SoCon Report



Welcome to the first SoCon Report. We will be doing one of these each week of the College Lacrosse Season. We figured since we are based out of Louisville, KY which is in the South and home to the Bellarmine Knights of the SoCon that we should do this. I think you all will enjoys these very much throughout the course of the 2018 season.

In this very first edition we are going to talk pre-season and go over some story lines for each team as we head into the 2018 Season. Also, I give my predictions on what I think each team will do this season.


Air Force

    Air Force should has been through the ringer this off-season and it is well documented too. The Air Force Academy launched an investigation into the Men's Lacrosse program back in October. That investigation has just now ended as of December 14th. The investigation was sparked after allegations of  Hazing. This investigation saw juniors and seniors be suspended as well as coaches. The investigation is only kind of over as of now. All players have been reinstated except for a couple who were essentially kicked out of the program. Also, the falcons head coach Eric Seremet is still being investigated and his future with the program is still unclear. We have had numerous articles and updates on this mess out west and we will link all those down below. Those also include the original stories from the Colorado Springs Gazette and College Crosse.




  Alright, enough talk about investigations let's get into the actual Lacrosse. That is what you came here for right? 

   The Air Force Falcons finished off the season last year with a first round loss in the NCAA tournament against Denver. The final score of that game was 17-10. The Falcons had a good season last year as I said they went to the NCAA tournament and they won the SoCon tournament. Their record last year ended up being 12-6 which was maybe a little too many losses but it didn't seem to stop them in conference play as they only lost 1 game in conference and the other 5 were against non-conferences foes in Denver, Marist, Boston U, Marquette, and Denver again in the tournament. 

   Air Force loses 7 players off of last years roster that were seniors. So, the Falcons will return the majority of their team as well as gain 9 guys from the 2017 recruiting class. The Falcons return one of the best and most impactful guys in Chris Walsch. Walsch lead the team in almost everything last season. Walsch, a 5'7 attackman out of Finksburg, MD lead the Falcons in goals, assist, points, and shots last season. He ended the season with 36 goals, 28 assist, 64 points, and 113 shots. That is crazy. Walsch was named the SoCon offensive player of the year in 2017 and was also named as a USILA All-American. That is really really good and I am sure that he is looking to add onto his already impressive resume this coming season. Now, on the defensive side of the ball the Falcons return a very young group. The defense will be made up of mostly juniors and seniors as they graduated a few top guys last season. I feel that defense will be the biggest question mark coming into the season for the Falcons.

   Overall, Air Force will have another great year and should be a favorite to win the conference along with Richmond. Air Force will first have to prove that they can overcome adversity after all the mess that has unraveled over the fall. If they can prove that they can overcome all of that, which I believe they will, then they could possibly put something together really special and this could be a great year for them. I also want to point out that this is a service academy so I really don't think that one investigation will get them down. These are the men that are training to fly jets and go into war, an investigation of their lacrosse program is nothing compared to what some of them will have to go though later in life. 

  Lastly, I want to give my prediction for their record but first I want to give a shout out to Jeremiah Hemme. Jeremiah is a junior LSM out of Trinity High School in Louisville, KY! We always gotta give the KY Products a shout out! OK, so for my prediction I think that Air Force will end the season with another 1st round loss in the NCAA tournament and with a record of 13-6. They start out the season with three tough games as they play Notre Dame, Duke, and Denver to start. After that they have some easy and moderate but winnable games in Marist, Cleveland St., Boston U., Michigan, and Detroit Mercy. I think they will win every one of those games except Boston U. Next up they start conference play and I think they will go undefeated again and win the SoCon tournament as well but then lose in the 1st round of the NCAA tournament. That is the outlook that I have for Air Force this season and I really hope that they have a great season again. Also, these guys are fun to watch play!




Bellarmine

   My hometown Bellarmine Knights! Bellarmine has been a program that just can't seem to get over the hump. They made it to their first conference tournament in 2016 and almost beat Richmond but lost down the stretch. Last year was another disappointing season as they were one win away from making it back to the SoCon tournament and lost to Jacksonville on senior day to end the season. The Knights need to get over the hump soon or those rumors of them dropping to DII are going to become reality. I know that nobody wants that to happen, except for the GLVC conference. 

