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Review & preview: St. Mary's

A look at the 2013 season for the Seahawks and a glimpse into 2014

By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

8:00 AM EDT, June 19, 2013

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Here is the fifth 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. Tuesday’s visit was with Goucher. Wednesday’s visit is with St. Mary’s.

REVIEW

The good: The Seahawks enjoyed a solid campaign in 2012, going 10-6 overall and 6-2 in the Capital Athletic Conference. But they had even greater success this past spring with a 12-7 overall record and a 4-2 league mark. The crown jewel of their season was a 13-11 upset of 10-time national champion Salisbury in the conference tournament final that catapulted the program to its first appearance in the NCAA tournament. “I think we got better from the year before,” coach Chris Hasbrouck said. “I think we grew as individuals, and I think we’re buying into the system and we certainly improved on last year. Winning the conference was the next step for us.”

… After compiling a 2-3 record in one-goal games between 2009 and 2012, the team went 5-3 in one-goal decisions this past spring. The ability to either close out contests or rally from behind was a sign of the players’ maturity and progress, according to Hasbrouck. “I’d much rather be 7-1 in those one-goal games,” he joked. “You have to be in the game. You just want to give yourself an opportunity to win. … It’s a character-builder for us. I think we’re learning how to win and we’re learning how to win close games.”

… Several individual players had standout seasons in their senior campaigns. Attackman Patrick Mull led the offense in assists (37) and points (56), defenseman Justin Harty caused 30 turnovers and scooped up 37 ground balls, and faceoff specialist Albert Mitchell won 59.5 percent (203-of-341) of his draws and collected 125 ground balls. But the decision to replace freshman goalkeeper Joey Casey with senior Scott Marsh late in the second quarter of an eventual 11-6 loss to then-No. 12 Denison on March 13 may have been the most significant personnel move. Marsh, a walk-on who hails from Crofton and graduated from South River, registered a 7.47 goals-against average and a .622 save percentage and stabilized the defense with his play. “The kid just played outstanding from that point on,” Hasbrouck said. “Very, very consistent for the rest of the year. And that’s what we needed from our goalie. With the way we play and the goals we can score and the way we play defense, we need that keeper to be consistent day-to-day, and we’re going to be looking for that next year as well.”

The bad: St. Mary’s made its debut in the NCAA tournament a memorable one as the team took a 5-2 advantage on Lynchburg in the fourth quarter. But the then-No. 13 Hornets scored four unanswered goals to escape with a 6-5 decision that disappointed the players and Hasbrouck. “Lynchburg’s a great team, and that’s one of those games where they played hard for 60 minutes, and we were up 5-2 with a few minutes gone in the fourth quarter. That’s something that we have to do better at,” he said. “We have to be able to finish those games. We will use that as motivation. We had a moderately successful season. It was a good step to make the conference tournament, win the conference and then make the NCAA tournament. But we are extremely disappointed. There’s not one player on this team that is satisfied with the way the season ended, and I know they are using that.”

… The team’s longest losing streak of the season was a three-game stretch in which the squad dropped contests to Washington College on March 5, Muhlenberg on March 9 and Denison. After the setback to the Big Red, players and coaches alike made a commitment. “After that moment, what we started to say was, ‘We’re going to leave it on the field. There’s no regrets. When you walk off, I want you to be able to look at everybody and know that you gave your best effort,’” Hasbrouck recalled. “It was those two things that I really started to harp on in practice and games. We were going to fight for every ground ball and our shooting percentage was going to be decent.”

… The offense was better than average in scoring, assists and shooting percentage, but one area that plagued the unit was extra-man opportunities. The man-up offense converted just 25.3 percent (21-of-83) of its chances, which ranked 103rd among 203 teams in Division III. Hasbrouck said the unit struggled to develop chemistry on the field. “It’s getting the right mix,” he said. “It’s not always your best six players. It’s having that unselfish play and the ball movement and the intuitiveness. The gold standard on EMOs is you want to have that success rate at about 35 percent. The teams that are very successful are over 40 percent. We improved a little bit, and when I look back at those one-goal games, I think if we were successful on one or two of those opportunities, we might have turned that around. But it’s the right guys, the right mix.”

PREVIEW

Personnel changes: The offense returns six of its top seven scorers, but the biggest absence will be Mull, who was the undisputed quarterback from the X position behind opponents’ nets. Replacing the Fallston native and graduate will be difficult – so difficult, in fact, that Hasbrouck said he is not seeking a player to fill Mull’s role as the primary playmaker. “I think we’re going to take on a very different tenor,” Hasbrouck said. “I think we’re going to distribute the ball a little more and more players will get more touches. We’re going to take on a different look overall. … We’re not going to try to force-fit [freshman] Conor Jordan or [freshman] Matt Carney or [junior] Ben Love. Ben’s a finisher, and I’m not going to all of a sudden ask him to carry the ball and beat his defenseman and distribute. I think we’re going to have a little bit of a different look back there but with a lot of the same guys. That’ll be a good change for us, to keep things fresh and make guys feel like they’re going to have to guard us in different ways.”

… The defense will have several holes to address next season. Harty and long-stick midfielder Dalton Yohn (62 GB, 20 CT) are gone. Hasbrouck said the trio of junior David Mitchell-McShane (28 GB, 12 CT), sophomore Grant Lowenfeld (8 GB, 8 CT) and freshman Phil Cappello (17 GB, 5 CT) are poised to start on close defense, while sophomore Collin Brown (12 GB, 3 CT) could succeed Yohn. Marsh’s departure could open the door for Casey, an Ellicott City native and Mount St. Joseph graduate, to pick up where he left off when he posted a 12.18 goals-against average and a .487 save percentage in six starts. “Joey is very, very capable,” Hasbrouck said. “We want him to be more consistent. He certainly is capable of having outstanding games as he did against Roanoke. [Junior] Zack Blewett is very consistent and gives us great leadership. He’s been here for three years and knows that it takes. And then we’re bringing in three goalies that we feel are extremely capable. The best goalie that gives us the best chance to win is going to start for us.”

… Taking faceoffs would seem to be ripe for freshman Teddy Secor, who is the only returning player who took draws this past spring, winning 33.3 percent (6-of-18) and scooping up two ground balls. But Hasbrouck pointed out that freshman Reese Cassard will get an opportunity to compete for the role. “Teddy is working very, very hard right now,” Hasbrouck said. “He came in with a lot of accolades from Calverton as did Reese Cassard from Gonzaga. Those two guys had the good fortune of working with Albert and they know what it takes. It will be a spirited battle. … I think they know what’s at stake. We’re going to coach them up and one of those guys will have to grab the ring.”

Forecast for 2014: Partly sunny. The Seahawks enjoyed their finest season to date, but they are fully aware of avoiding the dreaded label of “one-year wonder.” Graduation wreaked havoc on defense for the second consecutive year, and the offense will probably be a work in progress as that unit adapts to life without Mull. But there are reasons to be positive about the big picture as well. Players like Love (36 G, 2 A), sophomore midfielder Matt Tarrant (31 G, 5 A), Jordan (24 G, 8 A) and junior midfielder Gordy Long (19 G, 4 A) should headline an offense eager to flex its muscles again. The defense will have some holes to fill, but Mitchell-McShane and a pair of short-stick defensive midfielders in freshman J.G. Hahn (14 GB, 7 CT) and junior Cody Tidwell (18 GB, 4 CT) will help anchor that group. St. Mary’s will still have to deal with Salisbury and York in the Capital Athletic Conference, but there is a confidence among the Seahawks that could be invaluable in the future.