Mount St. Mary’s has gone 2-4 in its past six games, and a common thread is turnovers.
The team has coughed up the ball no less than 13 times in each game and has averaged 18.3 turnovers over that span. For the season, the Mountaineers (4-8, 1-3 Northeast Conference) have given the ball away 15.9 times per contest, which ranks 61st out of 69 Division I teams.
In coach Tom Gravante’s view, the problem is a lack of attention on the fundamentals.
“They have fight, but there’s got to be more focus on disciplining their stick skills,” he said Thursday. “… I’ve asked them to keep each other accountable. Not just themselves, but each other. It’s a culture that needs to develop in teams for them to win. It’s the discipline of employing fundamentals in the game – catching and throwing, taking shots overhand, not dropping hands, not throwing passes low to high from the waist. There are bad mechanics of the game that are fixable, but these young men have to be willing to fix them.”
Gravante said the absence of ball protection is somewhat surprising because the team has practiced well with few indicators of being so prone to turnovers.
“I haven’t really found the answers yet with my staff,” he said. “We’ll continue to work on it as it is disappointing to witness a team not function as they have in practice. Usually after a great week of practice, a team knows who they are, and you expect that team to show up.”
In its most recent league game, Mount St. Mary’s committed 17 turnovers in a 9-6 loss at Wagner on Saturday with six in the first quarter and five in the third period. Gravante said he noticed the giveaways taking a toll on the players.
“Every time we missed an opportunity, it gave energy to Wagner, and it eventually ran us down,” he said. “Coupled with some really awful officiating, it took the wind from our sails. You could see it, and it’s hard to be in a game like that as a coaching staff when you try to keep the excitement and energy in the team.”
Mired in a three-game losing streak in the Northeast Conference, the Mountaineers are in a situation where a loss at Hobart (6-6, 3-1) on Saturday will eliminate them from contention for a berth in the league tournament. Gravante said he is hopeful that the players will change course on turnovers and give themselves a chance to collect a win in the conference.
“I’m always going to remain optimistic,” he said. “But there’s only so much my staff and I can do. When the first whistle starts, we’re going to witness how our guys battle and if they have grit and toughness or if they show the body language that says that they’re not quite right.”