(Photo Courtesy of Hobart and William Smith Athletics)
When Hobart made the jump from DIII to DI in an effort to preserve their long-standing rivalries with Cornell and Syracuse, the Statesmen had won 13 NCAA DIII national titles, including 11-straight from 1980 to 1991. Hobart was, indeed, the class of DIII.
However, since their move to DI, they haven’t had nearly the same amount of success. As a DI program, Hobart has only made five NCAA Tournament appearances. In addition, they have only churned out two double digit win seasons, going 10-7 in 2016 and 11-5 in 2019 during Greg Raymond’s third and sixth season in Geneva, N.Y. The Statesmen could have been heading in the same direction in 2020, as they were sitting with a 4-1 record when the season was cancelled.
The Raymond era is, arguably, the best in the DI history of Hobart lacrosse. A Hopkins grad, he has pushed the Statesmen to new heights in his seven seasons at the helm, leading them to an NEC Tournament berth each of his six full seasons, outside of 2018, and their first conference title in 2017.
In many respects, Hobart lacrosse has never looked better as a DI program. And with the exit of two-time champion Robert Morris from the NEC, Hobart could very well be the team that steps up and takes that top spot in the conference, especially considering how close they have been over the past few seasons.
Much of the success that the Statesmen have had under Raymond thus far can be attributed to the offensive firepower that they have shown, especially over the past few seasons. In 2020, Hobart boasted the nation’s highest scoring offense (19.60 goals per game) under first year offensive coordinator Stephen Brundage. They also boasted a top-10 team shooting percentage of .367 during the shortened 2020 season. And it’s been a pretty similar story in Geneva as of late, as the Statesmen have boasted a top-20 scoring offense in three of the last four seasons (2017, 2019, 2020).
Coming into Brundage’s second season as offensive coordinator, things should could continue to stay steady or increase on the offensive side of the ball. The Statesmen’s excellent use and execution of using sets of pairs in this Brundage system proved to throw defenses off last season and allow them multiple high quality looks from either inside or outside each game.
The only thing they need to worry about is who will be running this high-flying offense in 2021. With Eric Holden graduated and headed to Maryland for a fifth season, they are out 20 goals from last season. However, they do return sophomore attackman Jason Knox (18G/3A) and junior attackan Ryan Archer (7G/11A), who was their top assist getter last season. With these two alone, Hobart is in good hands on the offensive side of the ball heading into 2021 and has a chance of repeating what they did last season.
But they return much more than just those two top attackmen. Sophomore midfielder John Herlihy (12G/1A) and junior midfielder Derrek Madonna (7G/2A) will be their top two returners at the position and should each put together another solid season after really popping off this past spring. Wyile Sherman, who can be a two-way player, and Bradley Simas should also take another step forward and produce more after having a solid 2021 campaign as a junior and sophomore.
At that third attack spot, sophomores Jack Grooms and Troy Barthelme, and senior Tommy Mott look the most likely to possibly gobble it up. All three have a certain amount of versatility to their game that has allowed them to get on the field in a multitude of ways during their college careers, thus far, and makes them valuable to this offense.
On the defensive end, things have been a bit different. The Statesman have stayed around the middle of the pack in scoring defense for the past four seasons, ranking 43rd in 2020, 36th in 2019, 45th in 2018, and 46th in 2017.
Coming into 2021, the Statesmen look to improve on the back end. And outside of the goalie spot, where they lose three-year starter Sam Lucchesi, the Statesmen look to have potential for serious growth. They return their entire starting close defense, which is headlined by PJ Deplha. Coming back for a fifth season, the Onondaga CC product has been the Statesmen’s top defender over the past two seasons, recording 21 ground balls and 17 caused turnovers during that time.
Junior Michael Christiansen (6GB/2CT) has been an impact player since he first stepped on campus as a freshman and senior Kyle Nalen shined as a first year starter during the shortened 2020 season, recording 11 ground balls and causing one caused turnover. The two should only get better in 2021, and considering they will have Delpha back, the cohesion will only help this Hobart defense grow as a unit.
Obviously, the one big question that this Hobart team has on the back end surrounds who will play in cage. The Statesmen return two goalies, including CJ White. The senior started in the first three games of the 2019 season and saw some late game action in 2020 against Canisius. Sophomore Kevin Holtby played in two games last season.
Hobart also bring in two freshman at the position in Severna, Md.’s Loukas Sotiropoulos-Lawrence, who flipped late from Furman when the program was shut down, and Lincoln-Sudbury, Mass.’s Andrew Vona.
Whom ever gets the starting job in cage for the Statesmen will have some big shoes to fill, and a somewhat experienced group of poles in front of them that only allowed double digits against two teams last season, Colgate and Syracuse. They also have some very solid depth at the defensive midfield position, which includes multiple guys with two-way potential.
The faceoff dot is another position where Hobart has found success in recent years with Matthew Pedicine dominating from 2016-2019. Last season, their first without the All-Conference faceoff man, the Statesmen didn’t really take much of a step back at all, at least for the five games they go to play. Adam Shea and Drew Blanchard proved to be a solid one-two-punch at the dot, each going over 50% on at least 83 draws in five games last season.