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PardsLax

College of the Holy Cross(e)

This is turning out to be a somewhat surprisingly important game for both teams.  The Crusaders appear to be making strides under their third year coach who was a two time All America and two time national champion with Syracuse in the 90s.  No doubt they believe Lafayette is a gimme but must fear a loss to the Pards would be a serious setback.  Lafayette on the other hand really needs to win this game to demonstrate a) that they are not the absolute worst team in the Patriot League and b) they too are making improvements under their first year coach.
bison137

Yes, I've seen a few HC posters who seem to think this game should be an easy HC win.   The laxpower ratings say HC is only a 1/2 goal favorite.   Doesn't sound like a gimme.
Bogus Megapardus

I'll probably head up for this game.  One can always hope.
seenalot

Stats look even except TO - interested in your view from the game
Bogus Megapardus

I was able to catch this game today. Here's my (probably long-winded) observation.  For starters, let's just say there's Good, Bad and Ugly in play here.

The Pards lost a 11-10 game at home today against Holy Cross, the "other" traditional PL doormat (besides us).  It was a game we certainly could have won, and probably should have won, after it was tied at 10 with a minute or so left to go.  But we broke down (again) on the transition following the faceoff and Holy Cross broke it straight to the goal and found James Kennedy in perfect position to shoot and score.  The Crusaders obviously set it up that way, and it worked for them.

Give credit where it's due - the Crusader's Kennedy, a senior Attack, was the best player on the field today.  He's very polished and aware, and he consistently puts himself in the right position.  A total team player.  Kennedy could be a featured player on any DI team in the nation.

Holy Cross was, in general, more fluid, cohesive and athletic.  They were more accurate in passing.  It seemed to me (I could be wrong) that they thoroughly dominated possession, especially in the second half.  They had all the hallmarks of a more experienced team.  Defensively, their long poles were good enough, but it was the play of their defensive middies, IMHO, that set the tone on that end of the field and kept them in possession.

This is only the second game I've seen in person this season, but the Pards were much different than I expected.  I didn't see the trepidatious, mechanical bunch of recent years.  They didn't lock themselves into set, overly-obvious formations offensively.  For the most part, they didn't do what I call the "not my fault" defense where each guy takes his assignment so literally, he fails to grasp the game at large as it develops.

Instead, what I saw today was a group of very young, talented guys who were given the green light to play to their ability.  This led to shots by a lot of different guys, especially Middies, who normally wouldn't have been the "designated shooter" in the past.  Yes, a lot of the shots were off the mark, but the these kids were taking advantage of opportunities and they weren't shy about doing so.

It's just my opinion, but it seemed to me that Coach Rogalski is more concerned with putting his athletic talent in a position to make plays than he is with enforcing set designs.  He's just letting them play, and letting the cream rise to the top.

This worked better on offense than it did on defense.  I think that we took a few ill-advised shots from too far out, and some shots were so badly forecasted that Holy Cross could have built the Great Wall of China in the time between the wind up and the shot.  But all in all, the Pards were very dynamic on offense.  And we did have a couple of fast breaks in transition that were unlike anything I've seen in past seasons.  Great job there, when it worked.

Defensively - not so good.  Our guys, especially the long poles - seemed to want to be so disruptive that they abandoned their mark in situations where they could not possibly have reached the play.  On at least two occasions, this lead to long, across-the-crease passes by Holy Cross to wide open guys who scored from very favorable angles.  It could well be that the poles anticipated that a defensive Middie would slide to the mark - I don't know.  But there were serious breakdowns on the defensive end that shouldn't have happened.

The Turnover Issue - I'm glad I got to witness this first hand.  Yes, there is a problem.  But it's not as bad as I imagined, and it's definitely fixable.  The turnovers that I saw fell in to three categories:  Face-off/transition, forced drops (and our inability to secure the GB) and bad passes.

I think that Greg Rau must have "won" 85 percent of the faceoffs - seriously.  The problem is the inability of the rest of the faceoff squad to secure the ball once Rau gets a favorable sweep or, even worse, to catch a pass and secure some real estate off Rau's success.  The game winner for Holy Cross falls into this category, along with several others.  Remember that the faceoff stats are based on who actually holds indisputable possession after the ref calls it, not on which FOGO physically dominates and directs the ball at the X - which Rau most certainly did today.

Forced turnovers continue to plague us.  Dropped passes, inability to dodge a check and just plain lack of physical stoutness once hit - this has been a problem all year.  Lacrosse is a full contact sport, gentlemen.  This is to lacrosse what yards-after-contact is to football.  It can be taught; it can be learned; it can be improved.

Today's errant passes (many in transition) were deflating.  For a Middie who's double teamed in transition, and about to be slammed to the turf, one of the most difficult things to do in the game of lacrosse is to send a catchable pass laterally to a flanking teammate at full speed.  Believe me, I  know.  Sometimes you just stop in your tracks, turn, and pass it behind you.  But we've seen way too much of that in past years and it seems to me that the "new" approach is to keep the ball moving forward and to try to take advantage of the momentum and the gap left by the double team.

