Entering conference play, the third-ranked Hofstra Pride are 8-0. Their offense is unique in that their four leading scorers -- Josh Byrne (23G, 17A), Ryan Tierney (18G, 9A), Dylan Alderman (9G, 13A) and Brendan Kavanagh (14G, 2A) -- are all left-handed.
It’s funky, yet fun. All four players bring such different skill sets to the table, that almost everything the Pride runs produces points. Isolation dodges, picks for shots, pick-and-pops, “Nations” pick-and-rolls -- you name it, and the Pride will run an unselfish (and flashy) brand of it.
Like most teams, Hofstra’s one-on-one dodges begin with whoever draws the short-stick. Lucky for the Pride, they don’t have to work too hard to get a lethal dodger matched up with one. By running both Brendan Kavanagh and Dylan Alderman out of the box, the Pride nearly guarantee one will draw the short-stick.
When it’s Alderman, you can expect him to throw a high-level pass after breaking down his defender. This shake followed by the cross-body pull pass is absurd. His name never shows up in the box score for this Kavanagh goal, but passes like this are why he has more than twice as many assists as he has turnovers.
That initial Alderman dodge won’t always draw a slide from the defense, but it will always move the defense. Moving it quickly off his sweep produces a two-on-two situation for Tierney and Kavanagh here.
Tierney plays older than he is. He has the type of lacrosse IQ you’d expect as a coach’s son. From the way he attacks the defender’s body to baiting his defender into throwing that slap check, nothing about his game looks like a freshman.
Every time he dodges, Tierney seems to get to the middle of the field. He rarely forces shots -- (he’s shooting 40.9%!) -- and his presence behind the cage stabilizes the ninth-ranked offense (per analyticslacrosse.com’s adjusted offensive efficiency).
That ability to attack the weakside with a quick pick-and-roll before the slides are established has made Hofstra’s offense great -- but it’s nonexistent without guys like Alderman and Kavanagh who can force defenders to flood one side of the field. Alderman’s passing is one way to kickstart the Pride; Kavanagh’s ability to get his hands free is another.
Like his brother Matt (Notre Dame ‘16), Kavanagh is a bouncy dodger who can separate to shoot with his dominant left hand after one jump cut or rollback. This z-dodge down the alley draws the short-stick defender way too wide. Kavanagh puts him on his back following that one poor left-footed step, brings his stick up high and buries a bounce shot.
Playing box lacrosse on the field is so hot right now. People love talking about the benefits of box lacrosse: You get lots of reps and learn to play in traffic. We get it. The one part that isn’t discussed enough is the idea of playing with your sticks to the middle.
Alley dodges are low percentage shots. Put your stick toward the middle of the field, and you’re shooting at more square feet of twine. Denver has been doing it for years; Ohio State has, too. Penn State is playing that way this season, and it’s paying off -- the Nittany Lions are fifth in adjusted offensive efficiency (per analyticslacrosse.com).
To be able to play that way, you need players comfortable passing across their body. Alderman has shown the ability to do that off the dodge and running off picks. This throw -- made while moving full speed away from Byrne -- is on Byrne’s ear!
Those wing pick-and-rolls are tricky to defend when Byrne is the picker. The Pride will use Alderman or Kavanagh as the initiator. Both can sweep for a shot, and both can beat their defender down the alley early enough to have time to pull their stick back to the inside. You can’t defend that without help, but nobody wants to switch (or even hedge) from Byrne.
Byrne is a legitimate Tewaaraton candidate. The senior from British Columbia is averaging 5.0 points per game on the 64th paced team in the country. What Connor Fields is doing in Albany this season is unbelievable, but the Great Danes play almost 25 more possessions per game than the Pride (per analyticslacrosse.com). May awards don’t adjust for pace, but Byrne’s performance has been as impressive as Fields’s.
Watch the defense panic when a slide and recovery leaves a short-stick on Byrne. They’re ready to slide, but he’s ready, too. He baits Pifani out of the middle of the field, and throws a fake pass to give Alderman and Kavanagh a two-on-one on the weak side.
Byrne is playing with the defense like a puppet master, moving them around as he pleases. He does it all the time on the extra-man unit, but to be able to do that in the six-on-six is remarkable.
Late in the game, Byrne is the guy you give the rock to. That alpha attackman is so crucial to Memorial Day Weekend runs. While Hofstra apparently doesn’t have the resume to impress poll voters yet, they have the ingredients of a successful postseason team. Look what Byrne is capable of operating a high pick-and-roll late in the fourth quarter (broadcast never updated the clock here).
Alderman’s pick barely made contact with Byrne’s defender. Byrne simply steamrolled two grown men on his way to the cage. He’s good for two or three “WOW!”-inducing plays per game.
Hofstra’s pace may hinder Byrne’s Tewaaraton case, but it enables this group to run the whole game. Inside Lacrosse’s Christian Swezey noted that the first midfield line (Alderman, Kavanagh and junior Alex Moeser) was on the field for all 20 of the Pride’s settled possessions against Georgetown.
Depth is always an issue on Memorial Day when teams only have a day of rest. If the Pride’s offense continues to complement goalie Jack Concannon’s work on the other end, that “one day of rest” problem may be a bridge Hofstra has to cross.