    As I said Bellarmine had a disappointing season last year after what seemed like a trend setting 2016 campaign. The Knights should be one of those middle teams in the SoCon this season just as they have been for the past few years. The only real struggle will be experience with this 2018 squad. Coach Burns gained 22 freshman from the 2017 recruiting class including two local products, Blake Roshkowski and Luke Niebrugge. They are just two of four local guys from Louisville, KY on the Knights roster this year. So again shout out KY products! So, back to what we were saying about this team being very young. That will be the biggest challenge that the Knights will have to face. The Knights only have 6 seniors on this years roster. Also, they have lost a few guys who left the program for personal reasons. They also lose their all time leading scorer in Tucker Ciessau. Ciessau was a beast at the attack position and I saw him do things on the field that I had never seen before. He was a one of a kind to come through Bellarmine and his name will be right up there with the greats like Dillon Ward.

    Bellarmine should have a decent season this year and I hope they do a lot better than most people think they will. I believe that Coach Burns and his staff can produce some great results if everyone buys in. They start out the season with Robert Morris at home and then they travel to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan. After that they play Cleveland St. at home and then they start a five game road stretch where they play Manhattan in Philadelphia, Detroit Mercy and Marquette in the Midwest Classic, then High Point, and Jacksonville to start conference play. They then have Air Force at home, Richmond away, Mercer at home, VMI away, and end the season at home against Furman.

  So, what is my prediction on what Bellarmine's record will be this season. Well, I think that could possibly win 7 games. In reality with this much youth there will be a ton of learning so I feel that they will finish the season with a record of 5-8. I think that they could win more and they could also lose more. You really never know what is going to happen with this young of a team. I feel that they will beat Robert Morris after losing by 2 last year and they will also beat Cleveland St., Manhattan, Mercer, and VMI. 

  I hope that the Knights have a good season and wish them luck. There are some great people over there and I wish nothing but the best for them. I believe that Bellarmine will eventually get over that NCAA tournament hump but it may be a 3-5 years down the road. Also, I will be attending all of their home game yet again this season! We will be live tweeting all the Bellarmine games we go to as well.




Furman

   The Paladins will be entering their 5th season as a program. They have one of the best coaches of all time at the helm in Richie Meade. Furman is a young and ambitious program. I think that they have done very well in their first 4 seasons and this will just be another step this season. I thought that last year could have been their year but it ended up not being that so maybe just maybe this year will be their year. 

   Furman ended last season with a 7-8 record and a 6-1 conference record. I would say that is pretty good for a 4 year old program. Also, they were able to beat Air Force which I am sure was their highlight of the year. Also, they made it to the SoCon tournament but lost to mighty Richmond. Like I said this year might just be their year. When I say their year I mean that they could win the SoCon. They will have to improve on their non-conference wins as they only won one last year and that was against Mt. St. Marys. The good thing is that they return their top goal scorer in Lou Yoving. Yoving had a break out freshman year and is bound to improve upon that this year. Yoving finished last year with 26 goals and 1 assist adding to a total of 27 points. I think we may see an improvement in his assist numbers this season. Anyway you want to look at it the Sophomore out of St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, FL should have a stellar year. Yoving was also named to the Inside Lacrosse top 35 freshman after last season.

  One thing that may be gone is that chip on their shoulder. Last year was the first senior class so they had a certain persona and swagger that they had. They had that chip on their shoulder that they built this thing. I am wondering if that same mentality will be there with the upper classmen this year or if the vibe will be completely different. For Furman's sake I hope that they keep that and still ride it and pass it down. Either way Furman may have a down year or they may have an up year. I am predicting an up year for sure.

  Now, let's get into Furman's schedule. The Paladins start off the season with Vermont at home and then travel to North Carolina. Next they have a pair pf neutral site games with Sacred Heart and Canisus. They will end non-conference play with Denver at home and Penn State in yet another neutral site game. They start conference play with Richmond at home then have two road games against VMI and Mercer. They then have High Point at home and Air Force away. Furman will end the year with an away game against Bellarmine. So, this is a pretty decent schedule. It's not the strongest but it is doable for a team like Furman. I am going to go ahead and predict what I think Furman's record will be at the end of the season. I feel that Furman will end the season with a record of  6-7. I think that Furman will beat Sacred Heart, VMI, Mercer, High Point, Jacksonville, and Bellarmine. Then that would obviously mean losses to Vermont, UNC, Canisus, Denver, Penn State, Richmond , and Air Force.

