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Review & preview: McDaniel men’s lacrosse

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 McDaniel, which finished with a 6-10 overall record and a 1-7 mark in the Centennial Conference.

Review

The good: For the second time in as many years, the Green Terror went 6-10 overall and 1-7 in the league. And for the second consecutive season, the program played many sophomores and freshmen. The starting lineup was composed of five sophomores and three freshmen, and three freshmen and two sophomores were valuable players off the bench. Coach Keith Euker was glad to see the younger players on the roster dive into the thick of the action.

“We got a lot of experience for our young guys,” he said. “We played predominantly freshmen and sophomores all year. So that experience is one of the intangibles that you have to acquire in order to build on each year. So I’m looking forward to seeing those guys come back next year now that they know what it’s like to play in this conference and they’ll prepare accordingly.”

» One of the few bright spots for the team was its ability to successfully move the ball from defense to offense without committing a turnover. McDaniel’s 86.3 clearing rate (253 of 293) ranked 25th in Division I and marked a program high since 2006 when that squad cleared the ball 95.4 percent of the time (270 of 283). Although the offense was unable to convert those possessions into goals (more on that later), Euker was glad to see the team clear the ball effectively after working on it diligently in practice.

“Riding and clearing is something that we put a heavy emphasis on, and we probably did it even more so this year because we knew we were going to struggle in other areas,” he said. “So we thought that it we could get a couple ride-backs, if we could clear the ball and maybe get some transition out of it somehow, it is something that we focus on heavily.”

» Sophomore attackman Carson Marshall (Glenelg) set career highs in both assists (23) and points (38), sophomore midfielder Jackson Reilly (Southern-AA) established career bests in both goals (20) and points (24), and freshman Joey Conklin (Westminster) led the team in both ground balls (62) and caused turnovers (30). But Euker said he did not anticipate freshman attackman Micah Brooks scoring a team-high 33 goals, becoming the first player in program history to accumulate that many goals since former attackman D.J. Rickels scored 40 in 2012.

“He was one of the pleasant surprises that we had this year,” Euker said. “We knew he was good because we had recruited him. He was looking at us and Salisbury. We knew that he was good, but I’m not sure we thought he was going to be as productive as he was. That was a real positive for us.”

The bad: As mentioned above, the Green Terror finished with the same overall and Centennial Conference record as last year’s squad. They opened their league schedule with a 7-3 win against Haverford before losing seven consecutive games to end the season. Although the program did not regress, Euker called the 2018 campaign “a major disappointment.”

“I think in my three years here so far, the record might not show it, but I think it was probably the most disappointing season that we’ve had,” he said. “We had a couple key injuries, and we just didn’t have guys to put in and back-fill with, and it just made things challenging for us as the season went on. There’s a lot we’ve certainly got to work on, but I think having more numbers next year will be a big help. It’ll be the first year that we will have a full-size team with almost 50 guys. We’ll have to regroup and move forward, but this year was a big disappointment, to be candid.”

» For the second consecutive season, the offense converted less than 25 percent of its shots, succeeding on only 22.4 percent (129 goals on 576 attempts) to rank 215th out of 239 Division III units. McDaniel’s shooting percentage slipped to 16.5 percent (48 of 155) — with the lowest point occurring via a 10 percent outing in an 11-4 loss to Swarthmore on April 21. Euker could have cited the graduation of four offensive starters as an excuse, but he placed the blame on the current group of players and himself.

“We had a lack of commitment to getting better at shooting, and that’s something we’re going to fix,” he said. “Guys were getting shots. We were getting a decent number of shots per game for the most part. But ultimately it comes down to that individual making that shot when he gets it, and that was where we really struggled offensively. And frankly, that’s got to fall on me because there’s a lot more that we could have and should have done.”

» The Green Terror won only 39.7 percent of their faceoffs (137 of 345) to rank 193rd in the country. That percentage is the lowest in program history since at least 2005. Jake Schoenick (40.2 percent on 39 of 97 and 12 GB) was the team’s primary faceoff specialist, but the junior was sidelined by a bout with appendicitis and underwent emergency surgery. Freshman Howard grad Will Rund (47.3 percent on 53 of 112, 35 GB before tearing a labrum) and sophomore long-stick midfielder Jack Myers (39.6 percent on 42 of 106, 27 GB), a Liberty grad, did what they could, but Euker said that position could have used more depth.

“Faceoffs were a big difficulty for us this year because we just didn’t have the numbers to have several guys to keep rotating in,” he said. “So that was one of the biggest challenges for us. We could just never get possession of the ball, and it really ended up hurting us.”

Preview

Personnel changes: After graduating seven starters from last year’s squad, McDaniel is expected to welcome back all 10 starters in 2019. But the team bade farewell to top short-stick defensive midfielder Pat Snight (13 GB, 6 CT), whom Euker called the “one that we’re really going to miss on the field.” Rund, who ran with Snight, could be joined by sophomore Frankie Kratovil (13 GB, 5 CT) or junior Jared Payne (11 G, 5 A), who might transition from offense. Euker said the mission is to mold players who can play both offense and defense.

“Ultimately, we want to move into having two-way middies,” he said. “So we’ve been kind of building toward that the last couple of years. This year will probably be the first year that we try that with a couple of guys and see how they can adjust and handle it. … We’ll certainly have our hands full with that position.”

» The faceoff position will get a slight makeover. Schoenick, Rund and Myers are expected to return, and Euker’s goal of fortifying the faceoff position will include the addition of incoming freshman Charlie Miller. Euker is hopeful that greater numbers at that spot will yield more intense competition in practice and then more success in games.

“We’re looking forward to the guys coming in to help us face off, but most of all, we’re excited by the fact that they’re going to be able to challenge one another and they’ll be able to make themselves better in that aspect every day,” he said.

» Reilly, sophomore Mount Hebron grad Bryce Brookhart (15 G, 5 A) and Payne made up the starting midfield, and that trio dominated most of the runs because the coaches did not have much trust in a second line. Euker said sophomore Sam Mutz (13 G, 3 A) could shift from attack to midfield and freshman Jackson Kratovil (6 G) could get more playing time. But the offense is in need of a second midfield that can alleviate some of the pressure on the starting threesome.

“Our midfield needs more guys,” Euker said. “For the last three years, we’ve had five, maybe six guys that we could run in the midfield. With some guys coming in, we’ll have some relief, but they’re going to be freshmen. The talent level is there, but they’re going to have to ramp up mentally quickly. We’ll see who’s capable of doing that and who’s not. Since I’ve been here, we’ve struggled at the midfield position because we haven’t had enough guys that we felt could play at this level on a consistent basis. That’s something we’re going to have to take a look at this fall.”

Forecast for 2019: Stormy. The good news is that McDaniel brings back a wealth of experience on offense and defense, including its top nine scorers and sophomore goalkeeper Jacob Katzen (11.28 goals-against average, .497 save percentage). That positivity, though, might be countered by the knowledge that the current roster encountered its fair share of struggles and inconsistencies this past spring. An offense that dropped from 9.8 goals per game in 2017 to 8.1 in 2018 must rediscover its rhythm if the team wants to harbor hopes of clinching a berth in the Centennial Conference tournament.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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