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2015 College Lacrosse Preview: Duke's "Question Mark"

Looking at Duke's goalkeeping situation.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Lacrosse Magazine interviewed a host of opposing coaches to get their feel on the nation's best teams. Using a quote from those coaches, we're building out context to a specific thought.

The quote:

"They have had all this success without a steady hand in the goal for years. It will continue to be a question mark to everyone in the sport but each year they continue to disprove the theory that without a goalie you can only go so far."

Assessing the factor of goalie play in a team's overall ceiling is a little difficult. It's pretty clear that an elite keeper isn't necessary to take a victory lap on Memorial Monday, but a keeper that is able to make the stops that a defense seeks to show a goalie is probably a big factor in a team's overall ability to make moves. And that's part of the issue that Duke faces going into 2015: After the departures of Chris Hipps, Henry Lobb, Casey Carroll, and Luke Duprey, what kind of shots will Luke Aaron (or whatever option John Danowski goes with in the cage) see in 2015, and will he have the individual ability to turn away those looks? Throw in the fact that Brendan Fowler is no longer available to inflate the Devils' possession margin and a potentially dangerous situation begins to emerge -- an increased volume of defensive possessions per 60 minutes of play with those defensive possessions yielding a different kind of posture for a goalkeeping situation that hasn't been exceptional.

This is the true issue: Increased exposure to an aspect of play that isn't designed for increased exposure. Duke's keepers combined for a 49.87 save percentage last season while generating saves on only about 31 percent of the team's defensive opportunities. In a hypothetical that sees the Duke defense play three more defensive opportunities per 60 minutes of play, the Blue Devils would yield -- based on last season's output -- about a goal more per game, the team's goalkeeping factoring into that increased opponent output. Again: None of that decreased defensive performance exists in a goaltending vacuum; there is a relationship between what a keeper sees, how often he has to see it, and how well he responds to what's offered to him to stop. But there is a concern that without an increased level of production from the crease that the Blue Devils may struggle a bit to get the kind of stops the team has been accustomed to.

Team Save Percentage 49.87% 44
Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 31.27 48
Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.15 44
Shots on Goal per Defensive Opportunity 0.63 26
Ratio of Shots on Goal to Total Shots per Defensive Opportunity 54.38% 5
Raw Defensive Shooting Rate 27.26% 25
Raw Defensive Shots on Goal Shooting Rate 50.13% 44