So, we're having real trouble moving the ball, accurately and safely, up the field in transition and under pressure.  Guys are sending the ball out of bounds, onto the turf, and even into the sticks of opponents.  If you watch a team like Princeton or Hopkins do this, it seems effortless to them.  This is purely a matter of practice, and truly knowing your teammates.  

The kids who play DI lacrosse (including ours) are the ones who you'd see after school, in the parking lot, bouncing the ball off the wall hundreds of times and catching it - left-handed, right-handed, behind the back and between the legs.  They're the ones who would put a paint bucket in the middle of the field and practice tossing a bag of balls into the bucket from 30 yards away.  They can do it.  Now they just have to do it together.

General observations:

*  Jake Hyatt is a darn good goalie.

*  Kevin Wanke is the real deal.  He's kind of little but once he gets more accustomed to the size and speed of the DI college game, he'll be a star.

*  Brian Bock is our go-to guy on offense, but other teams seem to know this.

*  Sonny Round (IMHO) is the best all-around player on the team, and may be the best athlete, along with Jake Mann.

*  Greg Rau (as mentioned) is a much better FOGO than he's given credit for.  He's a senior and he'll be sorely missed next season.

*  Jake Mann anchors the midfield well in his rotation, but I think that Morgan Westby will continue to improve, especially if he stays in the weight room.

*  Holy Cross was more athletic, but we were quicker and faster.  The Pards do not have a problem with anyone out-running or out-hustling them.

*  I haven't seen anything of note from the long poles outside of the three starters (Ahsler, Stearns and Evans) - two juniors and a senior.  This is going to have to be a major recruiting priority.

*  This team plays with energy and enthusiasm, from whistle to whistle.  There are no slackers.

*  Rogalski and his staff seem very energetic and determined, and the team appears to respond to them well.

*  Fisher is so much better of a place to play and watch lacrosse than is Metzgar; the two can't even be compared.  Every seat is a good seat at Fisher.  At Metzgar, you can barely see the game from the stands - too low, too far away, too windy - it just sucks.  There was a crowd of maybe 400 or so at Fisher today, but I can just imagine what it would look like for a PL championship game.
Bogus Megapardus

Two additional things that maybe I should mention -

*  Jake Hyatt seems more apt to send the ball immediately to a streaking Middie following a save and to trust him to shorten the field and the transition time.  He used to hold it for an eternity and try to clear it to a long pole, who would then try to find a Middie, etc., all the while allowing the opposition's defense to get set for the clear.  If we can get this right consistently, it will be a very good thing.

*  We're totally getting away from the pass-it-clockwise, around the circle, wait for the break-to-the-crease offense.  Instead I saw a more chaotic-looking scheme even after the offense was well set - but there appears to be a definite method to Rogalski's madness here.  It's not a free-for-all by any means; it appears to be a rather involved offensive misdirection effort that they're continuing to perfect.  They seem to be trying to take advantage of mismatches that rely on more than just fast cuts to the top of the crease.
pards123

Steve-esque write-up right there.
seenalot

I great summary - hope to get to a game to see same.  

Sounds like while the outcomes are "more of same" we may be bottoming out and starting to head back up stream.   A few middie recruits, inc a face off guy, and more help on D and we could see a much improvement in 2014.

Great observations about face off play.  Inability to get the GB and seal the deal makes all the difference - and puts too much load on fogo to do too much on his own when a rake to wing is really best play.
PardsLax

Great observations.  I probably would have overfocused on the turnovers and inability to get the ball after faceoffs in critical situations.  Just looking at the box score, it is a worrisome trend that some of our experienced defenders have been committing a lot of turnovers lately.  But I like the optimism in your posts.  I think this team is probably better than its record and most likely will start to surprise some people in the next two years.  Eliminating mistakes at key moments would go a long way in game like these.
Bogus Megapardus

The Crusaders' James Kennedy was awarded Patriot League POW honors for his play against Lafayette on Saturday.  Based on what I saw at Fisher, he certainly deserves it.

Kennedy went to Summit H.S. in New Jersey - right in the middle of our recruiting area.  Sonny Round was his teammate at Summit.  Some of the best high school lacrosse teams in the country - including Summit (and Delbarton, Mountain Lakes and Ridgewood) - are a 45 minute drive from Easton.
seenalot

Toss in Bridgewater, Somerville, Ridge and an assortment of Central Jersey schools and you have one heck of an outstanding recruiting area.  One that can be worked at low cost and with high frequency.
Bogus Megapardus

seenalot wrote:
Toss in Bridgewater, Somerville, Ridge and an assortment of Central Jersey schools and you have one heck of an outstanding recruiting area.  One that can be worked at low cost and with high frequency.


Yeah, and Mendham and Montgomery as well.  I paid attention to New Jersey H.S. lax much more when my sons were playing; they both went on to successful DIII college careers (one plays currently in Massachusetts).  Ridge used to suck, to put it bluntly, and Montgomery was not much better.  Fair Lawn used to be a major player as well, along with Lawrenceville, Moorestown and Westfield.  Lawrenceville definitely has come back, but New Jersey lax has become really crowded.  So many great teams these days.  Have to keep an eye on Don Bosco and Montville, too.  And Seton Hall Prep always has been good.

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