For the past couple of years, Trinity (CT) has been on the bottom of the NESCAC. They often managed to pull our an extremely impressive win here or there, but they never did it consistently. 2011 looks like it could be a good year for Trinity but hopes have been high in Hartford before. Where is Trinity really at in 2011?
First let’s start off with a little history. Trinity has been one of the lower regarded teams in the NESCAC since at least 2000, when I started playing for Wesleyan. Back then, we weren’t regarded so highly either, although that has certainly changed. Since the beginning of the 2006 season, they were under the direction of Jim Finlay, and before that, their head coach was Brian Silcott.
Finlay recruited good players, and they were always pretty athletic as a group. Silcott did similar things but had much less success than Finlay had. The story back then was that Silcott never put the time in to recruiting the right kind of kids to play at a NESCAC school. Considering he was still playing for the Boston Cannons, this makes a lot of sense. A NESCAC Head Coaching gig has to be a full-time job, especially in the Summer, if you want your team to be competitive. Recruiting the right kids to these schools is THAT hard.
So Trinity was good, but never great, and Silcott never put in the time that Erin Quinn of Middlebury, John Raba at Wesleyan, George McCormick of Williams or Mike Daly at Tufts put in. I worked camps back then and saw those guys, and heard there names. Silcott? Not so much. John Thompson at Amherst is another example of a guy who is putting that required time in right now. So the question has to be, is the new Trinity Head Coach, Michael Huggins, putting this time in?
If he doesn’t, he’ll get results like these:
In 2010, under Finlay, Trinity beat Bowdoin early and they looked good. Then they finished at 9-7 (2-7 in the NESCAC).
In 2009, they were doing well at 10-3 having beaten Tufts in the regular season, and then they fell apart and lost the last 3 games of the season to NESCAC teams by a combined 5 goals.
In 2008, they were only 6-9 and 3-6 in the NESCAC, with one of those wins coming 6-5 over Middlebury, who was ranked 8th in DIII.
In 2007, they were 9-6 but lost to every top 20 team they played, except Middlebury, who was ranked 16th.
In Finlay’s first year (2006), they went 6-7 and their biggest win was a 10-9 OT win over 6-8 Williams.
When Silcott was there, they had some talent, but as evidenced by their 3-9 finish in 2005, they never realized it.
Higgins is a Hobart grad, so he’s a winner. He knows what it takes to be better than everyone else and he understands good team lacrosse balances and makes great players better. This is what playing at Hobart in the early 90s meant. These guys were studs amongst boys back then. Higgins also has NESCAC coaching experience as he was the Defensive Coordinator for Tufts from 2003-2008. The fact that he stayed at a program for 5 years means he’s willing to stick it out. Doing so at Tufts doesn’t hurt much either. The biggest advantage of serving there was probably seeing how Tufts HC Mike Daly recruits. He knows what he has to do make Trinity competitive.
As a defensive guy, I had some concerns Higgins wouldn’t be able to revamp the Trinity offense that quickly. He’s got a solid goalie in Peter Johnson, and some big, athletic longpoles so I thought they’d be just fine on that end of the field. But their offense has also been flowing pretty well. They put up 14 on Conn’s struggling zone defense in their first game, only managed 12 against W.Conn (a possible up and comer in the Little East) and then dropped 9 on Bowdoin in a 9-7 win. Considering Wesleyan scored 7 against Bowdoin, and Nazareth only managed 5, 9 goals is pretty good. Like Trinity and Wesleyan, Bowdoin also benefits greatly from good goalkeeping.
Photo courtesy davidandreozzi’s Flickr.
Last year, Trinity had Harper Cullen, and that kid could play. He was a bit of a black hole, in that the ball tended to stay in his stick a bit too long sometimes, but he was their offense. With Cullen gone, many expected the Trinity offense to function like Conn College’s O has functioned with the loss of Steve Daschille; anemically. Brian Praetorious, Trinity Asst Coach and Recruiting Director, has obviously brought a spark to this team’s O. He was a rock solid player for WNEC so he knows how to win. It will be interesting to see if he can adapt to the crazy world of NESCAC recruiting though.
I’ve yet to see Trinity play live, but from what I have seen and heard, they are moving the ball well and sharing the rock on offense. This alone is a huge improvement from their plodding, predictable offense of year’s past. Defensively, their D-middies are a bit undersized, but can run with bigger players and can push the ball in transition if needed. A willingness to push unsettled situations is an instant remedy for any team struggling offensively. This is a nice compliment for Trinity’s emerging O.
The Bantams don’t have any real tests until they travel to Wesleyan on April 6th. At least I don’t see any killer games on the docket. Between now and then, Trinity has to get past Wheaton, Colby, LaSell and Williams. If they do, they’ll be be sitting pretty at 7-0, which will be good, because after Wesleyan, they play Tufts and Middlebury. Winning the big games is obviously important, but winning the games that they SHOULD win (I’m assuming they’re good this year, by the way) is the most important first step. Their games with Wes, Midd and Tufts will tell us a lot. The 4 games before that could tell us much more.
I’m more of aa believer in Trinity this year than I have ever been recently. I think they have a good shot at making the NESCAC Semis and could even make the NCAAs with a couple more big wins. I’m not ready to say they’re going to win the NESCAC championship, but you can’t rule it out, even if the road is tough, and paved with established programs. Maybe Trinity has benefitted from other teams looking past them, but I can guarantee those days are now over. Trinity came from a place of good intentions, without the appropriate follow through. If they can take advantage of the pieces that are there and continue to build, things will be looking up in Hartford, CT for a while.