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The Good, The Bad, & The Future: Independents

Our season recaps begin with the three independent squads.

Cleveland State University Athletics

With the offseason now in full swing, it’s time to look back at the 2017 season! We’ll dissect all the individual teams from worst to first based off my final Power Rankings later during the summer.

But first, we’ll dissect each conference and return The Good, The Bad, & The Future series. We won’t talk a ton about each team until the individual dissections, but this should be a good quick glimpse at each team. If you remember from last year, I’ll discuss something good from each team, something bad, and take a look at their future as well.

So let’s get started!

Hampton Pirates (1-7)

The Good: They won their first ever game against Division III Greensboro back in early March and added three more games to their schedule from last year.

The Bad: There’s still a ton of work left to build their program. The team is still young, and hopefully they can start to play a “full” schedule of 11-15 games a season in the next year or two.

The Future: As I mentioned, the team is young. Points leader John Tarver, top FOGO Aaron Brown, and goaltenders Kevin Mondy Jr. and Joshua Tarver are only freshmen, and top defenseman Baron Edmondson is a sophomore. Having former St. John’s player Andrew Gray should also help in the development of this program. Their progress might not be as quick as other new teams, but if they take it slow and steady, I hope it can result in similar success.

NJIT Highlanders (1-14)

The Good: At points in the regular season, the Highlanders showed some signs of progress. The most notable was a 10-6 loss to Rutgers, who was undefeated at the time. Sophomore Aaron Foster had a whooping 34 goals on the year.

The Bad: Their only win came against Hampton. The score was 17-3. They lost to VMI by a goal, Mercer by three, and fell to fellow third-year program UMass Lowell by seven goals. They also lost two top players after each offseason. Zachary Melillo is making a big impact at Marquette, and Joe Lomeli is off at Wagner. And their second leader scorer, midfielder Ryan Callaghan, is graduating. Let’s hope their impact players stay and help grow the program.

The Future: Two wins in three years (Dartmouth last year and Hampton this year) isn’t good. Luckily, there’s only three juniors on the team this year, and the Highlanders are made up of primarily sophomores and freshmen. John Tachon was one of the top defensemen for NJIT last season, and there’s certainly plenty of players that can take a step forward for 2018.

Cleveland State Vikings (5-9)

The Good: A very successful first year for Cleveland’s team, winning five games and competing in most of their games against Division I teams. The Vikings had nearly their entire team composed of freshmen and they learned a lot about what it’s like to be on a Division I lacrosse team, from practices and competing against the best, to staying home for a trip and experiencing senior days. Their learning will continue with new teammates and possible starting jobs on the line during year two.

The Bad: Four of those wins came against Division II and III schools, which is fine for a new program. It’s tough to say what’s bad for a new program, but one thing I noticed is how the Vikings were able to play top teams very well in the first quarter, but then fade after that. If they play 60 full minutes, they might be in some games beginning next year.

The Future: From our College Crossecast conversation with head coach Dylan Sheridan back in May, he mentioned that the Vikings will play a full Division I slate in 2018, with Bellarmine as their season opener, and are looking for a conference to join. They probably will stay independent for this year and maybe into 2019, but the promise is still high for this program. Plenty of players such as attackmen Tristen Copeland and Jake Lewis, defensemen Isaac Atencio and Brandon Ruditz, and College Crosse All-Freshman Honorable Mention goaltender Caleb Espinoza have proved themselves to be quality players on the field in their first season of college lacrosse. Now how can Sheridan and his coaching staff push them to take a step forward, as well as find out how to utilize their 18 incoming freshmen.

You can listen to our chat with Sheridan below as well.