Lax Links: Oct. 25, 2014

Let’s hop into the links…

Recruiting

TopLaxRecruits discusses Central Michigan commit Clare Laughery.

The Chippewas also picked up a pledge from St. Louis (Mo.) Ladue Horton Watkins 2015 midfielder Jane Nelson.

Prior Lake (Minn.) midfielder Ally Barian will play for Grand Valley State (keep in mind that unlike the men, the women field a varsity program in Allendale).

Howell goalie Alex Moyer will play at D-2 Lake Erie College.

2015 Farmington Hills Mercy midfielder Brooke Ottaway committed to Rollins College.

Clarkston 2015 midfielder John McLennan will play at Grand Valley.

Recruiting Rundown ranks the top 75 2015 prospects nationally. Michigan commit Decker Curran at No. 48 is the only prospect of interest to our territory. Two more Wolverines, Washington (D.C.) Gonzaga defenseman Michael Borda and Northport (N.Y.) attack Rocco Sutherland, make the watchlist, which stretched the whole deal to a top-100 list.

The 2016 Top75 list is even more populated with future Wolverines (though still no homegrown products from within our own borders. No. 35 Cali attackman Christian Ford, No. 37 Colorado attack Henry Adams, No. 54 Texas LSM John Michael Priddy, and No. 68 Missouri goalie Matthew Trowbridge, are all Ann Arbor-bound. The watchlist – a bit bigger for this class at 40 prospects – includes future Wolverines Curtis Alexander (a defenseman from Massachusetts) and Avery Myers (a midfielder from DC Gonzaga).

More of the same with the 2017 class, though I’m surprised – after reading how loaded the group sounds in composing last week’s Lax Links post – that U-M is actually only represented by four top-75 players. Manhasset (N.Y.) LSM Ben Cirella is the high man at No. 35, followed by Nevada goalie Zion Dechesere, N.Y. faceoff middie Connor Cronin, and Connecticut attack Alex Buckanavage. Mssr. Xanders conveniently ranks the classes for us, and the Wolverines come in at seventh.

Recruiting Rundown evaluates 2018(!!) Michigan commit John John Lombardi, and talks to him about his pledge.

“He reminds me of when I used to coach against Matt Rambo, a kid who just brings it every game and doesn’t care who we’re playing. You get him angry, you better watch out,” Martin says. “He’s intense and makes sick decisions and is extremely coachable. The bottom line is that he’s going to be a very special player in college.”

Matt Rambo? Is that good? I think it’s good. He was only the eighth-leading goal scorer among freshmen this spring, while playing for a loaded Maryland team.

Project 9 took place last weekend with three future Wolverines in attendance. Pingry (N.J.) 2015 midfielder JC Sorenson, Northport (N.Y.) 2015 A Rocco Sutherland, and Cherry Creek (Colo.) 2016 attack Henry Adams represented the Maize and Blue.

Division-1

Detroit has gained a transfer from Rosemont College midfielder Rasool Smith. Smith was the second-leading scorer for the D-3 program that finished 4-11 and as LaxPower’s No. 183 squad in the division last year.

‘Twas a beautiful day on The Mile when Detroit scrimmaged Adrian Saturday.

Lacrosse Magazine looks at the impact the Big Ten Conference and Big Ten Network can have on the game. The big news out of that is it sounds like BTN is planning to significantly ramp up lacrosse coverage, but I’ll believe that when I see it. Gotta make room for all the Purdue Campus Programming, ya know?

Inside Lacrosse provides (text) highlights of Michigan’s fall ball scrimmages (video highlights for the UMBC/Navy game only) against UMBC and Navy. There’s a little bit of discussion of the Fairfield scrimmage on the LaxPower forum, the only place I’ve seen anything substantive.

The Next (and Next Next) Level

Brother Rice alum and Notre Dame sophomore Sergio Perkovic had a big day against Team USA in the Seatown Classic. Perkovic’s statline – just one goal to go along with six assists – leads 412 Lax to wonder if he can be an elite feeder.

Two lady Titans are on the shortlist for Team Canada’s U-19 team heading into next summer’s FIL World Championships in the UK.

High school, Club, Clinics, etc.

313 Lax’s fall and winter training sessions are starting up soon. For more info and to register, visit the website.

Registration is open for the 2015 Great Lax Bay classic.

Less than a week to register for the winter session(s) at All-American Lacrosse.

Blue Crew Lacrosse director and Friend of the Blog Ty McGuire is the new varsity coach at Dexter High School.

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2015 Michigan Wolverines Lacrosse Schedule

Michigan’s spring schedule is here! With a few dates filled in thanks to our ability to assume things using our deductive reasoning:

Date Opponent Location
Jan. 31 Marquette, Denison (Exh.) Home (Oosterbaan)
Feb. 7 Bellarmine Home (Oosterbaan)
Feb. 14 Detroit Home (Oosterbaan)
Feb. 21 Notre Dame Home (Oosterbaan)
Feb. 28 Canisius Home (Oosterbaan)
March 3 Jacksonville Away (Jacksonville, Fla.)
March 8 Brown Home
March 14 St. Joseph’s Away (Philadelphia)
March 21 Drexel Home
March 26-29 Maryland Away (College Park, Md.)*
April 2-5 Ohio State Home*
April 9-12 Rutgers Home*
April 16-19 Johns Hopkins Away (Baltimore)*
April 23-26 Penn State Home*
April 30-May 2 B1G Tournament College Park, Md.*

