Heading into their first conference game against Colgate on Saturday, the Terriers still find themselves stuck in a transition period of figuring out how to replace all the offensive production they lost between last season and this one. All four of BU’s All-Patriot League first team members are gone; three were seniors and standout Chris Gray transferred to North Carolina.
As a result, the Terriers have not fully gelled on offense yet. Freshman attackers Vince D’Alto and Louis Perfetto seem to have gotten comfortable as of late, but the question is how much contribution head coach Ryan Polley can continue to expect from them and how much he can consistently expect from his other players. Sophomore attacker Timmy Ley and sophomore midfielder Jake Cates are two other names to watch on offense.
At the other end of the field, senior long stick midfielders Reece Eddy and Chase Levesque have continued to anchor the Terriers’ defensive unit. BU has a slightly larger margin for error on defense because they have senior goalie Joe McSorley, one of the best goalies in the Patriot League, controlling the crease.
The Terriers still have plenty of time to get their bearings. They open their season with what should be one of their easier league matchups, and they avoid the top three teams in the conference until mid-April. If they are going to have a chance at upsetting any of those teams, it will be later in the season once they have more time to prepare.
For this conference preview, BU’s opponents are ranked in order of how they are expected to perform in the Patriot League based on their performance thus far.
1. Loyola University Maryland (3-1)
Game date: April 11 at Loyola MD
Players to watch: Kevin Lindley (A), Aidan Olmstead (A), Peter Swindell (M), Ryan McNulty (LSM), Bailey Savio (FO)
Key stat: .227 shooting percentage
Loyola had the misfortune of starting the season on the road at first-ranked Virginia, but they have since won three straight games against Johns Hopkins, Rutgers, and Towson. This week, they were ranked 11th nationally in the Inside Lacrosse poll.
Although the Greyhounds are the consensus number-one team in the conference, they have perplexingly shot only .227, the worst shooting percentage in the Patriot League. Loyola’s highest volume scorers—Olmstead, Lindley, and Joey Kamish—have gone a combined 25-of-92. That will probably need to improve down the stretch for the Greyhounds to maintain their current ranking, especially when they face teams like Army and Lehigh.
In spite of that, the Greyhounds still have a well-balanced offense and turn the ball over only 15 times per game, the best mark in the Patriot League.
The Greyhounds have not reached their potential on defense quite yet. While they are not penalty-prone, they pick up only 32.75 ground balls per game and do not cause a ton of turnovers. They are still very solid at the end of the field though and they do not need to hit their defensive ceiling to be a good team.
2. Army West Point (3-2)
Game date: April 24 at BU
Players to watch: Brendan Nichtern (A), Miles Silva (A), Matt Manown (M), Marcus Hudgins (D), Bennett Taylor (D), Wyatt Schupler (GK)
Key stat: .653 save percentage
The Black Knights already have two wins against ranked teams—UMass and Rutgers—and nearly picked up a third against fifth-ranked Syracuse, although they dropped the game 7-9. While Army currently ranks 16th in the nation, they rose as high as ninth place last week.
Schupler is one of the best goalkeepers in the country. His .640 save percentage ranks fourth nationally and leads the Patriot League. Even though the Black Knights have faced some elite offenses, Schupler has allowed more than nine goals only once and still made 10 saves in that game.
On top of their defense and goal protection, the Black Knights can put forth a lethal offense. Nichtern has 26 points through five games, including 17 assists. Silva and Sean O’Brien have both been efficient on the attack as well. Army has an effective tandem of midfielders in Manown, Connor DeWitt, and Gunner Philipp.
3. Lehigh University (3-1)
Game date: April 18 at Lehigh
Players to watch: Tommy Schelling (A), Andrew Pettit (A), Teddy Leggett (D), Anthony Tangredi (D), Conor Gaffney (FO)
Key stat: 42.75 ground balls per game
In the Patriot League Preseason Poll, Lehigh received only 99 points, 12 points behind Loyola Maryland and Army. The Mountain Hawks have closed the gap since then thanks to massive offensive numbers from Schelling and Pettit and lockdown defense from Leggett and Tangredi.
Through four games, including a hard-fought contest against number-one Virginia, Schelling already has already put up 16 goals and 23 points. Schelling has been a big surprise from a Lehigh team expected to get most of its production from Pettit and midfielder Andrew Eichelberger. While Eichelberger has struggled thus far, shooting only .214, Pettit has recorded an impressive 17 points and 12 ground balls.
Tangredi has been a big help on defense with 10 ground balls and seven caused turnovers. Leggett has come off the bench in three of the Mountain Hawks’ four games, but he has been an above-average defensive reserve option.
