Is 2022 The Year Hobart Breaks Through?

(Photo Courtesy of Hobart Athletics)

Since Greg Raymond arrived in Geneva ahead of the 2014 season, things have been moving upwards pretty steadily. Except for that first season of the Raymond era in 2014 and the 2018 season, which followed two straight seasons in which the Statesmen either claimed the NEC tournament title (2016) or regular season title (2017), Hobart hasn’t experienced a losing season under Raymond’s leadership.

That includes exceptionally strong campaigns each of the past three seasons. Hobart went 11-5 and fell to Robert Morris in the conference title game in 2019 before going 4-1 during the shortened 2020 campaign. This past season, the Statesmen churned out a 6-3 record against an NEC-only schedule, finished second in the conference for the second straight full season, and fell to eventual NEC champion Bryant in the conference semifinals.

In many respects, Hobart has never looked better during their DI era than they have looked during the Raymond era, especially over these past few seasons.

With normalcy in scheduling returning and the Statesmen reportedly set to play one of the toughest non-conference schedules we’ve seen from them in a while, Hobart will be looking to make a statement in 2022. Coach Raymond teased a non-conference schedule that features UAlbany, Canisius, Lehigh, and Colgate, in addition to their traditional rivalry games against Cornell and Syracuse on the most recent episode of the Hobart Lacrosse Podcast.

Hobart last made the NCAA Tournament in 2016, falling to Towson in the play-in game. After being so close to the top of the NEC in each of the past two full seasons, one has to wonder if this spring is when the Statesmen finally break through and make that return to the top.

One of the hallmarks that have come along with winning at Hobart in recent years is impressive offensive play. The shortened 2020 campaign saw Hobart have the nation’s top-scoring offense (19.60 goals per game), while also being top-10 in team shooting percentage (.367). It marked the third time over the past four seasons in which Hobart boasted a top-20 offense, along with the 2017 and 2019 seasons. That trend didn’t necessarily hold up in 2021 during the second year of coordinator Stephen Brundage running things on that end of the field.

Hobart ended the season with the nation’s 25th-best scoring offense (12.22 goals per game) and ranked fourth in that category in the NEC, which housed a top-10 offense in LIU and a top-15 offense in Bryant. Saint Joseph’s also had a top-25 offense this past spring.

Coming into the 2022 campaign, the Statesmen do lose arguably their best shooter in Jason Knox, who put up a career total of 73 points off 62 goals and 11 assists during his three years in Geneva before deciding to take his talents to Ohio State. He only saw action in five games (four starts) last season and had eight goals and three assists for 11 points. While Knox is certainly a significant loss for this unit, the Statesmen do return every other top-10 scorer from a year ago.

Senior midfielder Derrek Madonna (22G/12A) and fifth-year attackman Ryan Archer (16G/16A) look to be the leaders of this Statesmen offense again this spring after being the team’s top two scorers last season with 34 and 32 points, respectively. Tommy Mott (15G/8A), who has been a mainstay and a starter since late in his freshman campaign, will also be returning for a fifth season in 2022.

Bradley Simas (10G/1A), who was a full-time starter at midfield for the first in his career last season, and Anthony Dattellas (12G/4A), who is coming off a more than solid freshman campaign, also return as the Statesmen’s fourth and fifth-leading scorers from a year ago, and will certainly be looking to take another step forward and be more productive this spring.

Troy Barthelme, Chad Bach, and Jack Grooms each saw multiple starts last season and combined for 20 points last season. The offensive trio is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what could be a solid and productive group of reserves on the offensive end of the field next season for Hobart.

Offense hasn’t been the problem for this Hobart program in recent years, and that fact shouldn’t change anytime soon. If anything, this unit should progress in 2022 with the number of proven veterans returning, as well as younger and less experienced players that have much room to grow and take a step forward this spring.

The play at the faceoff dot is another area in which this Hobart staff hasn’t had to worry about in quite some time. From 2016-2019 it was Matthew Pedicine’s job and he thrived as one of the top players at the position in the NEC. Drew Blanchard took over as the Statesmen’s primary option in 2020 and 2021 and continued that trend of dominance at the dot. This past season he went 72-for-110 (.655%) and ranked second in the conference and sixth nationally in winning percentage.

With Blanchard using his fifth year of eligibility at Ohio State, it’s time for another change at the dot. And despite losing one of the nation’s best, yet again, it looks like the trend of successful play at the faceoff dot will continue to hold for this Hobart squad in 2022. Adam Shea has served as the Statesmen’s primary backup at the faceoff position since he stepped foot on campus as a freshman ahead of the 2020 season and looks to be the heir to the position. He appeared in all nine games last season and went 81-for-128 (.633%) and ended the season as the third-best in the NEC and the ninth-best nationally in faceoff win percentage.

Similarly, the Statesmen have seen a similar situation take hold in between the pipes with Kevin Holtby stepping in as a first-time starter last season and taking over the reins following the graduation of three-year starter Sam Lucchesi. Holtby took on the challenge and thrived, anchoring this unit with 111 saves and a .531% save percentage. He ranked second in the NEC in save percentage and third in saver per game (12.33).

While the play in cage has been pretty solid over the past few seasons, it’s the play at close that has needed much improvement. And improvement was seen in 2021 as coordinator Kyle Turri headed a defense that ended the season as the 31st-best scoring defense in DI, allowing 11 goals per game. That includes three games (Mount St. Mary’s twice and Wagner) in which they held their opponent to single digits. The Statesmen also had a top-20 man-down defense, stopping their opponent on .692% of their opportunities.

Coming into the 2022 season, Hobart returns two of their starting poles from last season in Kyle Nalen (9GB/4CT), who is a two-year starter and returning for a fifth season, and senior Michael Christiansen (13GB/7CT), who has been a starter since his freshman season. Their only major losses on the defensive end are Sam Mueller at close and LSM Ethan Black-Fernandes.

Junior SSDM Bobby Baltzer (17GB/6CT) and fifth-year LSM Frank Imburgia (3GB/4CT) return to lead the Statesmen’s rope unit.

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