   I think that Furman is primed for a good year and they may even make the SoCon tournament and could possibly even win the whole dang thing. You never really know until you see how they will gel and what motivates them. I wish them good luck and hope I can watch a few games.

2018 Schedule: http://www.furmanpaladins.com/sports/m-lacros/2017-18/schedule




High Point

  High Point is another young program that has seen success early. They enter their 6th season in 2018 but they have already been to one NCAA tournament. They made the tournament in 2015 after winning the first every SoCon championship. I know this program has been booming ever since and you can see the benefit. This year should be another year of growth for this program.

   The Panthers will return their 2nd best goal scorer in Connor Robinson, a Senior midfielder out of New Minster, British Columbia, Canada. Robinson was second in goals last season as he finished with 16 goals and 20 points on the season. Robinson is for sure a guy that the Panthers are going to lean on as a senior. Also, High Point returns a whole host of other seniors including their goalie Griffin Basile out of Milton, GA who should be the starter as he has been named a captain.

  The Panthers finished off last season with a disappointing 4-10 record that they look to improve seriously this season in 2018 and I for sure think they can do a lot better than 4 wins. High Point starts off their season with two road games against #1 Duke and then Georgetown. they then invite the defending champs Maryland into their home to square off and then Virginia. They then have another stretch of two away games with St. Johns and Robert Morris. Then they start conference play with a home game against Bellarmine. The at Richmond, home versus Jacksonville, away at Furman, home against VMI. They finish the season with a road game against Air Force and then finish off with a home game against Mercer. That is a schedule that is similar to last season but is still very tough throughout.

 Now, I am going to select and predict what I think High Point will do this season in 2018. I have a feeling that this might be a little bit of an average year for High Point. I can see them maybe beating one of those tough teams like Virginia early but I'm not fully confident about it either. In all honesty I think that High Point will finish the 2018 season with a record of  6-7. I think know they will lose to Duke and Maryland. I think they will lose to Virginia, Richmond, Furman, Air Force, and Mercer. I know High Point has talent but I am just so hesitant to say this is their year 100% yet. I think that game against Mercer will ultimately decide if they get in the SoCon tournament or not.

  I hope that High Point has a good season and I want to wish them luck. I feel they have a lot of talent and have the possibility of doing something with that.

2018 Schedule: http://highpointpanthers.com/schedule.aspx?schedule=400&path=mlacrosse




Jacksonville

   Entering their second year under new head coach John Galloway the Dolphins are sure to grow upon what they were able to do last season. However, Jacksonville does lose some luster after the G.O.A.T, Casey Powell left the program after being the offensive coordinator for only one season. That is a blow in recruiting but they still have John Galloway at the helm and he knows what he is doing and has done a great job thus far.

   Jacksonville will return their top 3 goal scorers from last season and that will be really good for the Dolphins. Senior midfielder McLean Chicquen out of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada led the team in goals last season with 23 goals and 12 assist for a total of 35 points. Junior attackman Will Hendrick out of Lancaster, PA was second in goals with 21 goals and 5 assist for 26 points. 3rd on the scoring list as season for the Dolphins was sophomore attackman Dwayne Mattushik out of Paramus, NJ. Mattushik had a total of 15 goals, 3 assist, and 18 points. Defensively the Dolphins return a ton of guys. This will be great for them as that will provide great experience and maturity on that side of the ball. Really, this team is experienced all over the place and that will certainly help them as they enter the 2018 season.

   The Dolphins went 3-11 last year but still made the SoCon tournament because of how ties and tie breakers played out. The vibe around this program seems to be very positive and they seem to be growing and improving. So, what does their schedule look like this season? Well, they have a very tough rigorous non-conference schedule as they start the year with Navy at home and then on the road against Duke and Marquette. They finish up February with home games versus Detroit Mercy and Ohio State. They then go to Vermont before starting conference play. They are home versus Mercer and Bellarmine then away against High Point to finish up the month of March. They have Air Force at home then away at Richmond and Furman. The Dolphins will finish the year with a home game against VMI which should be a good win to send the seniors off right.

