Here is the opening 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 begins with a visit with St. Mary’s, which finished with a 5-12 overall record and a 2-6 mark in the Capital Athletic Conference. (Coach Jason Childs was unavailable for comment because of an emergency.)
The good: The only way the Seahawks could have sunk lower than their 1-14 overall record in 2017 — which was their worst record in at least 24 years — was to go winless in 2018. Fortunately, they put that notion to rest by thumping Ferrum, 14-3, in the season opener Feb. 10 and collecting their highest total of victories in Childs’ three-year tenure. It’s a modest start for a once-proud program that has fallen on some tough times in recent years.
» Statistically, the defense was a middle-of-road unit, ranking fifth in the nine-team CAC. But St. Mary’s allowed 10.7 goals per game, a rate that was almost four goals better than last year’s average of 14.3. Junior goalkeeper Ross Snodderly (10.69 goals-against average, .478 save percentage) seamlessly replaced former starter Max Alderman (14.35 GAA, .479 save percentage) in the cage, and sophomore defensemen Christian Quiroa (29 ground balls and 13 caused turnovers) and Andrew Fonseca (27 GB, 9 CT) filled vital holes.
The Seahawks are expected to return all 10 starters, which should keep the cupboard full in St. Mary’s City. The midfield did graduate a pair of reserves in (7 G, 7 A) and (1 G, 9 A), but after the debuts that freshmen (9 G, 3 A) and (7 G, 4 A) had, the offense might be equipped enough to reload in the midfield, which had lost two starters in each of the past two seasons.
» A number of players enjoyed career bests this past spring. As mentioned above, Quiroa and Fonseca fared well in their first years as full-time starters. Junior midfielder Ray LaPlaca set career highs in goals (23) and assists (18), sophomore midfielder Erich Wuesthoff exploded for 20 goals and four assists after compiling two goals and one assist in 2017, and junior midfielder Marshall Rhodes had 16 goals and four assists after getting four goals and four assists last season. The team’s lone representative on the CAC’s second team was senior long-stick midfielder Conner Campbell (56 GB, 48 CT, three goals and four assists), who ranked 11th in Division III in caused turnovers per game at 2.8.
The bad: While the Seahawks improved by one game in the win-loss column in the conference, their 2-6 record left them out of the league tournament for the third consecutive year. Losses to Mary Washington on March 24 and Southern Virginia on April 7 were decided by three goals or fewer. In the end, the 13-11 setback to the Eagles three months ago proved especially frustrating because if St. Mary’s had defeated Mary Washington that day, the program would have secured the sixth and final spot in the conference playoffs.
» Despite the return of four of six starters on offense and some of the career seasons posted by several players, that unit took a step back, averaging 8.7 goals this past spring compared with 9.0 goals a year ago. A contributing factor was a shooting percentage of .269, which was better only than Marymount (.241) and Wesley (.219) in the conference. Four starters shot better than 31 percent, but the team’s overall inefficiency proved to be too much of an obstacle to overcome.
» The offense did not get much help from a faceoff unit that won only 39.5 percent (151 of 382) of its draws. The success rate was only better than Wesley’s 25.3 percent and was the program’s lowest mark since the 2015 squad won 35.9 percent (120 of 334). Junior Michael Bucci (41.9 percent on 108 of 258, 59 GB) and freshman Luke McWright (40.8 percent on 42 of 103, 38 GB) must improve, but also could use some aid from their teammates on the wings.
Personnel changes: Connor QuinnDan LongJeremiah ClemmerDominic Venanzi
» The biggest departure is Campbell, who hounded opposing midfielders, scooped up ground balls, and emerged as a force in the transition game. Perhaps freshmen Tommy Rinder (16 GB, 6 CT), Antonio Mastromanolis (10 GB, 3 CT), Ogden Brown (5 GB, 3 CT) or Cray Drayton (3 GB, 2 CT) could step in and succeed Campbell. But ball-hawking, ground ball-vacuuming long-stick midfielders do not always grow on trees.
» After graduating short-stick defensive midfielder Mike Becraft (28 GB, 7 CT, 10 G, 6 A) in 2017, St. Mary’s bade farewell to his replacement, David Fritz (24 GB, 6 CT, 1 A). Venanzi, who was a solid two-way midfielder as he added 30 ground balls and four caused turnovers, and McWright (7 CT) might be tabbed to assume full-time roles at that position. But developing depth at the short-stick defensive midfield position should be a top priority for Childs and the coaching staff.
Forecast for 2019: Stormy. With LaPlaca, junior attackman Max Groen (23 G, 11 A) and Wuesthoff expected to return to the fold, the offense would appear to be a strength for the Seahawks, who went 5-3 when scoring at least 10 goals. But as well as the defense played, the unit surrendered 10 goals or more in 12 games, and the team lost all 12. Building off the foundation set this past spring would be a good start, but St. Mary’s has lots of work to do all over the field before it can be a serious contender in the CAC.