(Photo Courtesy of Hampton Athletics)
Hampton’s hiring of Chazz Woodson as the program’s third head coach in program history sent shockwaves across the lacrosse landscape and can only be described as somewhat of a rockstar hire. And while having one of the greatest players in the history of the game leading your program is exciting and certainly has plenty of upside, it will take Woodson time before we really get to see the full potential of the Pirates.
While he has been successful as a player both in college and the pros, and has had success as a high school and club coach, Hampton is the first college coaching job that Woodson has ever held. When Woodson talked to Lacrosse Bucket in early August he acknowledged that there would certainly be a learning curve for himself, especially as it pertains to things off the field that he has never had to deal with before. But as far as on the field, Woodson is one of the brightest minds in the game and the transition should be pretty smooth.
Coming into the 2021 season, there is certainly excitement around the Pirates. The hiring of Woodson and the signing of Aris Brown, the youngest son of NFL and Lacrosse Hall of Fame member Jim Brown, certainly created plenty of buzz. However, the Pirates have seen a few exits that suggest that this spring could be pretty bumpy, especially considering that they won’t have in person fall ball due to Coronavirus and won’t be on the field as a team until January.
After going 0-6 and facing the most DI opponents in program history, Hampton loses staring goalie Kevin Mondy Jr. due to graduation and faceoff man Ian Groom, who has transferred to Hartford. Mondy, who has been the Pirates’ starter in between the pipes for the past few seasons, made 55 saves with a 36% average last season in their six games and has been one of the most consistent pieces for the Pirates over the past few seasons. Groom went 87-for-154 (56%) at the faceoff dot last season and has been an impact player since he stepped foot on campus. He went 71% at the dot in 2019, asserting himself among the nation’s leaders in faceoff percentage as just a freshman.
The Pirates also lose senior defenseman Andrew Gray, who has been an impact player on the back end since transferring from St. John’s following his freshman season. He recorded 10 ground balls and caused four turnovers this past season.
While the Pirates do have some significant losses, especially on the back end, they still return a good amount of guys on both ends of the field. That continuity alone should be able to aide the Pirates during this transition year.
Offensively, the Pirates will return their top five scorers in seniors Derian Williams-Sturdivant (5G/6A), Pierce Johnson (6G/2A), sophomore Miles Fawcett (3G/5A), senior Elliott Johnson III (6G/1A), and junior Lonnie Jones (3G/4A). In addition, the Pirates will also have multiple others back who saw significant time last season and should take another step forward in 2021.
Senior defenseman Pearson Benson (15GB/11CT) and junior LSM Tyler Dey (9GB/6CT) are their top two returning poles. Junior Ian Fischer and senior Juwan Woodson, who each saw multiple starts last season, will also be back and look to make a bigger impact this spring. And while the biggest question on the back end for the Pirates is who will be starting in cage, this defense, which was the worst in the nation last season, could see an improvement with so many experienced poles returning.
At those two specialist spots where there are holes to fill, there are a few guys who could step up and take on the task. In cage, senior Paxtin Powell saw some action in all six games last season and recorded 21 saves with a 44% save percentage. And while most of that time was in garbage time, it is still live game reps. Jordan Brown was the Pirates’ backup at faceoff, going 4-for-19 (21%) and taking draws in five games.
Additionally, the Pirates have a pretty strong freshman class and any number of those guys could step up and make an impact in 2021. And if that is the case, things could be looking better than ever at Hampton.