GENEVA — In 2017, the Hobart College lacrosse team completed its second consecutive winning season, something that had not happened in the program’s NCAA Division I existence.
The upward trend and growing optimism took a hit last year, however, when the Statesmen went 4-10 and missed the Northeast Conference tournament for the first time in five years.
Sixth-year head coach Greg Raymond focused much of his team’s off-season activities on embracing the lessons learned in 2018.
“We’ve been talking a lot about how to maintain the positive culture we’ve created, the winning culture we’ve created, through what honestly was a very difficult, perfect storm-type season with a lot of injuries to some of our best players — and some things that people don’t know,” Raymond said earlier this week. “This guy was playing with a torn labrum. This guy was playing with this. We need to develop depth. We need to make sure that the next guy up is ready at all times, and also make sure we’re supporting the guys on the field better than we did a year ago. I think that was a big issue.
“As long as we learn these lessons and continue to build this depth, then we believe we can get back on that winning track.”
Hobart begins its 25th season as a Division I program Saturday when it faces off against Canisius College at 7 p.m. inside Victor’s Pinnacle Athletic Campus. The game had been scheduled for the afternoon on Boswell Field at David J. Urick Stadium but was moved because Saturday’s high temperatures were forecast to reach only the mid-20s.
The Statesmen’s actual home opener will now be Feb. 22 against longtime rival Cornell.
The high point of Raymond’s tenure came in 2016, when Hobart went 10-7, won the NEC playoffs and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 12 years. In 2017, the Statesmen came within a one-goal defeat in the NEC title game of repeating that feat. Then came last year.
“We do care about winning here. We like it. We strive for it. I would by lying if I told you that’s not what we want to do every time we play,” Raymond said. “Now, I think if you were to ask any or our players and our coaching staff, they’d tell you that our emphasis is never on winning the game. Our emphasis is on executing the preparation we’ve put in for that game, knowing that things won’t always go our way. … We’ve got to continue to stick to our plan of ‘this is the way Hobart plays lacrosse.’
“We want to win, but we also want to play the way that Hobart plays.”
Experience won’t be a problem for Hobart this season. Thirty-two letter winners return, including eight starters.
Senior Matthew Pedicine was one of the nation’s top face-off men, taking more than 85 percent of the team’s draws and winning 66 percent of those.
The Statesmen return their top five scorers from a year ago in senior Chris Aslanian (23 goals, 24 assists), junior Eric Holden (22-17), junior Justin Scott (32-6), sophomore Ryan Archer (19-13) and sophomore Tommy Mott (5-8). All are part of Hobart’s attacking rotation. Senior Bryan Hancock netted 11 goals in 2018, most among Statesmen midfielders.
The 141 goals Hobart scored last season were 50 fewer than 2017.
“We’ve thought of ways to create different opportunities, more opportunities, faster opportunities,” Raymond said. “Thankfully, for the first time in a couple years, we’ve very veteran on that end. We feel like we have great leadership there.
“All those intangibles are great, (but) when we have opportunities, we’ve got to score goals.”
Junior goalie Sam Lucchesi started 11 games last year, posting a 9.50 goals-against average. Freshman Jake Drennen, a Geneva High graduate, is one of four goaltenders on the roster.
Senior Parke Schweiter and junior Sam Mueller are back to spearhead the close defense. Sophomores Dan Ryan and Ethan Black Fernandes stepped into lead roles on the longstick midfield unit during their initial campaigns.
Raymond believes the keys to 2019 success involve more than simply executing the game plan on the field.
“We have different ways of defining success here, but I think you’re going to see a team that — it’s my biggest hope — is a team that loves and cares for each other,” he said. “You’ll see it on our sideline. You’ll see it in the energy we have for good plays. You’ll see the support we have for bad plays. It’s been our focus all year. Good, bad or ugly, you’re going to have a team that likes playing together.”