Interactive Whiteboards by PolyVision

Thoughts on thoughts on thoughts:

  • It’s a lot of home games on the docket. Only four away games (two of them conference games), and a whopping four regular season games in Oosterbaan Fieldhouse – as best as I can recall, U-M has not played more than one per year in the first three seasons of the program. Oosterbaan was considered a big advantage during the club days, and although the varsity squad plays on a regulation-width field rather than the narrower football lines of the old days, it’s still an environment that not a lot of opposing teams are used to. That Bellarmine, Detroit, and Canisius are potentially winnable games, and will be played with a U-M advantage, that’s a boost to start the season.
  • I included the Big Ten Tournament at the end there, but let’s be honest with ourselves here: a six-team conference means Michigan almost certainly has to win two games to make a four-team field (or win a nice little tiebreaker), and they’re probably another year from pulling that one off.
  • Speaking of the conference schedule, the dates are still in flux (though the weekends appear to be set), thanks to – hopefully – the Big Ten Network’s ramping up of the sport’s coverage. According to Lacrosse Magazine, primetime Sunday games on BTN are in play… which means not a whole lot of Michigan action on Sundays, most likely (the Hopkins game should be on ESPNU, per the Blue Jays’ existing contract with that network). Either the Ohio State or Rutgers game should be prior to Michigan’s football spring game – more likely the latter contest, if my football spidey sense is accurate. In other things falling into the “hopeful, but unrealistic” category, maybe the U-M administration will finally realize it only makes sense to play the lacrosse game before the football practice, not after it.
  • Michigan will play back-to-back Philly teams, one away and one at home. The Drexel matchup is particularly interesting, because U-M swiped Dragons offensive coordinator Conor Ford in the offseason. Drexel may be familiar with his schemes, but he’ll also be familiar with theirs – and their personnel. Nice little intrigue to the coaching chess match.
  • The spring break trip is interesting in that it’s not as comprehensive as previous years, when two or three games would happen over the break. There’s no midweek game (there aren’t any on the schedule at all, actually), and even the start of spring break sees the Wolverines playing a home contest against Canisius, rather than getting their travel on.

I see about 6-ish winnable games (counting, say, Rutgers and Drexel for about half apiece), so this is a schedule at least as difficult as last year’s at the top. There’s not as much pulpy bottom to exploit, either. Michigan will have to take strides as a program to put together a record that looks like progress. Given the tough nature of Big Ten play, Michigan will take its lumps this year. They’ll also take some lumps in the non-conference (welcome home, Sergio Perkovic, please don’t score eight goals on us), but they should be able to win some games.

With Michigan moreso than other programs, it’s tough to know how much improvement to expect year-to-year, because the roster is still in the middle of transforming from a fully MCLA club talent base to a fully NCAA varsity recruited talent base. The third year of that transition (Team One wasn’t a transition at all) – but with yet another new offensive coordinator – should be the best yet.

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Lax Links Catchup: Not recruiting

All the other stuff that’s gone unaddressed since… uh… April. Recruiting was covered Friday.

D-1

U-M video productions continue to set a high bar:

Michigan-OSU rivalry video.

Detroit gets in the video action with a look at fall ball.

The Michigan Daily covered the contributions of two of Michigan’s best players last spring… and how they made an impact without seeing the field. Goalie Gerald Logan and LSM/defenseman Charlie Keady will be redshirt sophomores this spring.

Five members of the UDM team played in Ontario’s senior A box league.

The Next Next Level

UDM program alums Jordan Houtby and Joel Mathews played in the NLL this winter.

Grand Valley alum Cam Holding is seeing pro success (and won a world championship with Team Canada) after his career in Allendale.

D-3

Calvin College hired Kyle Hofstaedter to coach its program.

MCLA

Grand Valley State won the Division-2 MCLA national title. Yay!

Conference Things and Honors

Detroit set an NCAA record this spring in man-up offense. UDM converted 34 of 48 opportunities for a .708 mark, albeit facing the No. 65 (Marquette, against whom they converted 5 of 8 opportunities), No. 63 (Canisius, 2-for-2), No. 61 (Quinnipiac), No. 66 (Siena) man-down defenses nationally. Goalie Jason Weber also led the Association in save percentage and saves per game.

UDM D-midfielder Troy Dennis participated in the USILA North-South All-Star game, and was a Senior CLASS first-team All-American.

Titans also crushed it in the classroom, with a league-best 26 All-MAAC academic selections.

In the team’s first year of existence, the Michigan women placed freshman midfielder Anna Schueler on the ALC all-conference second team.

The Big Ten: now a thing! The league announced its plans for the first two conference tournaments on both the men’s and women’s side:

The 2015 men’s tournament will be held from April 30 to May 2 at Maryland, while the 2015 women’s event will be hosted by Rutgers from April 30 to May 3. The 2016 men’s tournament will take place from May 5-7 at Johns Hopkins, while Northwestern will be the site of the 2016 women’s event from May 5-8.

So there you go. They’re sticking to the established/powerful programs as hosts for the first couple years. If Michigan’s facilities are done by then, I’d bet a dime on one or the other taking place in Ann Arbor in 2017.

The Big Ten Network will have Marylander Joe Beninati on the call for lacrosse coverage starting this spring. Maybe the channel will cover more than a couple games a year going forward! (But probably not).