Now, what do I think Jacksonville will do this season? Well, I think that they will be better than last year because it seems the 2nd year under a new head coach is always really good as the guys are now used to that coach's system. I feel that is going to be the case with Jacksonville this season. I think they finish the season with a record of 3-10. Now, that does nit sound very pleasing at all but I feel they will beat Detroit Mercy, Bellarmine, and VMI. That would give them a decent non-conference win which they had 0 of last season. Obviously that would have them losing to Navy, Duke, Marquette, Ohio St., Vermont, Mercer, High Point, Air Force, Richmond, and Furman. Now, there are a few games in there like Mercer and Furman that they could win but at this point in time it is just not clear that they can do that.

 Jacksonville is a growing program and I think they grow and gel even better this year than last. They could play a lot better and actually get an out of conference win this year. I hope they continue to grow as a program and I know Coach Galloway has that program in good hands and is doing a great job. Good luck this year guys.


Mercer

 The Bears have had a pretty few successful seasons since the start of their program back in 2011. They have even been to a few conference tournaments. That program has seemed to grow as the sport has grown very rapidly in the state of Georgia. Now with the MLL and NLL in Georgia that gives Mercer a chance to grow even more. They have also been able to crack some local talent and those guys have stood out very clearly on the field and dominate players.

  The Bears lose 10 seniors from last season. One of those players includes Kevin Yoggy who was a complete stud last season as a senior. I think that is their biggest loss as he seemed to do pretty much everything for them and as a local kid seemed to be the leader and heart and soul of the team. What Mercer does return is their 3rd leading scorer in junior Lucas Wittenburg who again is another local Georgia boy. Wittenburg notched up 14 goals and 14 assist last season. They also return sophomore starting goalie Bradley Hodval who again is another loacal Georgia boy. I think they will be very youthful this year and that their top two scorers are gone will play a big factor in their performance this year.

The Bears went 5-8 last season and failed to make the SoCon tournament. They will defidently be looking to improve on what they did last season. I felt Mercer was better than a 5 win team last year but they just couldn't get the job done when they needed to. This season they have a pretty tough schedule as they play some top teams and some great mid-major teams. They start out the season with two home games against Vermont and Lehigh and then on the road at Cleveland State. They then go and play Detroit Mercy. The Bears then go on a 5 game road stretch against North Carolina, Delaware, Mount St. Marys, Jacksonville, and Air Force. They then have two home games against Furman and VMI before going on the road at Bellarmine and then back home versus Richmond. They end the year on the road at Richmond.

Now, I think that the Mercer Bears will end up finishing the 2018 season with a record of 4-10. I think they will beat Cleveland State, Mount St. Mary's, Jacksonville, and VMI. Obviously I think that they will then have loses to Vermont, Lehigh, Detroit Mercy, North Carolina, Delaware, Air Force, Furman, Bellarmine, Richmond, and High Point. That doesn't sound like an improvement like I talked about earlier but you have to understand that how much they lost that will be a pretty decent outcome for Mercer this season. Obviously, they would not be satisfied with that outcome but I feel that is where they are at right now. The one game that I would say could be a potential upset win is Lehigh just because I think they could potentially beat them as they have been average for a few years.

Mercer is going through a stage if youthness and a little bit of rebuilding so they won't have the best season but they can still get some decent wins and who knows they could somehow get into the SoCon tournament. I want to Wish the Bears luck this season and hope I can see them play a few games.


Richmond

  The Spiders have been one of the two top dawgs in the SoCon over the past few years and I don't think that will change any time soon. They have won the SoCon and have been in the championship numerous times. They have been a model for new programs coming up and ones that are in the works because of their early success. They come in at #20 in the Inside Lacrosse pre-season poll.

   Richmond returns some key guys that helped in their success last season. One of the key pieces returning is junior attackman Teddy Hatfield out of Summit, NJ. Hatfield had 33 goals and 26 assist last year. That made a total of 59 points for him. They also return their 2nd leading scorer as well. Junior attackman Ryan Lee out of South Salem, NY had a total of 31 points for the spiders last season. That included 19 goals and 12 assist. Those two on the same attack line will surly create some havoc for any defense they face this season. However, one big loss for Richmond is goalie Benny Pugh. Pugh was stellar and I thought he was one of the best goalies in the country as did many others. He really upped that defense last year so you have to wonder what their D will be like without him in cage.

