(Photo Courtesy of Robert Morris Athletics)
In 2015, Robert Morris went 3-11, which is good for their third-worst season ever after a 0-13 and 1-13 record in their first two seasons as a program. But since that three-win season, the Colonials have done nothing but climb. And they have climbed up to being one of the best and most consistent mid-major programs over the past three seasons.
The Colonials went 13-5, won the NEC, and made their first-ever NCAA appearance in 2018, where they lost to Maryland, 14-11, in the first round. They followed that historic season up with another NEC title and NCAA Tournament appearance in 2019. This time they fell to eventual champion Virginia, 19-10.
When the 2020 season was cancelled, Robert Morris was sitting with a 4-3 record and looked primed to three-peat as NEC champions and make it back the NCAAs. However, that dream of making a third NCAA Tournament run will have to wait until 2021. But that dream of a third NEC title will never come, as the Colonials exited the NEC over the summer.
Robert Morris has not publicly released their plans for which conference they will be playing in during the 2021 season, but multiple sources have indicated to Lacrosse Bucket that an announcement could be coming soon. But no matter what conference they find themselves in this season, they will still have one of the most talented rosters of any mid-major teams in college lacrosse.
And much of that talent comes from fifth-year returnees, which happen to disproportionately lie on the offensive end of the field. The Colonials will return attackman Ryan Smith (17G/11A) and midfielder Austin Popovich (18G/9A), who were their top two scorers last season. Three of their other top five scorers from last season will also return in senior midfielder Jake Boudreau (9G/7A), junior attackman Brandon Sulhoff (12G/1A), and sophomore attackman Elliot Holden (10G/2A).
Returning those five is huge, especially Smith and Popovich, but their biggest returnee comes by way of the Transfer Portal, as former Utah attackman Jimmy Perkins has transferred back to Robert Morris to use his fifth-year of eligibility.
A native of Pittsburg, Pa., Perkins spent four years at Robert Morris before transferring to Utah with two years of eligibility left following the 2018 season, where he helped lead Robert Morris to an NEC title and their first NCAA tournament appearance. Perkins sat out his first two seasons at Robert Morris (2015,2016) due to injury. The 5-foot-8, 175-pound attackman amassed 79 points (38G/41A) during his two seasons at Robert Morris. At Utah, he tallied 52 points (42G/10A) and was one of the team’s top three scorers both years, which were the program’s first two seasons in DI.
Perkins, Popovich, and Smith make one heck of a scary offense. And when you consider some of the younger talent around them that showed real promise last season, things just look even scarier. This offense will be that keeps defensive coordinators up at night in 2021.
Most of the hype around this team lies on the offensive end, but the Colonials defense is not to be slept on. After ranking 56th in scoring defense, allowing 13.83 goals per game last season, this defense can certainly improve and can be much more efficient than they were last season.
They do loose one of their starting poles, Brad McCulley, due to graduation, but return their other top two poles from last season in senior LSM/D Shaun Vines (15GB/8CT) and junior Evan Hellmich (9GB/8CT). Vines, who transferred in from Hartford C.C. prior to last season, is a force in a multitude of ways and has been a starter his entire college career. Hellmich was a full-time starter for the first time last season after seeing quality action, which included seven starts, during the 2019 season.
Both guys look to be leaders on the back end in 2021 and are more than capable to leading the charge and helping move this defense, as a whole, in a positive direction after last season’s lower than average performance.
In cage, the Colonials have a battle for the start job again, as they return both Ben Savick and Grant Koopman. Savick, who transferred in from Palm Beach Atlantic (DII) prior to last season, started the first three games of the season and put up a .483 save percentage. Koopman started in the final three games and posted a .435 save percentage.
Senior Michael Autry and freshman Steven DelleMonache are their two options at the faceoff dot. Autry saw limited action last season after serving as the Colonials’ primary faceoff man in 2019, where he went 85-for-202 (42%) and received NEC All-Tournament honors.