High School

Rice’s era of dominance – despite the first-ever loss to an in-state program since MHSAA sanctioning – continued with a dominant win over Detroit Catholic Central.

Not directly Michigan-related, but it brings up a lot of the same issues as state sanctioning presents in the Great Lax State. Some Illinois high schools resisted going under the state’s high school governing body. The article is strongly pro-IHSA, but the gripes of the holdout coaches are the same ones that have been issues under MHSAA control in our state.

Not trying to get into day-to-day coverage from several months ago, but the human interest story on Bay City Central’s team of the week selection was a good one about program founder Larry Hyland‘s battle with cancer, which he lost prior to the 2014 season. The team broke a two-year winless streak this spring.

Forest Hills Central also lost longtime assistant Randy Lundblad to cancer. The RamGer benefit game against Rockford raised $8,000 for cancer research.

Forest Hills Northern’s Christian Carlson (now a freshman at Marquette) set the single-game goal record in the state this spring. He scored 11 in a victory over Cranbrook. FHN junior midfielder Bobby Pelton had a huge year.

FHC attack Andrew Kransberger was good, too. Grand Rapids All-area team is heavy on Forest Hills standouts.

Comstock Park High School added to the MHSAA ranks this spring.

Zach Schwartz, just a sophomore last year, was the Ann Arbor Newsplayer of the year. The midfielder/attack is committed to Michigan’s Class of 2016.

Former Michigan commit (now a Yale football player) Jason Alessi was the MLive Detroit player of the year.

Michigan High School Boys Lacrosse Coaches’ Association All-State picks. Same on the girls’ side.

Grow The Game

Kalamazoo College’s nascent women’s varsity program will be led by Vincent Redko. The D-3 program will play its first season in spring 2016.

Northern Michigan is adding a Division-2 women’s team.

Not specifically growth-related (but conference realignment fits closest here), Air Force will join the Southern Conference starting in spring 2016. The Falcons were left without a home after the creation of the Big Ten, Denver’s defection to the Big East, and other realignment, but they’ll join the “hey, we’re geographic outliers” club after one year as an independent.

Club/Youth

The Detroit Turbos youth teams will have their tryouts Nov. 2 at Ultimate Soccer Arenas in Pontiac. Visit their website for more info.

The annual Michigan Chapter of US Lacrosse fall 7-on-7 tournament Nov. 1 and 2. Registration and information here.

Student Sports Lacrosse looks at some of the standouts from the Cranbrook Lax Jam.

A few Michigan girls won the Brine NLC championship with Team Maryland.

The Can-Am Showcase takes place at Detroit Country Day Nov. 8-9.

Keepin’ it short. For any news items, commitments, press releases, etc., you can e-mail t.w.sullivan1@gmail.com or tweet @greatlaxstate.

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Lax Links Catchup: Recruiting

It’s been a minute, yeah? Breaking up Lax Links posts by topic. First, recruiting.

More generally related, if you’re a high school player looking to be recruited, stop everything and read this. Former Michigan assistant and current 3D Lacrosse director Ryan Danehy breaks down how (and how not) to send college coaches an e-mail. Lacrosse Playground also talked to U-M headman John Paul about the recruiting process.

Detroit

UDM announced the remainder of its 2014 class over the summer.

Farmington (Minn.) 2015 defender Mitch Grengs will be a Titan. He had a wide range of school of interest, including MArquette and even some non-varsity programs.

Okemos 2015 attack Blake Turner committed to the Titans. TopLaxRecruits talks commitment.

Harborfields (N.Y.) 2015 Terrence Haggerty will take his attack skills to Detroit. UDM was the only D-1 school under consideration.

Detroit Catholic Central 2016 faceoff specialist Alex Jarzembowski committed to Detroit. Jarzembowski looked at some Patriot League programs.

Carmel (Ind.) 2016 attack Seth Mendell committed to Detroit.

The Titans made a big statement with a pledge from 2017 (the first ever public Titan pledge from a player yet to start his sophomore year that I can recall) midfielder Brennan Kamish of Detroit Catholic Central.

Michigan

U-M yanked a 2015 verbal from Maryland in the form of Northport (N.Y.) attack Rocco Sutherland. LaxLessons breaks down his game and decision. A big snag for the Maize and Blue.

Future Wolverine Decker Curran led his Greenwich (Conn.) team to its first-ever state title. He’s Recruiting Rundown’s No. 47 player in the 2015 class:

No matter the spot of the field or release point, when he gets his hands free with his 100 mph cannon, the goalie’s only option is to turn and rake the ball out of the back of the net. Uses some ridiculously crafty moves when dodging and is always producing in transition.

Sounds like the type of player Michigan (also: anyone) can use.

Student Sports Lacrosse (which I believe is now defunct) broke down the game of 2016 Michigan LSM commit John Michael Priddy out of Dallas (Texas) Jesuit.

Duxbury (Mass.) 2016 midfielder Shane Sullivan will be a Wolverine.

Based on the way people reacted, Michigan’s landing 2017 goalie Zion Dechesere of Henderson (Nev.) Coronado was a capital-B capital-D Big Deal. LaxLessons shares that the other schools considered include Maryland and some middle-tier program. His reasons for picking Michigan are familiar by now – and something that U-M is really pushing to get kids away from national powers:

Why did you choose the school? “The reason I chose the University of Michigan is because when I first visited the school I fell in love. The academics are second to none, and the athletics are amazing as well.”

