Hobart featured in Inside Lacrosse 2010 Season Preview
courtesy of Inside Lacrosse
Despite the new additions to the ECAC this year, Hobart's intentions of winning the conference and its automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament remain the same. The 2010 Statesmen enter the new year hoping to improve upon last season's 7-7 performance that saw them sprint to a 5-0 start, only to struggle through the latter half of the season, losing seven out of the final nine games. However, five of those losses came by a combined seven goals.
Coach T.W. Johnson said that "the margin for error is razor thin in the world of Division I lacrosse," especially on a schedule that boasts both 2009 NCAA finalists in Syracuse and Cornell.
Heading into the spring, Hobart's biggest storyline is the core of talented veterans they return, vets who led last year's squad to convincing wins over Bucknell and Georgetown. They will look to utilize their experience to put them on the celebratory side of those close games.
Hobart's Max Silberlicht. Photo by Dick ReygersJohnson was optimistic about his returning players, specifically the even distribution of experience at every position. With seniors and juniors battling for playing time all over the field, this a well-balanced team that knows what to expect from a demanding schedule. They've had big wins and disappointing losses, all of which should translate into a motivated team with the necessary tools to succeed.
Hobart returns stand-out players in All-ECAC midfielder Tyler Cassell (22,0), attackman Kevin Curtin (21,13) and goaltender Max Silberlicht (7.91GAA, 61.3%). Cassell will need to compliment his shooting with an improved knack for feeding in order to counter quick slides and double teams and at a hearty 6-5, 210 lbs., he has the size and presence to feed over adjusting defenses. Curtin may be his prime target at attack; he's a smart player with plenty of athletic ability who finished at 39% shooting last season. Look for Cassell and Curtin to alleviate the defensive pressure on one another.
On top of Cassell, the midfield returns a dangerous sophomore in Chris Penderson (16, 11) who will look to build off his impressive freshman campaign while on the ECAC radar. He will have to find ways to produce in the limelight and take advantage of favorable shortstick match-ups.
Silberlicht ranked among the nation's leaders in both goals against average (10th) and save percentage (fifth) and will backbone a defense that graduated two starters. They return their top LSM in Alex Caton (37 GBs) and a solid veteran defenseman in Mike O'Brien (22 GBs). Johnson is confident in his defensive depth and is hoping to continue the defensive trend from last year with eight players vying for defensive playing time.
Hobart will need to find a consistent rhythm throughout the season if they want to make a push for the tournament. The team's consistency may be dependent on its most isolated players, face-off men Nunzio Doldo (54.7%) and Bobby Dattilo (48.3%), along with goaltender Silberlicht. If they can dictate the tempo and keep the Statesmen in close games, they will be in good position to win the tight contests that plagued them through ‘09.
Doldo has battled injuries in the past and will need to be healthy to limit opposing offensive possessions, but Dattilo is a proven draw-man and presents a reliable first or second option in case of matchup or injury concerns.
Controlling the X will allow a budding offense to develop chemistry with extra touches and, most importantly, control possession time late in the game. Silberlicht has been nothing short of consistent for the Statesmen, but a tweaked defensive front and new season brings different challenges. If he can stay above 60% again, Hobart will have a shot at their first ECAC championship.
Hobart will begin practice on Jan. 17 as they build off a productive fallball and prepare for a February 6th scrimmage at Penn State. Johnson will use this time to fine tune the offense while meshing the team's components into a whole. College coaches prepare the same way for each game, but Hobart's season-opener on Feb. 27 against Cornell, a rivalry that dates back to 1898, will have the players juiced with extra vigor and focus through the preseason workload.
Thorough preseason preparation will be important for this squad to ensure in-season practices are game-plan oriented; their toughest three-game stretch comes right off the bat with road games to Colgate and Bucknell after hosting the Big Red - important wins that could have tournament implications before mid-March