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

The Johnnies' proflic attack is now a memory.

Jim O'Connor-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

ST. JOHN'S RED STORM
METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
2014 Record 7-7 (3-3, Big East) N/A
2014 Winning Percentage 50.00% 33
2013 Record 9-4 (3-3, Big East) N/A
2013 Winning Percentage 69.23% 15
2014 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 50.28% 31
2013 Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 61.77% 20
Value Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -11.49% 56*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation -11* 55*
2014 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 36.74 11
2013 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 40.05 3
Value Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -3.31 56*
National Rank Change in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency -8* 46*
2014 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 33.10 44
2013 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 33.83 48
Value Change in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency +0.73 23*
National Rank Change in Defensive Efficiency +5* 23*
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 legacy that Kieran McArdle, Colin Keegan, and Kevin Cernuto will leave behind in Queens is significant. That trio -- the Johnnies' bullet-proof attack, a unit that combined for 198 goals, 129 assists, and 327 points over the last two seasons (the group's 163 points in 2014 outpaced Dartmouth, Furman, Lafayette, Manhattan, Monmouth, Mount St. Mary's, VMI, and Wagner last year) -- quietly existed as one of the most deadly offensive packages in the nation, assaulting opponents with a purpose that helped St. John's finish within or just outside the top 10 in adjusted offensive efficiency in 2013 and 2014. The team's relative struggles the last two seasons removed the spotlight from these three cats, but that doesn't mitigate the fact that McArdle, Keegan, and Cernuto served as one of the nation's best attack units, a group that was as capable as any in the nation despite existing in the shadow of other units that ran with teams that achieved a little more than the Red Storm.

Looking specifically at these cats' 2014 campaign, not only did McArdle, Keegan, and Cernuto perform at an incredibly high level, they accounted for around two-thirds of the Storm's offense while exceeding the production of those that orbited their massive gravity:

CUBED KABOOM!
PLAYER GOALS ASSISTS POINTS SHOTS SHOOTING PERCENTAGE SHOTS ON GOAL SHOTS ON GOAL SHOOTING PERCENTAGE OPPONENT SAVES OPPONENT SAVE PERCENTAGE
McArdle 40 40 80 112 35.71% 75 53.33% 35 46.67%
Keegan 34 8 42 80 42.50% 48 70.83% 14 29.17%
Cernuto 30 11 41 116 25.86% 67 44.78% 37 55.22%
Trio 104 59 163 308 33.77% 190 54.74% 86 46.26%
Team 160 93 253 532 30.08% 314 50.96% 154 49.04%
Trio Percentage 65.00% 63.44% 64.43% 57.89% 60.51% 55.84%

The Thompson Trio deservedly earned more ink than the attack from St. John's, but these three Johnnies were as important to the Red Storm's success as the Thompsons were to the Great Danes' push. To witness three seniors -- contributors from their first day on campus -- finish their careers the way they did was a lost storyline this past spring, one that denied McArdle, Keegan, and Cernuto the bow they deserved to give the nation. There was something uniquely special about the attack unit that they comprised, an effort that generated incredible feats of offensive force for a program that significantly relied on them to make great things happen.

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

To set the scene:

OOF!
OPPONENT RESULT LOG5 LAXPOWER PREDICTED GOAL DIFF.
Georgetown (2013) 13-14 (L) (OT) 69.80% +1
Marquette (2014) 10-11 (L) (2OT) 57.92% +2

Those two losses were -- either directly or indirectly -- responsible for St. John's missing the Big East Tournament in both 2013 and 2014: The defeat at the hands of the Hoyas served as a head-to-head tiebreaker for the league's final postseason bid in 2013; the loss to the Eagles last spring threw the Johnnies into a three-way tiebreaker with Rutgers and Villanova, a result that ultimately kept the team out of the conference's May adventure. St. John's was favored in both games each year, dates in which the Red Storm were more than capable of earning a win and changing the volition of their season. Unfortunately, the Johnnies fell flat in what become important moments in their campaigns:

  • Marquette (2014): St. John's was unable to ride the momentum of a three-goal run over a two-minute stretch late in the fourth quarter to yank out a win in extra time. The Red Storm fell behind by as many as four goals late in the third period before finally playing with some heat. McArdle, Keegan, and Cernuto combined for 11 points, but a five-possession deficit stung the Johnnies against Marquette.
  • Georgetown (2013): St. John's yielded the game-tying tally to Georgetown with 58 seconds remaining in regulation, trailing the Hoyas just once before Jason McFadden's bucket that changed the face of the game. The Johnnies would lose the opening faceoff of the extra session and give up the game-winning goal to Dan McKinney 36 seconds after the overtime period started.

These losses are difficult for St. John's to accept: The Red Storm were among the Big East's top four teams each season in adjusted Pythagorean win expectation, but failed to progress to Villanova Stadium for a chance to chase the league's automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Every game matters, and St. John's has felt the sting of that the last two years.

THE DISTANT FUTURE

Everything about the Johnnies in 2015 seems to turn on how well the program pivots from the loss of McArdle, Keegan, and Cernuto. There are other issues as well -- the team loses Ryan Fitzgerald and Connor Mullen from the midfield; Joe Addona and Drew Vescusi are no longer available to anchor the team's defense (a unit that ranked in the bottom third of the nation last spring); and the team returns only about 31 percent of its starts from last season -- that Jason Miller will need to contend with, but recalibrating the team's offensive focus likely stands above all else. The coming spring smells like a transition season for St. John's, and the program doesn't have the luxury of taking its time to find its purpose: The Big East is going to be trouble next year with a national title contender in Denver and programs like Villanova, Marquette, and Rutgers in a decent position to duplicate their Big East efforts from a season ago. This could be an interesting year of construction for St. John's.