One knee-jerk reaction to Frostburg State's 9-7 overall record in 2017 might entail watering down the program's nonconference schedule. After all, the team went only 4-3 against opponents outside the Capital Athletic Conference and dropped a pair of two-goal decisions to Ursinus and Ohio Wesleyan that likely contributed to the squad's being eliminated from discussion for a Pool C bid to the NCAA Division III tournament.
But that is not the approach that coach Tommy Pearce is taking. The Bobcats will keep Ursinus, Cabrini and Franklin & Marshall on next year's schedule. They were unable to find a date to accommodate Ohio Wesleyan, but have added Elizabethtown, which captured the Landmark Conference tournament crown to qualify for the NCAA Division III postseason.
Pearce said it does not make much sense to him to weaken the program's nonconference slate in favor of a shot at a better overall record since the players' stated objective of playing in the NCAA tournament depends on favorable strength of schedule (SOS) and Rating Percentage Index (RPI) numbers to sway the postseason's selection committee.
"One team is going to win the conference and get the AQ," he said, referring to the league's automatic qualifier. "But if you still have aspirations of being an NCAA tournament team, if you back off your nonconference schedule and your SOS goes down and it's the guys' goal on our team to make the NCAA tournament and the schedule isn't as hard as we can make it, then I'm not helping them achieve their goals. And it took us a lot of years for teams to want to play Frostburg because they're in the same boat. So I think that now that we have the opportunity and privilege to play the schedule that we do, the last thing we want to do is back off it, that's for sure."
Although the Bobcats graduated their primary faceoff specialist, top short-stick defensive midfielder, top two long-stick midfielders and one member of their first midfield, they should return the rest of the defense and five of their six offensive starters. And Pearce is expecting a motivated group driven by the indignity of failing to advance to the CAC tournament semifinals for the first time since 2013.
"We're really looking forward to next season," he said. "While 9-7 isn't what you want, you can also use that to fuel guys for next year when you've got such a big core of your team returning."