06% 33
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 49.85% 32
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 48.59% 34
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +1.26% 29*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation +2* 22*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 28.90 49
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 30.23 32
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -1.33 47*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -17* 52*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 30.37 31
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 31.97 39
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency +1.60 21*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency +9* 17*
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 MAAC was the second-weakest league in the nation last season (based on average adjusted Pythagorean win expectation of a conference's members), leading only the neophyte Atlantic Sun, but that doesn't take the shine off of Siena's unblemished run through the league's regular season and conference tournament. Only seven other teams -- Albany (2014 and 2013), Denver (2014 and 2011), Loyola (2014), Lehigh (2013), Massachusetts (2012), Cornell (2011), and Bucknell (2011) -- have put together perfect conference seasons in the last four years, going undefeated in regular season play and continuing their skull crushing through a league tournament. That's a small pool of teams to which the Saints are a part, clubs that have managed difficult situations and never tasted the acidic burn of defeat against their fiercest rivals.

Siena's run last spring was especially notable: While the MAAC was one of the weakest leagues in the nation, the tightness of the race within the league ranked fourth nationally. Siena was able to survive a conference with balanced competitors, avoiding upsets and succeeding in toss-up scenarios that often bite other teams. Going 8-0 where the team could have been something significantly different is impressive, a feat that shouldn't be ignored simply because Siena did it in a league other than the ACC:

SHASTA!
OPPONENT RESULT LOG5 LAXPOWER EXPECTED GOAL DIFF.
Marist 9-8 (W) 55.69% +2
Monmouth 8-3 (W) 84.93% +7
Canisius 10-7 (W) 58.90% +2
at Detroit 9-8 (W) (OT) 63.48% +2
at Quinnipiac 18-12 (W) 55.65% 0
at Manhattan 8-7 (W) 78.27% +3
v. Canisius* 14-11 (W) 58.90% +1
v. Marist* 11-7 (W) 55.69% 0

* MAAC Tournament opponent (Marist hosted the event).

That's putting on a hard hat and hammering bricks until there is nothing left but dust. Siena finished on the positive side of three one-goal wins, balancing home wins with road wins and tournament site victories. The Saints' average margin of victory in these games was three goals (an 11-8 margin), winning no game by more than six tallies. Siena succeeded where others have failed, turning out a flawless MAAC campaign in a season where the MAAC exuded its usual class of sideways results. It's hard to accomplish what the Saints did last year, and John Svec -- who had struggled to get Siena through the league and into the NCAA Tournament prior to 2014 -- deserves massive credit for guiding Siena to perfection last year.

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

This isn't so much about Siena doing something wrong as it is about how we -- as fans, media people, etc. -- think about teams. The Saints finished the year receiving votes in the final media and coaches polls of the season, presumably earning some heat due to the fact that the Saints won their league and progressed to the play-in round of The Big Barbeque (where the team would fall to Bryant in heartbreaking fashion). These votes given to Siena, however, were likely attributable to acknowledging the season that the Saints put together rather than definitively asserting Siena as a Top 20 team as every reasonable rating measure considered the Saints an average-ish club last season.

GOOD, BUT NOT ELITE
RATING SYSTEM RANK
LaxPower 37
Massey 28
Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 32
KRACH 32

This could obviously spiral into a diatribe on voting methodology, but that isn't the purpose of this. Rather, it's to illustrate that a team can have a great season -- and the Saints did have a fantastic year -- and not finish the season as a vote-receiving concern. 11 wins and a conference championship isn't necessarily stronger than being a game over .500 and failing to make a conference tournament (Princeton). That can be a difficult principle to implement and understand, but it's one that is necessary given Division I lacrosse's short season and limited depth of teams. The strength of college lacrosse has grown in important ways over the last decade or so, but there still needs to be a care in ascribing relative power to teams in a polling paradigm.

THE DISTANT FUTURE

There are 16 -- !!!!!!!! --- seniors listed on Siena's current 2015 roster. 16! That's an insane number of seniors that helped guide this program through its transition from Brian Brecht to Svec, earning an invitation to the NCAA Tournament last spring and showing the capacity of a program from a non-elite conference. Of those 16 seniors, six -- Richie Hurley (Offensive Player of the Year; First Team All-MAAC), Casey Dowd (Faceoff Specialist of the Year), Conor Prunty (First Team All-MAAC), Nate Barry (Second Team All-MAAC), Jake Kissick (Second Team All-MAAC), and Tommy Cordts (Second Team All-MAAC) -- earned all-league honors last season. Thus, while the team returns 55.29 percent of its starts from 2014 (including four of its six double-digit point-generators from last year), the strength of the contributors that return for the Saints in 2015 could power the team back to the NCAA Tournament for another shot at their first win in The Big Barbeque. Siena is set up well to maintain the momentum the program built last season.