D3 Lacrosse Preseason Top 20 Countdown: Plattsburgh, St. Mary’s

Over the next few weeks, we will be previewing the Top 20 teams in Division III according to Inside Lacrosse’s Face-Off Yearbook rankings. Two teams will be featured each day so be sure to check out the front page for all of the updates as we countdown to the 2014 season. Click here to see a full archive of the Top 20 Countdown.

No. 20 Plattsburgh State

Photo via GoCardinalsLacrosse.blogspot.com

2013 Record: 14-4, 5-1 SUNYAC
Last Game: SUNYAC Tournament Championship, 9-2 L vs. Cortland State
2013 Scoring Average: 12.7 goals per game, 7.06 goals allowed
Leading Returning Scorer: Brendan Damm, So. – 36 goals, 16 assists, 52 points

Plattsburgh kicks off this season’s previews with one of the more intriguing cases in the Top 20. The Cardinals return second-leading scorer Brendan Damm, third-leading scorer Tim Lawrence (30 goals, 16 assists) and sixth-leading scorer Tom Duggan (17, 10) meaning a fair amount of firepower will still be in the lineup for coach Ryan Cavanaugh. However, the losses of Brett McClelland (24, 18), Nick Travers (20, 7, 51% FO), and Gordie Gehring (6.74 GAA, 55.8% Save) leave holes in key spots — goalie and faceoffs chief among them.

Senior Erik Howard is the heir apparent in net, having made seven appearances and one start last year. Of the five players who took at least 30 draws last year, sophomore Joey Kromer (24-41) and junior Brendan Hickey (17-34) both proved they could get the job done at a decent clip in their small sample sizes, but as a team the Cardinals only won 49.6 percent of their faceoffs. Kromer’s rate of 58 percent, if sustained through an entire season, will make a big difference for Plattsburgh in 2014.

The Cardinals’ non-conference slate is highlighted by a pair of games against NESCAC foes in Middlebury and Conn College. Both of those games will be good tests of the Cardinals’ mettle in 2014 and will be looked back on when it comes time to seed the Pool C teams in May. Unless, however, Plattsburgh can pull off what our next team did last season.

No. 19 St. Mary’s College of Maryland

St Mary's
Photo via SMCM Athletics

2013 Record: 12-7, 4-2 Capital, Conference Tournament Champions
Last Game: NCAA Tournament, 6-5 L vs. Lynchburg
2013 Scoring Average: 10.32 goals per game, 8.92 goals against
Leading Returning Scorer: Ben Love, Sr. – 38 goals, 2 assists, 40 points

The Seahawks of St. Mary’s pulled off an upset that turned the NCAA Tournament field on its head last May. By knocking off Salisbury in the Capital championship game, they forced the tournament to pull an at-large seed from someone deserving in order to include the Maryland powerhouse. St. Mary’s had a resume worth looking at, but had it not been for that 13-11 upset it likely wouldn’t have played another game. They lose key players on attack in Patrick Mull (21 goals, 37 assists), in the midfield with Albert Mitchell (1 goal, 1 assist, 60% FO) and Dalton Yohn (63 ground balls, 21 caused turnovers), defense in Justin Harty (30 caused turnovers), and in goal with Scott Marsh (7.35 GAA, 62.3% Save).

While that may seem like a lot, when you look at the rest of the Seahawks’ roster it is fairly encouraging. Chris Hasbrouck returns seven of his top-10 scorers from 2013, including four of the top five. Love, along with fellow attackman Connor Jordan (19, 10) and midfielder Matt Tarrant (19, 6) will lead a young, potent attack that should be much improved over last year. The biggest hole to fill will be at the “x” where Mitchell helped control the tempo of the game and allow what was an inexperienced group on offense to see a majority of time on the ball. If they can find another 60-percent face off guy, they’ll be in good shape.

St. Mary’s will once again play an absolutely loaded non-conference schedule before Capital play starts. Roanoke, Dickinson and Washington College are all ranked in the top 20 and Muhlenberg beat SMCM last year. If they can get out of that schedule alive, they should be in good shape to snag another Pool C bid in 2014 — that is, if they don’t beat Salisbury again.