  The Spiders ended last season with a 12-4 record and they basically ran through the SoCon except for Air Force who beat them in the regular season and in the conference tournament. There other losses were to Duke and Virginia and each of those were one point losses. So, they had a really good 2017 campaign and they obviously want to build upon that this season. Now, let's look at what the Spiders schedule holds for them in 2018. They start the season on the road at UMBC and then at home versus Bucknell and Mount St. Marys. They then get their first real test as they go on the road to Notre Dame and Duke in bask to back weeks.  Then they play VMI on the road and North Carolina at home. Next up is at Furman, home against High Point, and on the road at Virginia. Then they have Bellarmine and Jacksonville at home and the last two games of the year are home versus Mercer and then at Air Force.

I think that Richmond will have another great year and they will end the season with a record of 11-4. I think that they will get wins over UMBC, Bucknell, Mount St. Marys, VMI, North Carolina, Furman, High Point, Bellarmine, Jacksonville, and Mercer. That would have them losing to Duke, Notre Dame, Virginia, and Air Force. I also want to add that I believe they will get beat by Air Force in a very close game in the SoCon tournament and yet again miss the NCAA tournament. This is what happened last year and I just feel this isn't the year but maybe in 2019 they can eventually achieve the national success they are striving for. That would mean regularly beating teams like Duke and Notre Dame for sure.

I loved watching Richmond last season and I can't wait to watch them again this year. I think they will be very exciting and fun team as well. I want to wish them the best of luck this season and hope they can do what they expect to get wins this season and be successful,


Virginia Military Institute - (VMI)

  VMI has been a struggling program for many years now. It is very hard to recruit to a private military academy for any sport. In all honesty VMI has been the laughing stock of the NCAA for many years. Some people don't even know that there is a VMI. I think that is awful because there is only 71 teams in DI, 72 in 2019, so if you are a true lacrosse fan or a player you should be able to name every single team because it's only 71. VMI really just needs to find some sustainability or they will never have any success. 

  VMI went 2-12 last season and the only wins they had were against NJIT and Hampton who are two of the newest DI programs. That is downright pitiful and I know VMI doesn't like all that losing. I know they want to improve on what they have done the past few seasons and I believe they the eventually will. If you look at any sport you will see that it takes time to build success and that is the same with VMI. VMI supporters, fans, and players need to #TrustTheProcess and just take it step by step and they will eventually get there. VMI will return two of their top three guys which is very good for them and the building of this program back to a successful rate. The top two guys that the Keydets return are junior attackman Josh Daniel who put up 14 goals and 20 assist last season. Also, senior attackman Wesley Sanders is a big impact guy as he had 17 goals and 8 assist last season.

Let's take a look at what the Keydets schedule looks like in 2018. They start the season with three road games against Manhattan, NJIT, and Mount St. Mary's. Then they have Wagner and Richmond at home. Next up the Keydets will face Air Force on the road and then Furman and Hampton at home. That is followed up by two home games against Mercer and High Point. They then have one home game versus Bellarmine before finishing the season with two road games versus Jacksonville and Virginia.

So, what is my take on how VMI will do this season? I really would love to pick them to win more than two or three games but I am just not sure that is even possible. I think that VMI will finish the season 1-12. I think that the Keydets will lose every single game except Hampton. I think that one game they could win is NJIT but they have beaten them by slim margins in the past few years and I'm gonna give NJIT the upper hand this season. VMI  is a talented team but I am just not sure if they can get out of the Cleveland Browns comparison just yet. 

I want to wish VMI the best this season and I hope that they can continue to improve and that we will see them actually compete for the SoCon in the next few years. That would be good for them and for the conference as a whole.

2018 Schedule: http://www.vmikeydets.com/SportSelect.dbml?SPID=12380&SPSID=100811





SoCon Pre-Season Rankings

Alright, I have laid out each team in the SoCon and now it is time for me to rank them 1-8.

  1. Air Force
  2. Richmond
  3. Furman
  4. High Point
  5. Bellarmine
  6. Mercer
  7. Jacksonville
  8. VMI

    
           Thanks so much for reading and I hope you all enjoyed it and please keep an eye out as we are going to be doing one of these every single week during the 2018 College Lacrosse Season!



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