Army Lacrosse has a big game this weekend against #18/#19 UMass, and that means it’s finally time for the second annual AFF Army Lacrosse Season Preview.
— Army M.Lacrosse (@ArmyWP_MLax) February 4, 2020
Army Black Knights
Army has been a primarily defensive-minded team for the past few years, but with the team’s best player serving on the attack, and arguably its best position group working the midfield, that seems likely to change in 2020.
This year’s Black Knights squad has lost All-Patriot Goalie A.J. Barretto and perennial All-American Defender Johnny Surdick, and even with firstie Defender Tom Rigney picked for the preseason All-Patriot Team, it’s hard to imagine that Army’s defense won’t take a step back. They may be good — even very good — but Barretto and especially Surdick aren’t guys the team can easily replace.
— Army M.Lacrosse (@ArmyWP_MLax) May 6, 2019
A lot depends on how the team transitions to a new goalie. Barretto was good as a cow, but he really took it to the next level in his firstie season. If presumed starter Greg Coleman can string together a few quality starts while the rest of the defense finds its groove, this will really help.
Similarly, Army was really good with face-offs two years ago, but the team took a marked step back in 2019. The Black Knights dealt with the issue by bringing up Surdick and Rigney to scoop ground balls off contested starts, but how long can they rely on that trick with new guys working the long poles? Yearling Ethan Branagan can help his team quite a bit by improving on last year’s 39.9% winning percentage off restarts. If Army can get the ball to its offense more often, then maybe their defense won’t have to play lights-out every possession.
Thankfully, the Black Knights return an experienced crew at the midfield. Like Rigney, fellow team co-captain Matt Manown was picked for the preseason All-Patriot Team. He’ll be joined by classmate and returning starter Connor DeWitt and cow Nicholas Garofano. All three of those guys put up at least ten goals last season. Moreover, with that much experience at midfield, the transition game ought to be one of this team’s best strengths in 2020.
Firsties Sean O’Brien and Miles Silva will lead the attack. Silva had thirty-nine goals last year. That’s a lot. But it’s yearling sensation Brendan Nichtern who’s liable to draw the most attention. Nichtern had thirty goals last year as a plebe but also fifty assists! He is a deadly threat in his own right, but the Army team really functions best when he draws the defense’s attention and thereby facilitates the rest of the offense. It took awhile for that to shake out in 2019, but in 2020, this offense ought to get hot right away.
— Army M.Lacrosse (@ArmyWP_MLax) January 28, 2020
What to Watch
Last year saw Army struggle with face-offs but make up for it with quick turnovers off starts and a strong transition game.
On defense, Army is aggressive and physical, while on offense they emphasize a crisp passing attack that draws the defense out of position. The Black Knights tend to work the perimeter on offense to set up long, high-powered shots from the outside. That worked last year because teams either had to focus on Nichtern or watch him score, which in turn left guys like Manown, Glancy, and Silva with enough time and space to crank it up from the long range. Those guys got quality looks because most teams just weren’t fast enough to recover off the long passes. That left shooting windows, and Army often capitalized.
After last year’s 13-5 campaign, Army’s 2019 schedule is intense — fifteen regular-season games, including five against ranked opponents. They also face a tough Patriot League slate featuring three ranked opponents, a handful of improving teams with legitimate potential, and a rebuilding Navy squad that would love to reassert its dominance in men’s lacrosse. Army has every opportunity to get back to the NCAA tournament, but the path will not be easy.
Feb. 8 – UMass. The Minutemen have a long history against Army, having opened the season against the Black Knights for the last nine years in a row. Army has won the last five, including last year’s thriller in overtime. Last year’s Minutemen team finished 10-5. This year’s team comes in ranked #18/#19.
? Vote for the #NCAALAX photo of the week!