Not many schools can provide the Big Ten education experience (five of them, in fact).

West Chester (Pa.) 2017 defenseman JD Carroll committed to Michigan.

Brunswick (Conn.) 2017 attackman Alex Buckanavage committed to Michigan. Penn State, UVa, and Ohio State were other finalists, so that’s another big grab.

Manhasset (N.Y.) 2017 attackman Kevin Mack picked Michigan as well. LaxLessons has the breakdown.

2017 faceoff specialist Connor Cronin was another commit to elicit a wow (technically a “wow-ski”) reaction from former U-M assistant Ryan Danehy. TopLaxRecruits and LaxLessons both take a look at the product of Northport (N.Y.) High School.

2017 midfielder Hunter Batesko committed to Michigan (though we’ve gotta hook Joe Lombardi up with the info that “Big Blue” is Kentucky). The 6-2 two-way player also considered Maryland, UVa, Notre Dame, and North Carolina.

New Canaan (Conn.) 2017 midfielder Ryan O’Connell also picked Michigan, over MAryland and others.

Manhasset (N.Y.) 2017 long-stick Ben Cirella “touted by many as the best LSM in the class” picked Michigan.

If most of the Wolverines’ commits live up to the hype, that 2017 class should be a monster. U-M’s 2014 class cracked the IL top 20, and the groups only appear to be improving going forward. Both 2016 and 2017 sound awesome, and the Wolverines should have the talent to really turn the corner on the field soon.

On the ladies side, Kent Denver (Colo.) 2016 attack Erin O’Shaughnessy picked Michigan.

Central Michigan Ladies

There’s a new Division-1 squad in town! Er, uh, state! Central Michigan is putting together its first couple recruiting classes, and doing so with a heavy emphasis on in-state and Western recruits.

CMU gained a commitment from Rockford 2015 defender Kelly Spehar.

Cydney VanHoven, 2015 midfielder from East Grand Rapids, will head to Mount Pleasant as wellMore info on her from TopLaxRecruits.

Breaking up the Grand Rapids-area party is Okemos 2015 attack Natalie Bloniarz, another in-state pledge for the Chips.

Clare Laughery of Aliso Niguel High School in California will be a Chippewa.

The Chippewas also picked up a commitment from Mountain Vista (Colo.) 2015 attack Holly Billett.

2016 Rockford goalie Katie Elwell committed to Central Michigan.

MCLA

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 2015 goalie Ben Barrick will play at Grand Valley. Clayne Frazier, a 2015 defenseman from South Lyon, will join him.

High School/Club Links

Didn’t post many 2014 commitments above (because, like, they’re already in college), but True Lacrosse did post a rundown on several guys, so I find that to be useful.

Forest Hills Northern 2016 attack Peter Fisk committed to UMass. Forest Hills Northern 2015 goalie Grant Lardieri will play at UMass Lowell.

Rockford 2016 midfielder Alex Vander Molen will be a lady Buckeye.

Brother Rice 2015 A/M John Lockwood committed to Dickinson.

Grosse Pointe South 2015 FO/Mid Mac Carroll picked Manhattan.

Walled Lake Northern’s Alaina White will play at Pace. She is a 2015 defender. All Lacrosse Michigan talks about the pledge.

Detroit Country Day 2015 attack Emilio Sosa committed to Kenyon.

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s 2015 defenseman Sam McClain will head to Rollins.

2016 Brother Rice LSM/D Brian Cosgrove committed to Fairfield.

As always, feel free to use this thread for questions, comments, etc. If I missed anything, you can drop it here or shoot me an e-mail: t.w.sullivan1@gmail.com or Tweet: @GreatLaxState.

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Profile of Michigan assistant Conor Ford

There was change in the coaching staff in Ann Arbor, just as there was in Detroit. The Wolverines’ is a little more straightforward, an offensive coordinator swap.

Michigan lost top assistant Ryan Danehy to an opportunity with 3D Rising, but the Maize and Blue managed to snag a strong replacement in Drexel’s Conor Ford. Ford’s offenses with the Dragons were good, but just how good?

The Profile of Output

We begin with his most recent tenure, at Drexel. He has spent the past five years there. The seaosn before Ford’s arrival is noted in italics, those for which he was coordinating the Dragons’ offensive unit in bold.

Year Record Possessions Goals Efficiency
2009 7-8 472 123 .261
2010 10-5 490 159 .324
2011 8-6 449 158 .352
2012 8-8 479 151 .315
2013 11-4 501 182 .363
2014 13-5 631 209 .331

So, that’s a marked improvement in the first year, more improvement the next year, before settling in around the mid-.350s or so. It is worth noting that he wasn’t the only new coach at Drexel in 2010 – the whole staff turned over, with new headman Brian Voelker taking over. Still, the offense was Ford’s domain, and it was good. The Dragons were in the top-20 offensively (when adjusted for strength of schedule) each of his seasons, with two top-ten finishes.

Prior to Drexel, Ford was an assistant at Penn, where again he was the offensive coordinator. The Quakers don’t have archived stats back that far, unfortunately, so another data point (where he was again coaching under Voelker) is unavailable.

Getting it Done

How has Ford been successful? Let’s look at who his top individuals have been.

