(Photo Courtesy of St. Bonaventure Athletics)
The St. Bonaventure Bonnies went 0-13 during their inaugural season in 2019 and then followed that up with an 0-6 record during the shortened 2020 season. But this past year, Randy Means’ squad finally got over that initial program-building hump and earned their first win, doing so in their season opener against Quinnipiac, taking down the 2019 MAAC runner-up 13-6.
A convincing, season-opening win over a program that ended the last full season as the conference runner-up was just the tip of the iceberg for this program and the success that would follow the remainder of the 2021 spring. Playing a MAAC-only schedule, the Bonnies ended the year with a 5-5 record and reached the MAAC Semifinals, where they faltered against eventual conference champion Monmouth, 12-5, whom they had previously only fallen to by one goal, 13-12, in the regular season.
Year three will always be remembered as the year in which St. Bonaventure got over that initial hump, won a game, and put the wheels in motion for further program growth and success. Now heading into year four, they will look to keep things moving in a positive direction, which has been the case for new programs in recent years.
Fellow MAAC member Monmouth went 0-13 during their inaugural season in 2014, only to churn out a 14-4 record, which included a win over No. 14-ranked Villanova, and win the conference in year four (2017). Marquette, which began play in 2013, won the Big East during their fourth season of play in 2016. A pair of Massachusetts-based programs in Boston U. and UMass Lowell, while neither has claimed a conference title or made the NCAA Tournament yet, are two more examples of programs that found a great deal of success in year four of existence.
St. Bonaventure appears to be following a similar trajectory as many other recently-added DI programs. And following a season of the likes that this team experienced last season, as well as the talent they bring back on both ends, could very well have a fourth-year bump of their own in 2022.
Defense is where some of the biggest growth has been seen for this program since that inaugural season, and it’s that end of the field where they should be the strongest once again this coming spring. After ranking 73rd (14.85 goals allowed per game) and 59th (14.17) during their first two seasons, the Bonnies made a huge jump and finished the 2021 season with the nation’s fourth-best scoring defense, allowing 9.10 goals per game, and sitting behind only Georgetown, Monmouth, and Notre Dame.
Returning to a regular schedule in 2020, the numbers could certainly drop for this Bonnies team. However, they should still be expected to remain, at least, a top-25 defense, especially with one of the DI’s best returning in between the pipes to anchor things on the back end.
Brett Dobson came onto the scene strong as a freshman in 2019, starting seven of the 11 contests in which he appeared and being a MAAC All-Freshman selection. As a full-time starter in both 2020 and 2021, he has continued to showcase his talents and has elevated himself as one of the best goalies in the nation. The senior is coming off a campaign this past spring in which he 136 saves with a DI-best .599% save percentage. He also ranked fifth nationally in goals-against average (9.10).
Returning Dobson is massive for this Bonnies squad and practically ensures that no matter the circumstances, this defense will put up a fight. Dobson is the backbone of this entire defense and they seem to go as he does, and that isn’t expected to change in 2022.
Out in front of the cage, St. Bonaventure returns their top two poles at close in senior Zack Belter (23GB/14CT) and sophomore Nick Porfilio (8GB/9CT). The pair ranked first and third on the team in caused turnovers last season and were the only two poles to start all 10 games at close defense. In addition to the aforementioned pair, seniors Nick Conklin (14GB/5CT) and David Steria (10GB/7CT), and redshirt sophomore Brady Wijbrandts (18GB/13CT) all return. The three combined for 10 starts last season with Conklin and Steria making four apiece while Wijbrandts saw just two starts.
Sophomore Cam Germain (5GB/3CT) also returns after a solid freshman campaign in which he started saw action in nine contests with starts in the first six games of the season. He adds to the collection of poles who could see quality minutes this spring as either a starter to top reserve.
Offensively, the Bonnies return each of their top five scorers from a year ago, including reigning MAAC Offensive Player of The Year Jake Rosa. He put up 39 points off 17 goals and 22 assists as a redshirt sophomore in 2021 to lead this Bonnies offense. Sean Westley (23G/8A), Austin Blumbergs (15G/3A), Mark Belles (9G/7A), and Brett Beetow (7G/6A) also return after strong campaigns this past spring where they ended the season as top five point-getters.
2021 saw St. Bonaventure take a pretty big step on the offensive end, averaging 9.3 goals per game. They only averaged 6.2 and 6.1 goals per game each of the two seasons prior. With as much talent as they return following a season in which they took such a step, this unit looks to keep trending upwards in 2022.
The biggest area of the field in which this team needs to improve this coming spring is at the faceoff dot. In their first three seasons as a program, the Bonnies have gone 31% (2019), 21% (2020), and 36% (2021).
While this season did see some progress from this squad at the dot, they were still amongst the worst in DI. The Bonnies return sophomore Austin Holley, who went 79-for-208 (.380%) at the dot as the team’s top option as a freshman in 2021. Senior Jack Almond (1-for-10) is the only other player who took any draws last season.
St. Bonaventure has real potential to continue to take steps forward in multiple facets of the game next season, and possibly put together a special year four. But if they continue to struggle at the faceoff dot, it could limit just exactly how much success the Bonnies see in 2022.