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Junior College Report – Midterm Top 10 Grades

This week’s Junior College Report will take a slightly different approach to covering NJCAA lacrosse. Don’t worry, I will still include the poll as well as provide links to game reports and upcoming game schedules at the end, but seeing as how we are about 1/2 way through the regular season (games started about a month ago and the regular season ends in about a month), it’s time to hand out some midterm grades for the teams in the Top 10. Let’s see which teams are looking like contenders right now, and which ones have some work to do if they want to fight for the hardware in May.

First up, the official Top 10 poll itself…

NJCAA Top 10 Poll – 3/25/2019

# – Team (Record) – Poll points – 1st place votes – last poll rank

1– Nassau (5-1) – 60 – 6 – 1st
2 – Harford (5-1) – 54 – 0 – 2nd
3 – Onondaga (3-2) – 48 – 0 – 3rd
4 – Howard (4-2) – 40 – 0 – 5th
5 – Essex (5-1) – 38 – 0 – 4th
6 – Genesee (2-3) – 30 – 0 – 6th
7 – Suffolk (3-1) – 23 – 0 – 7th
8 – Anne Arundel (3-3) – 19 – 0 – 8th
9 – Mercer (4-3) – 12 – 0 – 9th
10 – Potomac State (5-1) – 5 – 0 – 10th

Others Receiving Votes: Ocean (2-2), 1 point

Only a little bit of movement so far, so let’s get to the midseason grades.

Mid Season NJCAA Grades

Be forewarned, I do not grade on a curve, and there is only one A right now. Do not have your parents call me, do the extra credit, earn your grades.

Nassau: Grade: A
Big Wins: Harford 11-6, ACC 17-1, Onondaga 12-4, Genesee 10-5, Essex 20-5
Loss: Stevenson JV 9-7
The Lions’s only loss this year was to the Stevenson JV team, 9-7. While this was an official game, and counts towards Nassau’s overall record, I don’t put as much stock in these NJCAA vs NCAA JV teams as I do full NJCAA games, so I’m pretty much writing the loss of, because when I look at the rest of Nassau’s results, they are nothing but A-level material. On average, they are outscoring opponents at a 2-1 clip, and playing very good teams.

The Lions are winning 65% of their draws, and clearing the ball around 93%, while causing almost 10 turnovers per game, and keeping their penalty minutes low, even as they play a tough form of cohesive team defense. This team has depth, some experience, and plenty of grit. When it comes to naming a contender as the clear cut favorite, the smart money right now has to be put down on Nassau. Coach Savage has done an incredible job in his time as Head Coach, he has embraces the F.A.M.I.L.Y. mentality 100% (as do the players), and the Long Island beast looks fully awake and oh so hungry for another title. And you know what? I’m not sure this Nassau team will be satisfied with an A grade. This might be an A+ kind of team. We will see if that’s the case over the rest of the regular season and the early playoff push.

Harford: Grade: B+
Big Wins: Onondaga 12-8, Howard 11-6
Loss: Nassau 11-6
The Fighting Owls didn’t just knock on the door of the elite levels of NJCAA men’s lacrosse as they had in past years. In 2019, they simply opened it up, walked right in, and made themselves at home and they don’t show any signs of letting up. Yes, this team lost to Nassau to open the season, but it was a competitive 11-6 game – Nassau’s closest of the year so far, and right now the Lions set the bar. Now back to the Owls; they can score goals, and are outscoring opponents at an almost 3-1 pace. Their man up is clicking, and notching goals on more than 40% of their chances. Almost half of Harford’s goals are assisted, and the Owls are winning a shocking 73% of their face offs.

Harford’s clearing game is solid at 86%, but could use some tightening up, and 28 penalties in 6 games is a risky way to live and another area the Owls may want to clean up. Something I really like about Harford’s offense is their depth. They have no players with more than 25 points, but seven players with 10 more more, and 4 more with at least 5 points. Goal scoring depth can be huge, and Harford has it. Defensively, Harford does not give up a ton of shots in general, and they get solid goaltending when the D does give up a look. Overall this is a very good team, and if they can clean up a couple areas, we are talking about an A level program here. There is plenty of time left for this B+ to become an A.