All-conference selections during his time at Drexel include Nick Trizano (attack), Ben McIntosh (midfield), Ryan Belka (midfield), Aaron Prosser (midfield), Robert Church (attack), Kyle Bergman (midfield), Scott Perri (attack), and Colin Ambler (attack). That’s a nice distribution across the two units.

Indeed, that’s been the case in individual years, with leading scorers across both positions. Of note, he doesn’t seem to ever have a true feeder – and the offense isn’t particularly assist-heavy in general – so that’s one important stylistic note. Does a team like Michigan with less talent than many of its opponents have the opportunity to win with one-man offense like that? Or is Ford’s offense more adaptable to the talent? Those are two quaestions that can’t be answered until we see the product on the field.

His MGoBlue profile points out his man-up success in a couple places, but from looking at the five-year track record, it’s been good-not-great on average. There have been strong years, and some lean years, like many teams.

Recruiting

Ford has a pedigree as a player (both collegiately at Hopkins and professionally in Philly and New Jersey) that gives him a wide range of connections that could be of assistance in getting recruits out of some major hotbed areas. Along with Long Island/Upstate New York, that’s basically every territory you could want to cover when it comes to the traditional talent pools.

Michigan has seemed to focus more on Baltimore/DC than Long Island/Upstate New York in that region of the country, and they’re also doing well nationally. Ford’s presence on the staff only helps there.

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Coaching Change: Detroit

Both D-1 teams in the state had some degree of coaching change this offseason. Let’s explore! Starting with Detroit…

Out with the Old

In a surprising turn of events May 30, the only head coach Detroit has ever known resigned. From the initial press release, there wasn’t much detail as to why:

DETROIT (5/30/14) – University of Detroit Mercy men’s lacrosse coach Matt Holtz announced today (Friday, May 30) his resignation after six seasons as the Titans’ head coach. Holtz compiled a 26-60 overall record and a 15-17 mark in MAAC play during his tenure.

In his penultimate season, UDM made the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history, and though the Titans never seemed to take the next step to become a consistent MAAC contender, it certainly didn’t seem like they were on the verge of losing their coach, either.

In with the New

To fill Holtz’s place, Detroit did what seemed (to me, at least) to be obvious in promoting top assistant and defensive coordinator Chris Kolon to the head job. He took the position on an interim basis June 2, and formally accepted the permanent position July 14.

Kolon led Titans recruiting efforts during his time as the defensive coordinator, and the Titan defense was consistently good once the Division I talent arrived, the one area of the program that was outside of the bottom of the nation on a regular basis (other units, including the offense, had a year here and there among the realm of the competent).

To fill the assistant coaching vacancy created by Kolon’s promotion, UDM hired Jeff Turner to coach special teams (some of which – basically all except the man-up – could use some work) and faceoffs (which could definitely use the work). That certainly seems to imply Kolon will continue coordinating his own defense, with Graham Adams continuing as the offensive coordinator.

What it Means

Here’s a look at Detroit’s overall tempo-free ratings on offense, defense, and possession over the past five seasons:

Year Offense Defense Poss% Overall
2010 50 49 50 53 (of 59)
2011 46 17 51 42 (of 60)
2012 51 34 55 50 (of 61)
2013 55 23 42 48 (of 63)
2014 56 22 48 47 (of 67)

Interactive Whiteboards by PolyVision

That’s a lot of middling-or-better defenses (and, despite the fact that they’re going against poor offenses on a regular basis, the schedule adjustment accounts for that), and a lot of offenses/possession games that are… not good.

Assuming Kolon’s ability to install and have his players execute a solid defensive gameplan doesn’t suffer from the ascension to the top spot – there’s no reason to believe that’s the case, but it’s a possibility with more on his plate – that side of the ball should continue to do well.

Now the Titans have an assistant dedicated to improving their special teams at the very least there will be someone whose primary job is to focus on a struggling faceoff unit and clear. Whether Turner can improve those units is unknown (as a student assistant at Michigan, his impact was buried in a lesser role), but there is someone dedicated to doing just that.

One of Turner’s biggest contributions could be an improvement in the amount and type of statistical data the Titans will use in their gameplans, practices, and player development. At Michigan, one of his largest impacts (albeit from an outsiders perspective) was in developing and implementing some advanced statistical techniques – including some that overlap with Tempo-Free Lacrosse principles – to help the Wolverines’ program use every bit of data they could. The Detroit program has been underdeveloped in focusing on that side of things, so there’s room to make a quick impact there.

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Requiem for a Season: Michigan Wolverines 2014

What is blog? (Baby don’t hurt me). Slowly getting around to some of the usual offseason posts, trying to get caught up… eventually.

Michigan took strides once again between the 2013 and 2014 seasons. They climbed from the TFL-ranked No. 61 (of 63) the previous spring, up to No. 48 (of 67). They made major gains in some respects, stagnated in others, and without a nice finish to the season, might have even taken a step back in one or two areas.

It’s still a young program, and last year’s squad in particular was hit by a greater-than-average injury bug. If you told me a team was going to lose its top goalie and a starting defender before the year, I’ expect that side of the ball to struggle. U-M turned it on later in the season to bring some respectability.