4. Bucknell University (4-1)
Game date: March 7 at BU
Players to watch: Travis Talarico (D), Will Yorke (A), Alston Tarry (A), Tommy Sopko (A), Hunter Newman (D)
Key stat: 9.60 goals allowed per game
The Bison have won all the games they should have won by beating Furman, Bryant, Sacred Heart, and Binghamton. They also lost to 18th-ranked Ohio State by only four points despite giving up a season-high 15 goals.
Of the six unranked teams in the conference, the Bison have the best chance to insert themselves into the top of the Patriot League standings. Their potential starts with their defense, which is led by Talarico, Newman, Conor Shears, Ben Clark, and Patriot League Preseason Team member Bryant Boswell. Boswell has not been as impressive as expected and missed the game against Binghamton, but he is a sure-fire ceiling raiser.
They have not had the most remarkable stats on offense, but with the exception of the Ohio State game, they have not needed to. Yorke, Tarry, and Sopko will certainly be playing with higher expectations come March 7 when their conference season begins.
5. College of the Holy Cross (3-1)
Game date: March 14 at Holy Cross
Players to watch: Kevin Kodzis (A), Sean Mullaney (M), Justin Lynskey (A), Dan O’Connell (M), Chris Conlin (D), Philip Turner (D)
Key stat: 2.80 penalties per game
The Crusaders have been living on the edge all season long. Holy Cross won all of its games by one point, and its lone loss to Providence was by only two goals. That should prepare them well for grinding out tough wins in conference play.
Despite finding themselves in several high-pressure situations, the Crusaders have not gotten in their own way with penalties. They rank fourth in the Patriot League with only 2.80 penalties per game.
Offensive numbers have not been off the chart for Holy Cross, but they still have one of the best midfielders in the conference in Mullaney. The trio of Mullaney, Kodzis, and Lynskey is capable of scoring enough to keep pace with some of the better teams in the conference. The Crusaders also have a defensive terror in Conlin, who already has 17 ground balls and 16 caused turnovers.
6. Naval Academy (2-1)
Game date: March 28 at BU
Players to watch: Ryan Kern (GK), Christian Daniel (A), Nick Barry (FO), Tom Evans (D)
Key stat: .889 penalty-killing percentage
Navy missed its chance to face a top-of-the-line opponent in seventh-ranked Maryland when their game against the Terps got postponed. The Mids will now have to wait until Saturday to play again when they face Lehigh on the road to begin their conference season. Before the postponed game, the Mids went 2-1 with wins over Manhattan and Furman and a close loss to Richmond.
Navy has the benefit of being able to stick one of the best goalies in the Patriot League in the cage. Kern has made 24 saves against only 16 goals allowed. Navy has depth at the goalkeeper position; four other goalkeepers have gotten to take their turn in the crease this season.
The Mids are also the top team in the conference on the penalty kill. Navy has allowed only one goal in nine man-down situations.
7. Colgate University (0-4)
Game date: February 29 at Colgate
Players to watch: Griffin Brown (A), Mike Hawkins (M), Brian Minicus (A)
Key stat: .460 faceoff winning percentage
Every team Colgate has faced thus far—North Carolina, Syracuse, Princeton, and Hobart—is currently ranked in the top 25 of the Inside Lacrosse poll. The Raiders have also yet to face a team at home. Therefore, it’s hard to make much out of their current marks on the stat sheet, but the level of competition they have faced certainly should have prepared them for some of the top teams they will face in the Patriot League.
The Raiders currently sport only a .460 faceoff winning percentage, and their faceoff specialist Malcolm Feeney has the second lowest faceoff percentage among faceoff specialists in the conference, both of which are unimpressive marks. They will almost assuredly increase when they face Patriot League opponents who are more their speed.
8. Lafayette College (0-4)
Game date: March 21 at BU
Players to watch: Andrew Robbins (A), Cole Dutton (M), Bryan Hess (M)
Key stat: 7.50 goals per game
Like Colgate, Lafayette played a difficult pre-conference slate in order to prepare for Patriot League competition. Three of Lafayette’s four opponents were ranked—Penn State, Georgetown, and North Carolina are all in the top 12 nationally. The Leopards can hardly be faulted for scoring only 20 goals combined against those three teams, but their loss in triple overtime to Binghamton might be more telling about what kind of team they really are.
The Leopards could not get anything going against Binghamton and scored only 10 goals in that contest. Binghamton is by no means a top team, currently sporting a 1-3 record and suffering a bad blowout loss against Bucknell on Tuesday.
The Lafayette offense will be a big question mark heading into the season. Their standing at the bottom of nearly every statistical category in the league might not change if they cannot start solving some defenses.