Onondaga: Grade: B
Big Wins: Anne Arundel 16-6, Howard 21-11, Genesee 17-5
Losses: Harford 12-8, Nassau 12-4
Two straight losses had some people worried that OCC wasn’t going to show up for school this year, but their next two games changed that opinion around quickly and Onondaga brought their average up for the semester really quickly. They had fallen to 6th in the poll, but two convincing wins over higher ranked teams popped OCC right back up, and after a little bit of an early season stumble the Lazers look to be back, the offense is gelling, and they seem ready to press on for the rest of the season. With a new Head Coach for the first time in 17 years, I’m able to look past it. Eric Miccio seems to have found his groove now, and while OCC is looking a little less dangerous than they did in the past, maybe that makes them even more dangerous?

You never looked past OCC in the past, so don’t do it now. This is a very good team and they are more than capable of pushing their B+ to an A+ if it all comes together. OCC does have some potential holes when it comes to face off wins, and their clearing game needs to be more consistent. The team will also need to be a little more focused on winning ground balls and will definitely need to cut down on penalties, but their man up is absolutely deadly, and almost a guaranteed Lazers goal, and a general offensive potency that is potentially excellent.

Essex: Grade: B-
Big Wins: Mercer 29-12, Genesee 14-7
Losses: Onondaga 21-11, Harford 11-6
Essex has racked up 5 solid wins, and most have been by impressive margins. The 15 goal loss to Nassau shows there is a gap between Essex and the top level right now, but with 4 games against Top 10 teams still on their schedules, the Knights can certainly improve their standing this season and get to true A-level lacrosse. Essex has a lot of guys who can put up points and outside of the Nassau game, their D has been very stout. They average over 23 goals per game, and just over half of those goals are assisted. Their man up is impressive and converts on well over 50% of chances, but their man down will need to be better than 50% to win big games later on. The good thing defensively is that Essex does not commit a lot of fouls, so this may be less of an issue for them than other teams. Clearing the ball at 81% is good, but this is one of the most underrated areas of the game when it comes to winning small battles, so getting to 90% or better has to be the goal. Teams that need to make up ground simply must focus on the detail issues like clearing. Winning face offs at around 70% is a great example of this attention to detail, and if Essex can keep that up it can be a game changer.

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Howard: Grade: B-
Big Wins: Mercer 28-5, Monroe 28-7, Potomac 22-3
Losses: Onondaga 21-11, Harford 11-6
Howard has some A-grade material on display, and it’s truly beautiful stuff, but they also have some homework that was may have been copied on the back of the bus on the way to school. It’s just inconsistent as to which Howard will show up for class, and that makes it harder to give out a good grade, or a bad grade. Sometimes HCC scores 20, sometimes they give up 20. Sometimes they score 6. I just don’t know what to make of this team right now, and I don’t know if they do either. Of course that is very much OK, even expected, at this point in the season, and there is no reason to think the Dragons can’t turn things around and get back to the A territory they’ve earned in the past.

But there is work to do, and it all has to do with consistency. It might not look that way, as Howard is really pretty solid when you look at their statistics, and game over game, they are not all that different, but that is not what I’m talking about here. What I’m talking about is the ability to string together those good moments consistently, and produce goals, or get defensive stops in high pressure situations, game after game. It’s about coming to play every day, pulling in the same direction as a team, and building off that common ground. Howard saw a good deal of turnover from last year, so I would not be surprised to see them pull it together as the weather warms and find their groove, but it’s not going to simply happen. The players will have to make it happen. The talent is there, so now we wait and see what they do with it over the course of the next month or so.

Genesee: Grade: C+
Big Wins: Monroe 18-9
Losses: Essex 14-7, Nassau 10-5, Onondaga 17-5
GCC is likely better than a C+ team, but they don’t have any wins over current Top 10 teams, and while they can be a notoriously slow starter, the recent 12 goal loss to OCC doesn’t inspire additional confidence. Scoring has been an issue for Genesee this year, and as with some other teams, a lot of it seems to come down to consistency. Genesee is able to put up pretty decent stats, and they look good for much of the time on the field, but there are moments where a couple mistakes can string together and it can change the result of games for the Cougars. Attention to detail and buying in fully can change all this, as there is talent in Batavia, NY, but you simply can’t win grinder games without consistency.

