Men’s lax defense must improve | The Triangle
Men's Lacrosse

Men’s lax defense must improve

Duke University won the 2013 NCAA Tournament over Syracuse University due to their stellar goalie play.
Duke University won the 2013 NCAA Tournament over Syracuse University due to their stellar goalie play.

In 2013, the Drexel men’s lacrosse team finished the season ranked No. 18 in the nation in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Coaches Poll with a record of 11-4.

The Dragons were consistently great on offense last year, finishing the season ranked seventh in the nation in scoring with 12.13 goals scored per game. They also finished the season third in the nation behind national champion Duke University and the University at Albany in assists per game and fifth in the nation in points per game.

The most outstanding performers from last year’s team offensively were senior attacker Robert Church and junior midfielder Ben McIntosh. Church scored 33 goals in 15 games and racked up 24 assists. Starting every game for the Dragons, he was basically their most important offensive player and was a major factor in their victories. Unfortunately, he was a senior last year and will not be on the team this year, which means other players will have to step up in his place. McIntosh could easily take that spot, as he also started all 15 games, scoring 38 goals and making 18 assists.

Drexel’s most impressive win came in a 20-19 thriller against Albany, who had the top scoring offense in the nation. The Dragons pulled out that thrilling win in the second game of the season, setting them up for a successful year. The team did lose four games, but those losses came against 12-4 Bucknell University, the 12-5 Pennsylvania State University, and a perennial lacrosse powerhouse in the University of Virginia. They finished the year with a 5-1 Colonial Athletic Association record and were 8-0 at home.

Even though Drexel had phenomenal offensive play throughout the year, the team’s defense and goalie play were the undoing of their tournament hopes. Despite scoring the seventh-most goals per game, they ended the season ranked 22nd in the nation in scoring margin, a statistic that measures the difference between goals scored and goals allowed per game. They scored only 1.2 goals per goal allowed, which means that their poor defense and goalie play virtually offset their incredible offense.

The goalie play was especially suspect, as freshman Cal Winkelman boasted the 29th-highest goals against per game average in the nation. It is important to realize that Winkelman was a freshman, which means he has plenty of time to improve and almost certainly will improve upon those numbers this year. Out of the available options returning from last year, Winkelman has the most starting experience, so unless another freshman is particularly impressive, it looks like the second-year goalie is going to be the option for head coach Brian Voelker.

The goalie has a lot of responsibility, but in this case, the Drexel defense also deserves its own criticism. The defense finished 53rd in the nation in caused turnovers per game, a ranking that bodes extremely poorly for a team expecting to win the CAA Tournament and possibly earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

The team actually improved in terms of rankings when they were down a man due to penalties, finishing the season ranked 29th in man-down defense. Additionally, they finished 45th in the nation in ground balls per game, which means that they are not causing enough turnovers and not possessing the ball enough to win games.

Last season, the Dragons finished second in the CAA behind Penn State, good enough to make an appearance in the conference tournament. They faced off in the semifinals against eventual CAA champion Towson University in State College, Pa., and fell 11-8 to end their season. Towson and Penn State earned spots in the NCAA Tournament, though both fell in the first round.

This year, the offense should continue to be dominant while hopefully the defense and goalie play can improve. The offense, though missing an important weapon from last year in Church, will be left in the more-than-capable hands of the now-senior McIntosh, junior midfielder Ryan Belka, sophomore attacker Frank Fusco and senior attacker Nick Trizano.

If last year is any indication, the team has a great chance to make the CAA Tournament, and with more experience under their belts, they might be ready to finally win the conference title and make the leap to the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever.