(Photo Courtesy of Wagner Athletics)
Welcome to the Fall Snapshot series. Throughout the fall I will be taking an early look at all 75 DI men’s college lacrosse teams and giving a snapshot of where each is heading into the 2023 season.
Head Coach: Bill McCutheon (Fifth Season, 2019-Current)
Wagner 2022 Record: 3-9 (1-6 NEC)
Key Departures: Stephen Dwyer (A), Aidan Clark (A), Danny Cassidy (D), Matt Morris (D)
Key Returners: Brendan Higgins (LSM), Tommy Scarpello (D), Danny Brady (G)
Transfer Additions: CJ Sweitzer (M, Bryant), Xander Bauguess (D, Hofstra), Jack Matuszewski (D, Connecticut College)
In 2021, Wagner went 1-9 with its lone victory being a milestone one as it marked the program’s first conference win since 2017. In 2022, the Seahawks hit even more milestones as their consecutive wins over NJIT and Mercer gave the program it’s first two-win season since 2019. Its third win, a 14-8 win over NEC foe Sacred Heart, marked the first time Wagner had recorded more than two wins in a season since 2018 (4-10).
The highlight of Bill McCutheon’s squad last season was its defense as the Seahawks’ finished the season tied with Notre Dame for 10th in DI in scoring defense (10.08 goals allowed per game) and ranked fourth in Overall defensive efficiency (25.1%), per LacrosseReference. Goalie Danny Brady also ranked fourth nationally in save percentage (59.1%).
Heading into the 2023 season, Wagner will be looking to continue building upon the progress in which it has made over the past few seasons. And it will be doing so in a new conference as they join former NEC foes LIU, Mount St. Mary’s, and Sacred Heart, as well as former SoCon member VMI, in joining the league.
Can The Seahawks’s Get Possessions?
One of the biggest issues last season for this Wagner squad was just simply possessing the ball. The Seahawks ended the season 55th in clearing percentage as they went 83.2% (232-for-279) in that aspect of the game. They went under 80% in six of their contests last spring. That included a season-worst 76% (16-for-21) performances in a 9-7 loss to Monmouth.
In addition to its clearing woes, Wagner also had trouble creating possessions off the faceoff as the Seahawks ended the year ranked 70th nationally in team win percentage (37.3%). Its primary option, Bobby Blewitt, went 41-for-100 (41%) at the dot. Matt Rueter went 38-for-93 (40.9%). Both are back in 2023.
To win games you have to possess the ball. It’s one of the simplest facts in lacrosse. If Wagner is going to improve its success in the win column, it will have to find ways to get more possessions and opportunities for the offense to put up points. Despite having two great shooters last season, those chances just weren’t there often enough.
How Will The Offense Be Retooled?
Speaking of Wagner’s offense, it will undergo some drastic changes following last season as its top two scorers, Stephen Dwyer and Aidan Clark, are both gone. Dwyer put up 20 goals and five assists last spring while Clark had 25 goals and seven assists. The pair combined for for 45 goals and 50 points in total.
In addition to the aforementioned attackmen, Wagner also loses its top midfielder from a year ago in Tyler Lawton. The middie put up five goals and six assists for 11 points on the season. In total, the Seahawks loses 61 points between the three top point-getters exiting the program.
Returning for this Wagner offense is graduate student Jack Brady (9G/2A), sophomore Carson Skinner (4G/4A), and senior Benjamin Stewart (6G/2A), among others. The three should help form a core for this new-look offense to build around.
Does The Defense Keep Up Its Production?
As previously mentioned, this Wagner team was headlined by its defensive production. Anchored by second-team All-NEC goalie Danny Brady (169 saves, 59%) and headlined out front by a solid group of poles in Danny Cassidy, Matt Morris, Brendan Higgins, and Tommy Scarpello, the Seahawks ended the season ranked 10th in DI in goals allowed per game (10.08).
Three key pieces of that defense return with the goalie Brady and LSM/defenseman Higgins back for their senior seasons. Close defenseman Scarpello returns for his fifth and final season of college lacrosse as a graduate student. With those pieces, and especially Brady, back for the 2023 season, the question must be asked whether this unit can retain the growth it saw lasts season.
Wagner allowed 16 goals per game in 2021 and 10 per game in 2022. The growth on the back end was evident for the Seahawks last spring and if they see it again it could very well be a sign of more overall growth for this program.
Potential Breakout Player
Benjamin Stewart, Senior, Midfield
Through his two years on Staten Island, Stewart has appeared in 14 games and seen three starts (all in 2022). With that, he has notched 11 goals and dished out four assists for a career total of 15 points. One of the top returning producers in 2023, Stewart could see his role greatly increase this spring for the Seahawks.
Wagner brings in a 15-man freshman class with its 2022 recruiting efforts.