(Photo Courtesy of Robert Morris Athletics)
The 2022 season will be the beginning of a new era at Robert Morris in more ways than one. For starters, the Colonials will be part of the Atlantic Sun (ASUN) adding men’s lacrosse alongside Air Force, Bellarmine, Cleveland State, Detroit Mercy, and Utah. The move comes following their exit from the NEC during the summer of 2020, which led to the Colonials playing as an independent last season.
Secondly, this spring will mark the start of the Craig McDonald era in Moon Township. The former UMass associate head coach/defensive coordinator takes the reins as a first-time head coach at one of the more successful mid-major programs in recent history following the departure of Andrew McMinn, who took the job a now conference foe Utah.
McDonald takes over a program that is situated to be the class of the ASUN from the get-go. The Colonials have gone 33-21 since 2018, gave both Maryland and Virginia a challenge in the NCAA Tournament in 2018 and 2019, and are coming off a season in which they went 7-6 and faced all but one of the now ASUN foes. Robert Morris went 4-0 in such games and won all four by a combined score of 62-40.
Robert Morris does lose quite a bit of talent from last season’s squad, especially on the offensive end with Ryan Smith, Jimmy Perkins, and Austin Popovich all moving on. While losing three of your top five scorers and two of the greatest players in program history is a massive blow to this team, the Colonials do enter 2022 with a roster that, despite their losses, looks ready-made to win an ASUN title and get back to the NCAA Tournament.
Offense has been the bread and butter of this Colonials program in recent years. Featuring a certain amount of Canadian flair, Robert Morris has produced some very exciting offenses in recent years. Last season, the Colonials ended the year with the No. 15 ranked scoring offense in the nation, averaging 13.54 goals per game. They also had the ninth-best team shooting percentage in DI (.324%) and a top-30 man-up offense, cashing in on .333% of their chances.
While it’s not unlikely that this offense could take a sizable step back in 2022 with as much talent as they lose, it should still be the strength of this Robert Morris team.
Fifth-year midfielder Jake Boudreau (14G/14A) and attackman Corson Kealey (21G/5A) will be running the show on the offensive end for the Colonials in 2022 as their top two returners on that end of the field. The pair of Ontario natives were the team’s third and fourth-leading scorers last season and have been impact players ever since they stepped foot on campus ahead of that 2018 season.
Behind the aforementioned fifth-year returnees, this Colonials roster features a host of returning players on the offensive end who could very well step up and play a much bigger role this spring. Senior attackman Brandon Sulhoff (15G/3A), junior A/M Elliot Holden (8G/7A), and senior attackman Dan Taddeo (2G/9A) headline that group of supporting cast members returning in 2022. Sulhoff started the final six games of the season while Holden and Taddeo each saw seven starts.
The story has been much different on the other end of the field, where the Colonials have been amongst the bottom half of DI for multiple years now. This past spring Robert Morris ended the season ranked 56th in scoring defense, allowing 14.31 goals per game. However, the Colonials were amongst the best caused turnover teams in the nation, ranking sixth nationally in that category (9.77 per game).
Robert Morris will return a good deal of talent on the back end with starting goalie Liam Rosenthal, as well as their top two poles in James Leary and Owen Down returning. Rosenthal saw action in 10 games with eight starts last season, making 106 saves with a .505% save percentage. Leary led the team in ground balls with 42 while also causing 14 turnovers at the LSM spot, and Down started all 13 games at close while racking up 22 ground balls and 14 caused turnovers.
Additionally, the Colonials will see Evan Hellmich (18GB/10CT) return following a junior campaign in which he started eight contests, including the final six. Senior Johnny Chaisson saw nine starts last season while tallying 26 ground balls and eight caused turnovers.
Even more problematic than their defense in recent years has been the Colonials’ performance at the faceoff dot. None of the six players who attempted a faceoff last season won even 50% of their draws and their top two options at the dot, Steven Dellemonche, and Michael Autry, went .415% and .453%. Dellemonche is the only returner among the two. The Colonials do bring in a pair of freshmen at the position in Zach Seppi and Bo Columbus who could have a chance to play quite a bit of minutes and challenge for that starting job.
Robert Morris could see their offensive success hold steady with Boudreau and Kealey as the elder statesmen leading the way, and their defense make significant strides this season. But if they can’t find the success they need to at the faceoff dot, that could, essentially, put a cap on exactly how successful this team is in 2022.