Let’s take a quick look at the Wolverines’ statistical profile:

Michigan Wolverines 2014
Michigan Opponents
Faceoff Wins 202 Faceoff Wins 209
Clearing 276-311 Clearing 260-309
Possessions 562 Possessions 553
Goals 157 Goals 201
Offensive Efficiency .279
.293 adj
Offensive Efficiency .363
.358 adj

Michigan managed to possess the ball more than opponents for the first time in program history, and that played a big part in the team’s improvement from 1-13 to 5-11. They also improved offensively, and held their own at times defensively.

What Went Well

Sophomore midfielder Kyle Jackson became Michigan’s first All-ECAC first-team selection, and played a big role in the team’s leap forward on offense. He was relied upon less to do everything for U-M, and was more comfortable as a key player, not the key player on O. He was helped there by a fellow goal-stuffer in freshman attack Ian King. King was strictly a finisher for Michigan this year (32 goals, one assist), but led the team in scoring and should have a more diverse role in due time.

Faceoffs have been an adventure at times for Michigan, and nearing the .500 mark is a definite sign of improvement. Brad Lott was more consistent (though the occasional 4/15 or 7/20 game needs to be hammered out), and the wing play improved, despite Michigan’s injuries among wing players.

Defensively, Michigan took a big hit by losing Gerald Logan to shoulder surgery before the season (and starting pole Charlie Keady to injury, and several players on defense for a few games here and there), but managed to get things together by the end of the season. Freshman netminder Robbie Zonino improved greatly over the course of the season, and the unit was solid by the end of the year. There are strides yet to go, but U-M is on track.

The injury bug emphasized Michigan’s adaptability over the year. Sure, you’d like to see the Maize and Blue go with their top players at each position wire-to-wire, but that’s not going to happen. In a season where that was never the case, they tinkered with lineups and prepared understudies to get on the field. Further adapting with position changes (for example Brendan Gaughan moving from attack to midfield, and rounding into a useful player at his new position by the end of the year) staved off any form of complacency – as much as a sub-.500 team can grow complacent – and showed that the future is bright when all the pieces are in place.

Room for Improvement

Just about everything can improve for Michigan, including the record (and the tempo-free ranking, which was still in the bottom third nationally). Taking steps in the right direction is not the same as arriving at the destination.

U-M playing fully healthy is out of the question, but playing with fewer of its top-line options out, including Logan and Keady – needs to happen to reach the goals of this team. There’s no strength and conditioning program that can totally avoid injury, but developing further depth so that, at the very least, the dropoff is less severe, will be a key.

I alluded to this above, but Michigan’s improvement on faceoffs came with some real clunkers from time to time. Continuing to approach consistency with Lott and other specialists – while working with wings to win a greater percentage of the 50/50 balls – will help keep games within reach.

Speaking of those 50/50 balls, Michigan still lost the GB battle on the year (471-490), and that’s something where talent will help improve things.

It’s tough to harp on Michigan’s defense given the personnel losses, but it was… still not good. Robbie Zonino’s improvement over the course of the year was notable (see chart), but never got his cumulative save percentage up to .500. Gerald Logan finished the previous year at .563 on a worse defense. Both the outfield players and the goalie have room for improvement. Playing the “statistical manipulation that doesn’t work” game, if Zonino had saved as great a percentage of shots faced as Logan the previous year, U-M would have allowed eight fewer goals on the year.

Robbie Zonino Save Percentage

Robbie Zonino Save Percentage, game-to-game in blue and cumulative in red.

The Distant Future

Michigan’s talent influx continues: the Wolverines signed a top-20 recruit in goalie Tommy Heidt, and added another top-100 player in longpole Hugh Mosko. Add in several players returning from injury, and the addition of UMass transfer Aaron Madaisky, and the depth situation on defense won’t be as dire this year. The Maize and Blue have a chance – and a good one – to turn that into production.

Michigan’s club holdovers have given a lot to the program, and probably performed above the level expected of them. That said, with a few exceptions, most of them are probably wouldn’t be playing with the types of recruiting classes Michigan is bringing in. The talent influx is the theme of this program, and probably has two more years (Michigan’s “first recruiting class,” the 2012 freshman group, was not compiled with the promise of playing at the D-1 level secured) before the idea of what this program will be manifests itself.

That said, Michigan’s young Division-1 recruits are adding experience. Whether it’s the first class – who will be seniors in the fall – or the first full D-1 class, there’s finally an upperclassman on this roster recruited to play at this level. The coaches implementing training and gameplans to prepare those players to reach their potential is just as big.

That’s one area where I think the loss of offensive coordinator Ryan Danehy will hurt. From all appearances – statistically, eyeball test, and otherwise – he was the real deal. From improving players’ fundamentals to getting a plan together to win games (or at least come as close as talent and execution would let things get), he’s a loss. How much new OC Conor Ford will be able to fill that gap is as-yet an unknown – one that I’ll be exploring more in the future. It’s possible that he outperforms even the high bar Danehy set. It’s also possible that he can’t live up to it.

With players like Lott entering their upperclassman years, the consistency should start to hammer out. He was up-and-down (with too much down) as a freshman, balanced things out between the two extremes as a sophomore, and should be able to be more consistently positive as a junior.

All told, Michigan took a step forward in quality (if not win percentage) from year one to year two. The following offseason saw a bigger leap, including on the final record. Year four should see Michigan start to become what its long-term future is.

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Requiem for a Season: Detroit Titans 2014

Detroit’s season in 2014 wasn’t so different from the 2013 outcome. Sure, the Titans made the NCAA Tournament and gave Notre Dame a run for their money in the previous year, but it took a magical late-season run to get to that point (and said run erased some bad memories of other games earlier in the year).

