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Review & preview: St. Mary's

Here is the third installment of a series that checks in with the seven Division III programs in the state to evaluate the past and offer a glimpse into the future. Monday’s visit takes us to St. Mary’s.

REVIEW

The good: Record-wise, the Seahawks took a few steps back, falling to 6-9 overall and 4-4 in the Capital Athletic Conference after going 10-6 and 5-2, respectively, in 2010. But coach Chris Hasbrouck said the players are in place to continue the program’s evolution. “Even though the record didn’t maybe show it, I think we can see that we’re continuing to build the program and hopefully moving toward what might be a top-15, top-10 type of team,” he said. “It’s a work in progress, and I think we’re recruiting the right guys and they’re doing the right things to get there. … We can accept the 6-9 record as long as that is part of moving forward and becoming the team we want to be.” … For the third consecutive year, St. Mary’s advanced to the conference tournament semifinals. The Seahawks avenged a 7-4 regular-season loss to conference foe York on March 30 with a 14-9 victory in the tournament’s first round before losing to Stevenson, 16-7, on April 20. The advancement was an encouraging sign for Hasbrouck. “I’m not a moral victory guy, but to make the semifinals was good for these guys,” he said. “Now we need to move forward and get to the championship game.” … After limping out to a 2-7 start, the team went 4-2 after April 2. The rough start bothered Hasbrouck, but he also expressed satisfaction with the squad’s perseverance when the players could have folded. “I think our overall growth was solid, and I think we played our best lacrosse at the end of the year,” he said. “Everything was clicking a little bit better.”

The bad: St. Mary’s poor start coincided with a lack of punch on offense, which proved problematic for the entire year. After averaging 11.2 goals last season, the unit’s production dropped to 8.4. Hasbrouck said the graduation of standout midfielder Ryan Alexander (22 goals and 13 assists in 2010) allowed opponents to concentrate on senior attackman Dennis Rosson (28, 16). “Dennis Rosson had maybe overall one of his better years without putting up the points because he drew the other team’s best defenseman, and they were sliding early and double-teaming him, and Denny still had a good year,” Hasbrouck said. “I think some of the younger guys were kind of waiting for the upperclassmen to step up, and I think that probably made us a little one-dimensional. I really look forward to getting past that, and I think we’ll be able to attack from a lot more areas on the field, and it won’t be just one guy carrying the ball and doing the brunt of our scoring.” … The offense didn’t get much help from the faceoff unit, which won just 45.9 percent (153-of-333) of its draws. “The faceoffs themselves, we went up against some pretty good guys. But yeah, it’s something that we need to improve on,” Hasbrouck said. “That’s something that I’ve challenged all of our faceoff kids. We need to possess the ball. I look at our season, and we couldn’t consistently get the ball on offense off the faceoff, which forced us to play a lot more defense. We’re bringing in a couple more faceoff kids. I know [sophomore] Albert [Mitchell] is going to work extremely hard. [Freshman] Cody Tidwell is going to get a little bit more of a look. I think that’s an area we will definitely improve on next year.” … The defense also took a step back, surrendering 10.7 goals per game this past spring. Injuries didn’t help. Senior defenseman Sean Hatley tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his knee in the team’s 12-4 loss to Salisbury on April 2. His replacement, senior John Windsor, also sustained a variety of aches and pains. “In many of our games, we were looking at freshmen and sophomores on the field playing D,” Hasbrouck said. “So we’re pretty happy with what we have down there and how we played at times. It’s certainly something to build on.”

PREVIEW

Personnel changes: Replacing Rosson is an inescapable priority. Junior John Dehm has the experience to join juniors J.P. Lennon and Michael Mules as starters, but incoming freshman Eric Simon could carve some time for himself. “Guys are ready,” Hasbrouck said. “Denny had a great career here, but I think it’s more of a matter of not trying to replace the power game in terms of what he can do, but looking to have somebody to step up and put him in a position to succeed. I think it might makes us a little bit less one-dimensional with having some guys in there.” … In addition to graduating Hatley and Windsor, junior defenseman Eric Heisner is expected to graduate in the fall, and senior backup long-stick midfielder Michael Ott bids farewell. Hasbrouck is high on the emergence of freshmen Brett Williams (McDonogh), David Mitchell-McShane (St. Paul’s) and J.J. Eckert-Nathan. “Brett Williams and David Mitchell-McShane started for two of the best private schools in Maryland, and J.J. Eckert-Nathan is a kid from California who may end up being just as good as those two other guys,” Hasbrouck said. “So I think we’ve got three very dynamic sophomores-to-be. Justin Harty is back for his junior year. He’s just been steady. He’s a very physical kid back there. So I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for guys to say, ‘Hey, I can get my time now.’” … The defense also says goodbye to goalkeeper Stu Wheeler (9.53 goals-against average and a .536 save percentage). Hasbrouck anticipates that sophomore Ben Wheeler and freshman Zack Blewitt will vie for the starting role. “Leaving at the end of the year, they both know that it’s a great opportunity for one of them to step up and win that starting role,” Hasbrouck said. “We’ve been pretty set for the last three years there. So it’ll be a great opportunity for somebody to come up and grab the ring and say, ‘It’s my spot.’ Both of those kids are very, very solid keepers.”

Forecast for 2011: Stormy. The Seahawks have a number of issues to address and they are somewhat interconnected. Fortifying the faceoff unit might give the offense more possessions and more opportunities to create scoring chances. That, in turn, might keep the pressure off of a defense that wore down as the season unfolded. Lennon is a finisher and a target for opposing defenses, but he relied on Rosson to feed him the ball. Is another distributor on the roster? Lennon could use some help from the midfield. A good portion of the defense’s success depends on finding a starting goalie between Wheeler and Blewitt. The program’s bid to compete for the conference tournament championship gets easier with the departure of Stevenson, but Salisbury, which added its ninth Division III championship a month ago, continues to stand in the way.

Posted by Edward Lee at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Review & preview, St. Mary's
        

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About Faceoff
Faceoff is The Baltimore Sun's blog devoted to college and high school lacrosse. Faceoff contributors include Sun reporters Edward Lee, Mike Preston and Katherine Dunn.
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