For example, it’s not about putting up lots of shots (which GCC does), it’s about putting up as many good shots as you can generate. For a team with a lot of freshmen playing big roles, this may take time to figure out, and this can extend to every portion of the game. It will take leadership from more experienced players to make sure it happens, but I wouldn’t say GCC is a year away and give up on the Cougars just yet. Genesee has a solid slate of winnable games where they can also improve as they need to, and come playoffs you could see a very different GCC. Plenty of work to do, but it’s not impossible to stretch this C to an A by the end of the spring.

Suffolk: Grade: C+
Big Wins: Monroe 16-5
Losses: West Point Prep 15-12
Suffolk is a C+ right now, but that could change quickly as they really haven’t been asked to submit all that much work. Right now I’d say they are about 25% done. Now the real work starts. They will now be asked to do the vast majority of their heavy lifting starting soon, as they face ranked teams Mercer, Nassau, Howard, Harford, and Essex in consecutive games. 5 ranked teams in a little less than a month and Suffolk could be anywhere from an A to D. Talk about backloading your schedule this semester! In all seriousness, I kind of like this approach for a team that is trying to build up and compete with county rival Nassau. Start slow, build, build, build. We’ll see if it’s paying off soon.

Anne Arundel: Grade: C+
Big Wins: Mercer 14-12
Losses: Nassau 17-1, Onondaga 16-6
With Essex, Howard and then Harford up next, AACC can up their C+ quickly with a win or two. Three wins completely changes their GPA. Defensively, Anne Arundel has a solid base, and their man down performs pretty well. The other side, on the man up, needs some work. AACC isn’t a powerhouse scoring team, so the man up needs to be deadly to notch a couple extra goals where possible. Face offs are another area where a really cohesive team approach can generate extra possessions, and these are the kinds of things the Riverhawks will need to improve on in their coming three game gauntlet if they want to earn wins and climb the class ladder.

Mercer: Grade: C-
Big Wins: None
Losses: Anne Arundel 14-12, Essex 29-12, Howard 28-5
Don’t take offense to a C- for Mercer. MCCC is like a 14 year old kid who graduated 8th grade, skipped high school altogether, and jumped to Harvard. This is their first year playing games, they’re competing with other Top 10 teams, they’re showing good discipline and power in dispatching other programs that have existed for years, and their program is doing PROGRAM THINGS.

Mercer hasn’t earned a signature win yet as a program (that day may be coming soon!), but they are handing in all their work on time, getting their citations right, and making serious progress. Games against Suffolk and Nassau in the span of 5 days will be important to see if Mercer has made a serious jump already, then the season tails off with 4 more winnable games. When you look at Mercer compared to Nassau, there is a big gap, but when you look at Mercer compared to other first year programs in recent memory, MCCC is really doing some phenomenal stuff. Remember, this isn’t a grade on how good of a first year team they are, it’s a grade on how close they are to competing for a national title… in their first year.

Potomac State: Grade: C-
Big Wins: None
Losses: Howard 22-3
PSC is enjoying their best start ever, and whether they’re grinding out wins or winning by 10, they are finding a way to get it done and have earned a Top 10 spot. The recent big loss to Howard gives me some reason for concern, but if PSC wants a chance to climb the class rank ladder they certainly have the opportunity, but it means they have to beat Essex, Harford, or Anne Arundel.

They can also make a statement with a big win over Mercer, but that can work the other way too with a big loss. Potomac State plays good team lacrosse, and if they can keep improving there and find a new level, they can continue to jump. It’s often harder to improve as a team than as individuals, but they pay off can be that much greater if a team can do both. Reducing turnovers, scoring more man up goals, and winning more face offs will all play in to this.

I’ll do another grade report later in the season, before the playoffs start, and we can see who hit the books (and the gym and the field) with intent, and who just kind of skimmed the required reading. Lots of school analogies in here, eh?

Ok, now on to the games from last week, and the games for next week!

Surprise – you can find all this info on the NJCAA Men’s Lacrosse website, and it is an amazing resource!

I highly recommend checking it out often. There are game recaps, box scores, live video links, photos, and more. It’s killer and the NJCAA does a great job of keeping it pretty darn up to date. Also, it’s FREE! Who hates free? Check it out HERE – the “SCORES” section is great.