This season played out basically the same, but UDM didn’t finish that first game in the MAAC Tournament to get there. Several years into the program, you’d like to see them take the next step, rather than stagnate, of course. Still, the year wasn’t a disaster nor was it a rousing success.

Regardless of all that, next year will happen with a different man in charge. Headman Matt Holtz surprisingly resigned at the end of May, and defensive coordinator Chris Kolon has ascended to the top spot.

Let’s take a quick look at the Titans’ statistical profile:

Detroit Titans 2014
Detroit Opponents
Faceoff Wins 127 Faceoff Wins 185
Clearing 227-286 Clearing 214-252
Possessions 451 Possessions 496
Goals 128 Goals 135
Offensive Efficiency .284
.261 adj
Offensive Efficiency .272
.293 adj

The Titans were actually better offensively than opponents (thanks to a goal-filler like Shayne Adams on one side, and goal-preventer Jason Weber on the other), but their deficit in possession helped lead to the disappointing 6-8 record. There’s also something to be said for doing that against the second-easiest schedule in the nation.

What Went Well

the breakout star this year for Detroit was goalie Jason Weber. He missed three games to start the year thanks to disciplinary issues, but once he got back on the field, he was nothing short of dominant. He saved .642 of shots faced, to lead the NCAA by .020 (a large margin), and did so behind a defense that was pretty good, but probably not as good as those for other top keepers. He was a revelation from the first time he stepped foot on the field, and was just a freshman. The Titans’ goalkeeping is in good hands.

Shayne Adams did the Shayne Adams thing, pouring in goals left and right. He finished with 42 on the year with 7 assists, and did so on efficient shooting (74.7% of his shots were on goal, and 42.4% scored). He’s put in positions to score, sure, but damn if he didn’t make the most of those opportunities.

Defensive depth was pretty good, with several different poles (and short-stick defensive middies) getting into the action from time to time, and building for the future. With Nick Garippa and Troy Dennis (SSDM) and Brian Smith (LSM/D) the only players leaving due to graduation from that side of the ball, the future is bright.

Room for Improvement

The name of the game is possession, and it’s a game that Detroit is not very good at. The Titans trotted out the No. 55 (of 67) faceoff unit, and the No. 63 clear. While they had an average ride, two bad units is a lot to cancel out, and they couldn’t do it. The faceoff specialists – especially Damien Hicks – seemed to show promise from game to game, but consistency there and better wing play are key.

Behind every poor possession game is a high turnover rate, and that was Detroit’s biggest struggle this year. The Titans committed 248 turnovers – that’s on 55.5% of possessions – and there’s main source of the struggles. Getting the ball from the defensive end to the offensive end, and taking care of it when you get there are necessary to putting it into the net behind the other team’s goalie.

A similar issue – and there’s some philosophical debate about how big an issue it is, if planned for – is inaccurate shooting. Mike Birney took a big step back in that respect this year. He was carrying a bit more of the offensive load, but it took him 113 shots and only 49 on goal to reach 18 scores. It doesn’t matter if a player can shoot 114 miles an hour if it’s sailing over the crossbar on worse than every other attempt.

Detroit also developed a nasty habit of playing down to their competition, without playing up to better competition frequently enough. A one-goal win over Mercer, a two-goal win over VMI, one-goal win over Wagner, five-goal loss to Marquette, loss to Manhattan… while a win is a win in most respects, closer-than-expected wins also point to the program not growing past a scrappy underdog stage, to a degree.

Despite not playing takewaway lacrosse anymore, the Titans were still fairly penalty-prone. It took a step in the right direction this season, but like with the offensive care for the ball, a small dose more discipline can lead to big improvements in games.

The Distant Future

Fortunately, a year with some growing pains should help the Titans take a step forward next year. They have to replace the majority of their defensive midfielders (though I did pick a non-starter in JD Hess for the All-GLS team at that position over graduating Garippa), a couple attackmen including primary ball-carrier Alex Maini, and… not much else.

What the Titans need is to see that talent take the next step, and translate into even better results on the field. They’ve taken baby steps in the past couple offseasons, and a larger step with Adams, Birney, D-poles Joe Gifford and Chris Shevins, and attackmen Scott Drummon and Brandon Beauregard all coming into their senior season is the expectation.

With stability in the coaching staff – Kolon was promoted to become the head coach, so the defensive philosophy (which changed from heavy-pressure to more relaxed with a ball-stopped like Weber available) won’t change much – the Titans should be able to keep plugging along the road of improvement they’ve been taking without too much of a change.

If the faceoffs and clear can just take the smallest steps toward average (something I’ve been predicting for a few years now), and the offense can become a little tighter with the ball, UDM can really turn some heads next year.

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Michigan 5, Fairfield 12

Like with the final UDM recap of the year, I’m not going into extreme detail on this game. I’ll have a bit more, since I was there to see it happen, but with a game months ago, it’s best to just recap for the sake of thoroughness and move along.

Tempo Free

From the official box score, a look at the tempo-free stats:

Fairfield 2014 ECAC Tournament
Michigan Fairfield
Faceoff Wins 7 Faceoff Wins 14
Clearing 16-18 Clearing 13-18
Possessions 30 Possessions 34
Goals 5 Goals 12
Offensive Efficiency .167 Offensive Efficiency .353

Michigan played pretty fast this year, and this was below their average. Through the first three quarters, it seemed like it would be well below average pace (40 possessions at that point), but the floodgates opened, and it turned into a lopsided, normal-paced game against a slow Fairfield team.

