Army Men’s Lacrosse stands 5-1 after a strong start to its non-conference schedule. As of this writing, the Black Knights own win over UMass, Sienna, NJIT, and then-#14 Syracuse alongside a win against Patriot League foe Holy Cross. The grind of conference play looms, however, as does an important late-season tilt against Ivy League Cornell. Still, at least the Black Knights have set themselves up in decent shape in the early going.
Army’s only blemish to date came on the road at #4/#5 Rutgers. The Black Knights played well as the game progressed, but they started slow, getting down 7-1 by the middle of the 2nd quarter before coming back to make a game of it. Alas, despite tying the Scarlet Knights late in the 3rd, Army couldn’t – quite – overcome their mistakes down the stretch. They wound up losing, 13-10.
Where Do We Stand?
Let’s take a look at some observations by unit.
Army has missed Defender Marcus Hudgins. One does not just replace an All-American-Stud-Takeaway-Defender. Deacon Donaldson, Tyler Olbrich, Bryan Lehman, and all the other long poles have shown up, thankfully, but especially against elite teams, it’s still nice to have THAT GUY to lockdown an opposing star. The Black Knights are playing good, hard-nosed Army Defense, but they’re having to rely more on communication, good flow, and team play and less on the virtuoso performance of a single defensive star to take away the opponent’s best attacker.
Granted, it helps that Army has gotten virtuoso play out of its defensive midfield. Liam Davenport and James Pryor have proven to be absolute studs. These guys are lockdown defenders despite fielding short sticks, and they’ve been excellent in transition. Folks, Davenport and Pryor have 3 points apiece. Getting that kind of transitional offensive production from the defensive midfield can help teams win championships.
And yeah. It helps that Goalie Wyatt Schupler has posted a 59% save percentage with a whopping 79 saves against just 56 goals allowed. Dude has been outstanding!
For as good as Army’s defensive midfield has been, their offensive midfielders have been at least that good as well. This is a senior-heavy group that can score at any time. In fact, every game thus far has seen someone from the offensive midfield put up a multi-point game – and it’s usually not the same person. Sure, we expected senior stalwarts Bobby Abshire, Gunner Philipp, Danny Kielbasa, and Bo Waters to show up strong, but underclassman Jacob Morin, Alex Gekas, and Bailey O’Connor have played well, too. For a team fielding this much firstie talent, Army somehow looks set well into the future.
This is before we consider All-American Attacker Brendan Nichtern. Nichtern surpassed 200 career points against Sienna, and despite losing half a season to COVID in 2020, he’s on pace to become Army’s all-time scoring leader. Bottom line, Nichtern is a nightmare for opposing defenses because he can both score and facilitate the offense around him, elevating the rest of the team through his sheer presence. With that, cow Paul Johnson and firstie Aidan Byrnes have combined for 17 goals and 6 assists so far this season.
Friends, this Army Attack is going places.
Our Play of the Week, presented by @USAA, is Bobby Abshire's diving score for @ArmyWP_MLax in its 17-13 victory at Syracuse last Wednesday.— ArmyWestPoint Sports (@GoArmyWestPoint) March 7, 2022
Abshire had a natural hat trick in the fourth quarter and four for the game! #GoArmy pic.twitter.com/7mBxsNapQr
The Patriot League
Patriot League Men’s Lacrosse consists of 9 teams: Army, Boston University, Bucknell, Colgate, Holy Cross, Lehigh, Lafayette, Loyola (MD), and the Boat School. Overall, the Patriot League is a second tier league, granted on the higher end of that second tier. As with football, Army is a power among mid-majors, but unlike teams from the ACC or the Big 10, the Black Knights often find themselves on the outside looking in when they cannot capture the Patriot League Championship – and its auto-berth to the NCAA Championship Tournament.
This Week’s Opponent: at Lafayette
Though the Leopards have been Patriot League cellar dwellers in recent years, they’re played better this year. In fact, they are now 2-3 in their first 5 games. Lafayette owns wins over VMI and NEC preseason favorite Drexel alongside relatively close losses to Penn State (20-15), Binghamton (13-12), and perennial Patriot League bully Loyola (14-12).
The Leopards come into this afternoon’s contest with a bunch of young talent. Their top 7 scorers are all underclassmen, with 6 having scored double digit points to date this season. This is a young, hungry Lafayette team that is maybe 1 or 2 points away from posting their first signature victory in the Patriot League.
This is a game that Army definitely ought to win, but they’ll need to earn more faceoffs victories and establish longer, more dominant scoring runs to avoid chaos in the second half.
#12 Army is at Lafayette this afternoon starting at 7 pm on ESPN+.
Go Army! Beat Lafayette!!!
*Cover image via Donna Tamasitis (Smugmug).