How Much Ground Can Jacksonville Gain in 2022?

(Photo Courtesy of Jacksonville)

Since the arrival of John Galloway, Jacksonville has seemingly done nothing but rise. After going 3-11 and climbing their way into the SoCon Tournament in Galloway’s inaugural season, the Dolphins responded in 2018 by going went 8-7 and making the SoCon title game for the first time in program history where they fell to Richmond by just one goal.

While 2019 saw the Dolphins take a bit of a dip, despite making the postseason, and their 2020 campaign was cut short, they bounced back strong this past season in 2021. Jacksonville went 7-7 (4-2 SoCon) and saw their season end with an 11-9 defeat against High Point in the SoCon semifinals.

Jacksonville has seen their season end in the SoCon Semifinals three out of the past four full seasons (2017, 2019, 2021) and in the conference title game once during that time frame (2018). Additionally, the Dolphins have seen tremendous facility upgrades during the Galloway era which further increases the optimism about this program becoming a SoCon power.

The only thing the Dolphins have yet to do is win the SoCon Tournament and get that NCAA Tournament auto bid. And it is the next logical step in the development of college lacrosse’s most southern DI program under the direction of John Galloway.

With Air Force, as well as Bellarmine, leaving the SoCon for the ASUN, there is likely even more room than before for Jacksonville to step up and take hold of the SoCon. The Dolphins sit among the “big three” of the SoCon alongside Richmond and High Point. The Spiders and Panthers each have at least two conference titles to their name. Now the only question is when will Jacksonville join their SoCon counterparts in making it to the promised land, and is 2022 the year they finally get it done?

The Dolphins ended the 2021 season with the 32nd-ranked offense in DI and third-best in the SoCon, averaging 10.93 goals per game. A big part of that offensive success came from fifth-year attackman Matt Stagnitta and redshirt senior midfielder Evan Tyler. Stagnitta, who transferred in from Johns Hopkins last season, was the Dolphins’ second-leading scorer with 43 points off 23 goals and 20 assists. Tyler had 21 goals and seven assists for 28 points as the Dolphins’ top midfielder.

Replacing the two and the 71 points they contributed last season won’t be easy. But while the Dolphins do lose two key players, they return more with Jack Dolan (29G/20A), Jeremy Winston (14G/7A), and Jacob Greiner (15G/4A) all returning in 2022. Dolan and Winston were primary starters at the midfield spot last season while Greiner played in eight games and started each of the final six games of the season at attack.

The trio, as well as redshirt junior midfielder Tory Hettinger (14G/1A), are the returnees who should make up the core of this offense in 2022. With Dolan, Winston, and Hettinger made up one solid midfield unit that could attack in numerous ways last season and could very well be one of the top and deepest units at that position in the SoCon again in 2022, especially with the number of talented reserves they bring back with guys such as Curtis Goddard, Tucker Garrity, and others.

Greiner is the top returner for an attack unit that won’t have too much starting experience coming into the season. Tom Heed, Sam Chase, Ethan LaMond, and others could all potentially arise as full-time starters for this unit after seeing sizable action in both the shortened 2020 season as well as this past spring.

In addition to the returnees Jacksonville brings back to lead this offense in 2022, they also have added a number of graduate transfers who could very well step in and make an immediate impact. Most notable among them is former Tufts (DIII) attackman Max Waldbaum. The Denver native comes to Jacksonville after a successful career with the Jumbos. He was their second-leading scorer during the 2019 season, tallying 80 points (68G/12A) while helping to lead Tufts to an NCAA Quarterfinal appearance. He was their third-leading scorer this season with 46 points off 31 goals and 15 assists.

Waldbaum was a major impact player in DIII, and while it has yet to be seen if he can translate to the DI game, we have seen it before. It wouldn’t bet at all surprising if Waldbaum stepped right into the starting lineup and served as that alpha attackman the Dolphins need this spring.

Former Hartford midfielder Tyler Corpora and Florida State (club) A/M Reid Smith have also joined the Dolphins squad ahead of the 2022 season. While it’s yet to be seen just how many of these grad transfers will pan out, having the experience of the aforementioned trio can certainly help this offense which does lose quite a bit from last season.

Things may look a little bit better, at least on paper, for this Dolphins defense coming into the 2022 season with not many question marks at all. Defenseman Connor Shears is the only loss for a defense that ranked 36th nationally and third in the SoCon last season, allowing 11.21 goals per game under first-year defensive coordinator Chris Perzinski.

Jack Heed (12GB/7CT) is the only defensive returnee who started all 14 games while Colin Hinton (21GB/16CT) is Jacksonville’s top returning pole from a production standpoint. The redshirt senior played in 12 games with 10 starts last season. Zack Deaken (22GB/9CT) and Dixon Smith (23GB/5CT) also return after seeing multiple starts lasts season while serving as the Dolphins’ top two ground ball-getting close defensemen.

Jordan Young was the Dolphins’ top non-faceoff ground ball leader last season, picking up 31 while serving as their top LSM. He also caused eight turnovers during his redshirt sophomore season. The Pennsylvania native has consistently been one of the Dolphins’ more impactful poles throughout his career and was a primary starter at close defense in both 2019 and 2020. He could very well return to that role this spring if needed.

While there is certainly a strong stable of poles lining this Jacksonville defense coming into 2022, the Dolphins have much of the same at the goalie position. Jason Yoquinto served as the team’s top goalie this past season with 109 saves and a .495% save percentage. Adam Baker saw action in seven games with four starts, making 32 saves with a .410% save percentage. Joining the group this year is former North Carolina goalie Luke Millican and former Canisius goalie Otto Bergmann.

Millican, a grad transfer, started as a freshman for the Tar Heels before suffering a season-ending injury and serving as a backup for the remainder of his time in Chapel Hill. Bergmann started as a freshman for the Griffins during the shorted 2020 season and asserted himself as one of the best young goalies in the nation. He left the team during the 2021 season.

With as many proven options as the Dolphins have competing for that starting goalie spot, the battle will truly be one of the more intriguing storylines coming into the 2022 season in the SoCon. Mixed with the number of options and experience Jacksonville returns in front of the cage, this defense could very well see significant improvements front to back this spring.

Nathan Kapp returns as the Dolphins’ top faceoff man. He went 187-for-332 (56%) and grabbed 93 ground balls during the 2022 season, and should be just as big of an asset to help not only spark early offense but win the middle of the field this coming spring.

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