Option 1 – @ArmyWP_MLax Overtime victory over UMass
Option 2 – @Towson_MLAX After goal celebration
Option 3 – @DU_MLAX Alex Ready stopping 9/13 shots he faced
Option 4 – @ColgateLacrosse Knocking off No. 10 Syracuse 12-9 pic.twitter.com/1Ory2FLeD5
— NCAA Lacrosse (@NCAALAX) February 11, 2019
Feb. 10 – NJIT. NJIT finished 2-13 in 2019.
Feb. 15 – Rutgers. Army beat perennial powerhouse Rutgers last year, setting up a disappointing 7-8 finish for the Scarlet Knights. This year’s team begins unranked, but that’s a switch. They often start in the Top 10.
Feb. 18 – at Marist. Finished 2019 10-7.
Feb. 23 – at Syracuse. The Army/Syracuse lax rivalry is a lot hotter than you might imagine. In 2017, the Black Knights pulled off what was then a monumental upset. In 2018, this game went to triple-overtime.
The ‘Cuse come into 2020 ranked #5/#6. They beat Army by two goals in 2019, though some of those goals probably should have been penalties given the way the Orange dove at Barretto’s knees. This year’s contest ought to be intense.
Feb. 29 – Holy Cross. The Crusaders finished the season just 7-7, but they had a good run and made an appearance in the Patriot League tournament. Last year’s regular season contest was nail-bitingly close, but the Black Knights put the hammer down in the first round of championship play.
Mar. 3 – Binghamton. Finished last year 2-11.
Mar. 7 – at Lafayette. The Leopards finished last year a disappointing 4-11. They’d been better than that in previous seasons.
Mar. 14 – Lehigh. Lehigh is the Patriot League’s other rising power. The Mountain Hawks finished last year 9-8, having beaten Army in the regular season and advanced to the Patriot League Championship. The Black Knights ultimately won the League, but they had to come from behind to do it. Lehigh enters 2020 ranked #19/#20 overall, and they could easily make some noise from there.
Mar. 22 – Loyola. The Greyhounds come into the season ranked #14/#14. Up until last year, they’d won the Patriot League title every year since entering the League. This year they have to make up for the loss of arguably the nation’s best player, Pat Spencer, but they’ve beaten Army with awful consistency and remain the top ranked team in the League heading into the season.
— Army M.Lacrosse (@ArmyWP_MLax) January 20, 2020
Mar. 28 – at Bucknell. The Bison finished last year 6-9, but like Lafayette, they are a rising and consistent threat in the Patriot League. Amazingly, that record was good enough to get them to the Patriot League tournament, where they played well but lost in the first round.
April 4 – Colgate. The Red Raiders went just 4-9 last year, but they have tended to be a better team than that over the past few years.
April 11 – Notre Dame. The Irish enter the season ranked #7/#8 nationally. They went 9-7 last year but made it to the NCAA tournament, as they do every year. However, they lost the last time these teams played at Michie Stadium.
ARMY WINS!!!! pic.twitter.com/6NmxzOhxSY
— Army M.Lacrosse (@ArmyWP_MLax) May 6, 2017
April 18 – Navy. The Mids went just 6-7 last year, and even then, they might’ve overachieved a little bit. They played Army tough in 2019, but they’ve brought in a new coach, so it’s a little hard to know what to expect heading into the season.
April 24 – at Boston University. The Terriers went an outstanding 11-6 last year. They beat Army in the regular season and beat Bucknell in the Patriot League tournament. They then lost to Lehigh. They’re perhaps the best unranked team on Army’s schedule and a definite threat in the League going forward.
Army Women’s Lacrosse
Army’s Women’s Lax team went 14-5 last season. That gave them their first-ever berth in the Patriot League tournament, where they beat Lehigh but ultimately lost a tough contest to perennial powerhouse Navy.
The Women’s team enters 2020 ranked #4 in the Patriot League preseason poll. The team has a lot of good young talent and an excellent coaching staff, but they still have yet to play competitively against the very best teams in the country. That will likely change at some point in the near future, but is 2020 the breakout year? That’s hard to predict.
— Army W.Lacrosse (@ArmyWP_WLax) December 23, 2019