Here is the second 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. Wednesday’s visit was with St. Mary’s. Thursday’s visit is with Hood.
The good: A 4-13 overall record and a 2-6 Capital Athletic Conference mark was cushioned slightly by contributions from all 10 freshmen on the roster. The career-ending loss of junior goalkeeper William Lane (concussion) provided an opportunity, but coach Jeremy Mattoon said he also wanted to see what the first-year players could do. “We recruited these guys to make a difference in our program, and when Will went down, we had to change a lot of the things we did,” Mattoon said. “They were good players, and they deserved to be on the field. So we played all of them.” ... Freshman long-stick midfielder James Weger proved to be a huge find for the Blazers. He finished with three goals, one assist, 63 groundballs and 52 caused turnovers. Weger led the conference in caused turnovers (26), but was left off the All-CAC team, which did not sit well with Mattoon. “That kid deserved to be an All-CAC pick,” Mattoon insisted. “Because he was on a team that only won two [league] games and he was a freshman, he got robbed. He led the CAC in caused turnovers and because he didn’t go to Salisbury or Stevenson, he didn’t get picked. You can quote every word I said because that was crap. He deserved to be All-CAC. That kid was the best defender in our conference. He was absolutely the best defender -- and he will be.” ... Hood ranked outside of the top 90 in nine of 11 major team categories in Division III. But the Blazers ranked eighth in the nation in groundballs per game, collecting an average of 41.1. “That is something that we pride ourselves on,” Mattoon said. “We pride ourselves on being a blue-collar, hard-working team. We don’t have guys that are going to dodge down the alley and shoot 85 miles per hour. So we have to compensate by winning more groundballs and winning more faceoffs than the other team.”
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The bad: Hood finished with the same 2-6 conference record as Wesley and Marymount did, creating a three-way tie for the sixth and final spot in the league tournament. But a coin flip left the Blazers out and Marymount got the spot due to a head-to-head tiebreaker over Wesley. Mattoon said the team could’ve taken any uncertainty out of the equation if it had beaten Wesley, which edged Hood, 7-6, in overtime on March 17. “Honestly, it wasn’t disappointing because the Wesley game was the deciding game and we should’ve won that game,” he said. “We went into overtime on the man-up, and we couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net, some things happened, and they went down and scored. Winning that Wesley game not only would’ve changed our conference results, but I think that also would’ve changed our team.” ... As previously mentioned, the defense struggled after the absence of Lane, who was lost in the second game of the season, a 10-4 win against Shenandoah. The Blazers played three different freshmen before settling on Joseph McCulloh, but Mattoon acknowledged the impact of Lane’s injury. “When Will got hurt, we had to change the way we played the game,” Mattoon said. “We had to slow down our clears, our defensemen lost that trust. We weren’t the team we wanted to be, and it was the second game of the year. I think if he would’ve gotten hurt in the 12th game of the year, we would’ve been .500 at that time. But he got hurt in the second game of the year, and we didn’t recover. We didn’t recover the whole year.” ... For the second consecutive season, the offense failed to end the season cracking the six-goals-per-game watermark, averaging 5.8. Mattoon said figuring out the offensive woes will be a priority during the offseason. “We’ve played six to eight different offensive sets since I’ve been the coach here for two years,” he said. “We have tried to play some middies at attack, we’ve played some attack at midfield, we’ve tried everything under the sun. ... We’ve got the talent, but for some reason during games, we can’t turn that into high-scoring outputs, and I don’t really know why.”
Personnel changes: Fixing the offense’s struggles won’t include attackman Corey Roberts who graduated with 63 career goals -- ranking second in the program’s brief history. Mattoon thinks either sophomore Pat Harrington or incoming freshman Zachary Speights or Tai Foster could step in for Roberts next spring. “Losing Corey’s going to hurt us,” Mattoon said. “He’s a very good crease finisher. When he’s on, he’s deadly. So he’s going to be tough to replace. He’s the second all-time leading scorer in goals at Hood. But we think we’ve got a couple kids coming in that can step in for him.” ... While Roberts led the offense in goals, midfielder Ricky Orndorff paced the team in assists, finishing with 14. Freshman Brandon McCormick and redshirt freshman Luke Slick will join juniors Alex Engler (seven goals and six assists) and Joey O’Hara (11, 1) as candidates to join junior Trey Freeman (12, 4) and sophomore Randolph Clark (9, 2) on the first midfield. “Ricky Orndorff is really going to be the guy that we’re going to miss,” Mattoon said. “He was our best midfielder this year. ... We’ve got five of our top six midfielders coming back. We’ve just got to figure out how to get them into positions to score.” ... Another starter to replace is attackman Scott Thompson (11, 4). Mattoon thinks that sophomore Mike Higgs, who registered two goals and two assists in 13 games (including six starts) is poised to fill in. “He didn’t score as much as an attackman needs to score, but I’ve seen him this summer four or five times, and he’s been working every day,” Mattoon said. “So we’re excited about him coming back. We’ve got a couple other freshman attackmen in the mix. So we’ll see.”
Forecast for 2013: Partly cloudy. After making record-setting strides in each of the previous two seasons, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that Hood would suffer a little bit of a setback this past spring. The loss of Lane took its toll on the defense, but the offense continues to be unable to find a rhythm on the field. The arrival of six incoming attackmen and midfielders could inject some life into that side of the field, but the Blazers must find consistent producers and find them soon. The defense will likely be the strength of this group, and the team was a coin flip away from qualifying for the Capital Athletic Conference tournament for the second straight year. So while not all is gloom and doom in Frederick, there are still a few questions that will remain unanswered until at least next spring.