Here is the third installment of a series that checks in with the eight Division III programs in the state to give a glimpse into the past and the future. Teams are scheduled to appear according to the chronological order in which their seasons ended. Thursday’s visit was with Hood. Friday’s visit is with Frostburg State.
The good: After collecting six victories in their first season of lacrosse on the Division III level, the Bobcats plummeted back to earth with a 2-15 overall record. Injuries took a toll on what had appeared to be a talented roster, but the silver lining is that a number of freshmen stood out, including midfielder Chris Rios who led the offense with 21 goals and attackman Devin Colegrove who paced the unit with 29 points. “The good news is a lot of freshmen got to play a lot,” coach Tommy Pearce said. “Our leading goal scorer was a freshman again, our leading scorer was a freshman attackman. Those guys really stepped up and I think it’s going to help us get better in Year Three.” … For the second consecutive year, a freshman paced the offense in scoring. After attackman Ryan Serio tied attackman Dan Dowd for 51 points in 2011, Colegrove – a Timonium native and Dulaney graduate – led the way this past spring. “[E]arly in the season, he was kind of getting the No. 2 defenseman because teams were paying a lot of attention to Ryan Serio and Dan Dowd,” Pearce said. “Ryan would go down, and Devin had to carry the ball a lot for us. I think he’s going to have a great second year for us once we get Ryan back.” … With sophomore defenseman Zach Burkhardt undergoing surgery to repair a broken foot and out of the equation before the season even began, the defense needed a shutdown defender. And the unit found one in freshman Paul Newman, a Pasadena native and Archbishop Spalding graduate. “[W]e thought [he] was going to be a starting defenseman for us, but not have to cover the other team’s best guy,” Pearce said. “That was going to be Burkhardt’s role, and then Paul was going to be able to develop and adjust to the college game. But he kind of got thrown to the wolves right away. He was covering [Salisbury’s] Matt Cannone and [York’s] Tyler Hutchins who was the conference Rookie of the Year and [Patrick] Mull down at St. Mary’s. So he had to cover some All Americans in his first season, and I thought he did a great job.”
The bad: Frostburg State’s inability to play with its full complement of weapons contributed to the four-game fall in the win column and a 0-8 mark in the Capital Athletic Conference. Those health issues left Pearce wondering what might have been. “It’s always tough,” he said. “You always kind of wonder how much better you could’ve been. Winning six games in our first season and getting most of those guys back, we were hoping to do better in Year Two, and we didn’t.” … Injuries played a pivotal role in the program’s downturn, but that didn’t do much to placate Pearce. Quite the contrary, he said the inability to overcome those health issues demonstrated to the coaching staff that there was much work to be done in terms of improving the personnel. “A lot of the guys that helped us get off to a good start in our first year we lost in our second year,” he said. “Having that many injuries was tough for us to overcome. We’re just a second-year program, and we’re really trying to develop depth on our roster, and I think it exposed the fact that we need to develop our roster depth-wise to overcome some injuries.” … The defense was especially affected by injuries. Without Burkhardt and sophomore goalkeeper Tyler Haines who broke his collarbone in the team’s conference opener against St. Mary’s on March 17, the unit not only lost two productive players, but it also lost two leaders. “They’re vocal, they’re leaders, and they kind of talk everybody through how we’re sliding and what we’re doing,” Pearce said. “So I think losing their ability was one thing, but the ability to stay organized on defense and know who’s going and who’s not and where we’re sliding from, I think there was some confusion early in the season.”
Personnel changes: The team graduated just two starters – one of whom was Dowd. The Friendship native and Southern-AA graduate ranked second on the team in both goals (20) and points (26). Two-thirds of the starting attack figures to be filled by Colegrove and Serio (nine goals and 13 assists), and Pearce expects sophomores Britton Hoover (10 G, 1 A) and Ricky Kneebone (7 G, 1 A) to battle for the third spot. “Both of those guys are crease-oriented finishers,” Pearce said. “I’ve challenged those guys to be a little more comfortable off the crease, but both of those guys are excited about the challenge.” … The defense bid farewell to defenseman Zack Hiller, a Dunkirk native and Southern-AA graduate who posted 44 groundballs and 17 caused turnovers. Newman (26 GB, 18 CT) and Burkhardt are penciled in as starters, but who will be the third starter? “I would say [sophomores] Brad Miller and Kevin Kinney are the guys that both got a lot of time on close for us this year, and I think those two are probably going to be the frontrunners as far as a returner coming back,” Pearce said. “And then we also have [freshman] Andrew Richardson who got a lot better as the season went on for us.” … The other dilemma involves the cage. Haines (a 10.12 goals-against average and a .519 save percentage in six starts) was the undisputed starter before breaking his collarbone. Freshman Alex Sharrer’s final numbers (11.80 GAA, .453 save percentage) may not be as strong as Haines’, but Pearce is loathe to simply hand the job over without a little competition. “Alex has got a lot of the experience. He told me he’s going to work hard over the summer,” Pearce said. “And I talked to Tyler, and Tyler’s starting to take some shots again and the doctors cleared him to take a shot off of that collarbone. But what we’re going to do in the fall is, we’re bringing in a couple of freshmen goalies that we’re really excited about, and we think it’s going to be an open competition in the fall to see who comes out on top.”
Forecast for 2013: Stormy. Injuries are a facet of athletics, which is why Pearce isn’t leaning on that as an excuse for the team’s less-than-desirable results in 2012. And he understands that the inability to overcome those injuries showed that there is a critical need to improve the talent within the personnel. Finding first-year gems in Colegrove, Rios and Newman should help, but the Bobcats have tons of issues to address. The offense must be more productive, and while a healthy Serio should help, there must be more contributions from others. Once a starting goalie is announced, the defense must be more effective and reduce its 11.3 goals-per-game average to less than double digits. Frostburg State could match the program record of six wins or even eclipse that mark, but making some waves in the Capital Athletic Conference could be a distant objective with teams like Salisbury, St. Mary’s and even Hood eager to keep an upstart from getting too confident.