Notes

Brad Lott was up-and-down during the season. When he was good, he was very good. When he wasn’t, the faceoff unit as a whole naturally struggled. He was just OK on the clamp in this game, and with the other aspects of Michigan’s faceoff unit, that’s not good enough to see success. Most of Fairfield’s advantage was built up on the fourth-quarter run, but it’s a good faceoff man’s duty to help prevent those runs from happening, too. Michigan made up some of the possession deficit by being very strong on the ride, leveling things off a bit.

“We need to be consistent there,” said Michigan coach John Paul. “It’s everything, not just Brad. Our wings need to do a better job, we’re not doing a good job on 50/50 balls, and it’s something that will be a focus going into next year.”

Of course, U-M’s inability to score – and later, once the Stags got going, to prevent Fairfield from scoring – made the difference in this game. 20 of 33 shots went on goal for the Maize and Blue (nine in the second quarter, when Michigan could have captured a bit of momentum with better shot placement.

Ian King’s two goals paced the squad (one on the EMO). Brendan Gaughan’s shift to midfield at the end of the year finished well with a goal on five shots (four on goal). Goalie Robbie Zonino continued his late run of nice play with 15 saves and 12 goals allowed.

“This was Robbie’s best game of the year,” Paul said. “He didn’t change anything, and really they scored three empty-net goals [against the 10-man ride] at the end, so he actually had an amazing day. He stepped up when we needed him to step up.”

Fairfield’s run was the primary story in this one. It was anybody’s game through three quarters, with the Stags leading 5-3. Two quick goals to start the fourth set the tone, and though Michigan got one back, it seemed like that 7-3 lead would be too much to overcome, and it ballooned late when Michigan pressed a bit and couldn’t get faceoff wins.

“The gameplan coming in  was only to 10-man when they won the faceoff back,” Paul said. “Then we got behind and started 10-manning, because we knew we’re not going to get a whole lot of possessions. Once the clock was ticking, we had to start manufacturing stuff.”

U-M learned that they could hang with talented teams, but that they were still a few steps from winning many of those games. The offseason should be the difference in adding the necessary talent and developing what’s already on the roster to take that next step.

Up Next

Michigan’s season ended with a suddenness over the second half of this game, but there’s no denying it was a solid step forward for the program as a whole. Making it into the postseason is a boost (and will be tougher next year in a loaded Big Ten), and U-M can grow from that.

“I think we take a lot,” Paul said. “Our guys didn’t really approach this any differently than any other game. They came in pretty confident, and I loved our attitude coming into this game. You have to feel confident and play that way, and we were and we did.”

Moving along, I’ll decompress the season and look into the future with a new offensive coordinator and yet another signing class under the team’s belt.

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Detroit 9, Marist 11

Not going into extreme depth on this one, because 1) it was months ago 2) I didn’t get a chance to see it, and 3) with a new coach in the house, it might not apply that much to the future anyway. Writing it up for the sake of completeness/thoroughness.

Tempo Free

From the official box score, a look at the tempo-free stats:

Marist 2014 MAAC Tournament
Detroit Marist
Faceoff Wins 9 Faceoff Wins 14
Clearing 16-19 Clearing 14-14
Possessions 28 Possessions 31
Goals 9 Goals 11
Offensive Efficiency .321 Offensive Efficiency .355

This was a slow game, and Marist had the majority of the possessions thanks to facing off fairly well and riding Detroit enough to prevent any chance of making up that gap. The difference in efficiencies existed but wasn’t significant, and the possession game accounted for most of the difference.

Notes

What made this one hurt (aside from the obvious “it ended the season”) was that UDM led by two goals with four minutes left. Detroit had possession with about five minutes left, turned it over, and only touched the ball once again before the end of the game (which led to a single shot with no backup when the score was Marist 10, Detroit 9).

Turnovers – as they were for much of the season – were the story of this one, to an extent. Aside from the obvious anecdotal piece above, UDM committed 11 total in the game to Marist’s 5. Only two of the Titans’ turnovers were forced, and they didn’t cause any coming the other way. In a possession game, that razor-thin margin is the difference.

Jason Weber was strong with 16 saves and 11 goals against. It’s always tough to tell just how good the defense was around him (they play a part in forcing Marist to get off bad shots), but they didn’t stuff the statsheet, with one total GB and one turnover for the starters.

The offensive star of the day (no surprise) was Shayne Adams, who had six goals on nine shots (seven of them on goal). Alex Maini contributed three assists for UDM, and didn’t commit any turnovers.

For Marist, Drew Nesmith and Joseph Radin had three goals and an assist apiece. Goalie Dave Scarcello made 15 saves while allowing nine goals.

Up Next

This game ended the season – and if it had gone the other way, the narrative of the year might have been something different, like we’d seen the previous year with the Titans making the NCAA Tournament and erasing memories of an up-and-down regular season – and within a month, Titans coach Matt Holtz resigned (for unknown reasons, since the results were about in line with what you’d expect, if slightly on the disappointing side for 2014).

Moving along, I’ll decompress the season and look into the future and the Chris Kolon era.

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