Preparing to Win: Stat Analysis of the Men's Lax Championships


Coolest t-shirts at the Final Four.

Memorial Day weekend just isn’t complete without the NCAA men’s lacrosse championship. So, despite the fact that my dear Brown University Bears didn’t get to dance in the Final Four, I piled the Overtime Media team (minus Dan, with his prior obligations to “his wife”) into the official HomeField-mobile and headed North.

My truck, a.ka. - the HomeField-Mobile.

The Division 1 semi-finals weren’t nearly as exciting as lacrosse fans usually like - Syracuse rolled over Duke with ease and Cornell dominated Virginia. I was happy for Cornell - representing the Ivy League well and further showing they are an excellent team (thereby making Brown’s win over them earlier in the year that much more sweet. Maybe bitter-sweet. Cool nonetheless.). What really impressed me was Cornell’s focus and discipline. They had a game plan and they stuck to it. Virginia, who seemed unstoppable most of the year, didn’t seem to show up. Perhaps they were looking ahead to Syracuse in the final, when they should’ve focused on the steps to get there.

On Sunday, we were at Gillette for the D-III Final see Gettysburg against Cortland State. Gettysburg battled the higher ranked Cortland hard all day, and they held a good lead for most of the game. In the end though, they played too much defense and couldn’t get the ball going on offense against a solid Cortland D with a good goalie. The box score shows that the game was really evenly matched:
Looking at these numbers, you can’t say either team had some major advantage over the other like a dominant face-off man or a stud goalie. So the difference in score at the end of the day was a matter of a few possessions, just a couple plays really. A tough loss to swallow for Gettysburg, as those little differences in the game will always stay with them and it’s hard to pin-point which play it was that cost them the game.

Conversely, Monday saw an upstate showdown between Syracuse and Cornell that one may attribute to ‘Cuse’s OT game-winner, but really Cornell broke down in a few areas along the way. Cornell took a lead throughout the game and held fast until the fourth quarter when Syracuse slowly but surely crept back to within striking distance. Again, let’s look at the box score:
The game was evenly matched in most stats except that Cornell failed to clear the ball four times (to 'Cuse’s one failed clear). In particular, the Big Red didn’t clear the ball in the final seconds of the 4th quarter, which led to the Orange’s tying goal with 4.5 seconds left in the game, and eventually, this photograph…

Joe celebrates Syracuse’s OT victory over Cornell.

Again, I don’t think any one or two goal losses can ever be directly associated with a single play. Cornell could’ve failed to clear that ball, then won in OT. Or they could’ve cleared it and won the game. Either way, it’s the accumulative effect of every single play of the game that makes the difference in close battles like these. Every shot, every save, every possession, every turnover… they all matter.

Interestingly enough, do you know how many Division I men’s games were decided by one goal this year? It’s about 25%. That’s a lot. Patrick’s been running numbers on this and will post more info later.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to say that Gettysburg or Cornell failed to prepare for their games. These teams battled all year and worked hard to get to the championship. Both games could’ve gone either way based on a few plays. What I am saying, is that being prepared for your contest both physically AND mentally is absolutely crucial to succeeding on the field. Whether it’s studying the game film or practicing the “little things” - the basic mechanics of the game - you’ve got to prepare to win.
Patrick and Joe, reppin’ HomeField in our “Prepare to Win” T’s.