Geoff Shannon

Men’s Lacrosse: Looking beyond the numbers behind this year’s Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award candidates

by Geoff Shannon March 07, 2012 in Lacrosse

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We’re a true ‘Money Ball’ society now, aren’t we?

The number crunching revolution, exemplified by author Michael Lewis’ aforementioned book about the deep-level statistical analysis used to keep the early-2000s Oakland Athletics baseball team competitive (Brad Pitt just starred in the movie version, but you knew that), has fixed itself into every last crevasse of the sports world. Lacrosse is no exception. Any extended analysis of the Fastest Game on Two Feet, and it’s stars, must include a requisite numbers breakdown —goals per game, shots ratio, groundballs numbers— to accurately parse the game.

So, yes, in that vein, the statistical breakdown of this year’s Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award candidates is impressive.

Here’s a quick numbers crunch. Through 862 career games, the Fab 20 have combined for an astonishing 1,335 career points. That points number includes two players who, earlier this season, hit the 100 goal/100 assists mark in Cornell’s Rob Pannell, the 2011 USILA’s Lt. Raymond Enners Award winner for the nation’s best DI player, and Virginia’s Steele Stanwick, the 2011 Tewaaraton award recipient.

Don’t forget the defense, as this is an active group. The five defenders on this year’s nominee list —Princeton’s Chad Weidmaier, Jacksonville’s Jake Ziegler, Notre Dame’s Kevin Randall, Ohio State’s Matt Kawamoto, Duke’s C.J. Costabile— have a combined 176 caused turnovers and 468 groundballs between them. The two netminders —Hofstra’s Mike Gvozden and Siena’s Tom Morr—have made 56 percent of their saves through their career.

Talent and leadership are, interestingly enough, also somewhat quantifiable among the nominees. This year’s Fab 20 features nine returning 2011 USILA All-American nominees, and 16 players were elected captains by their 2012 teammates.

There is no doubting the significance of these Big Important Numbers. They build a strong, quantifiable case for why this year’s selectees earned their place on the nomination list for this year’s Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award honors.

Still, as a reporter who’s followed these players through their impressive careers so far, it’s the small numbers, and individual moments, that speak more to why this group is receiving the love in their final season of DI play.

Already, in the early stretches of the 2012 campaign, Lowe’s nominees have produced spectacular moments. At Penn State, nominee Matt Mackrides recently scored the game-winning OT goal with two seconds left, upsetting top 10 program Notre Dame in earning the Nittany Lions’ their best signature win in over a decade. While Mackrides’ box score for the game wasn’t mind-blowing (2 goals), it’s the pressure his goals, particularly the game-winner, were scored under that help define why we’re talking about him now.

Against Binghamton, in the first game of the season, Cornell’s Pannell posted a career-high 10 points, vaunting him into the aforementioned elite 100 goals/100 assists club (only 47 DI players are on the list). Virginia’s Stanwick earned his spot earlier this year in the 100/100 group after a two-goal, three-assist performance against Stony Brook.

If their moment hasn’t happened already in 2012 (it’s still early), there’s a history of big-time performance to look back on for many of the nominees. Duke’s Costabile is remembered as the hero of the 2010 National Championship game after scooping the first face off in overtime and scoring the title-winning goal in less than 10 seconds.

There was Siena goalie Tom Morr, posting a career-high 19 saves in a losing effort against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. There was Maryland attackman Joe Cummings’, showcasing his flexibility on offense by switching to midfield and helping the Terps make a run to the 2011 title game. There was Villanova’s Matt Bell, helping Villanova as a leader during their push to the NCAA Tournament. There were players like Hobart’s Bobby Dattilo, Robert Morris’ Kiel Matisz and Jacksonville’s Jake Zielger who perform spectacularly day in and day out for teams that live outside the view point of the lacrosse press.

For the nominees, there will be a million tiny moments —on the fields, in the locker rooms, in a classroom— this season that the stat trackers will miss, for obvious reasons. It’s in those moments that the 2012 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award recipient will emerge. Here’s to looking forward to that process.