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Friday, February 4, 2011

University of Detroit-Mercy Season Preview

As the only Division-1 lacrosse team in the state, the University of Detroit carries the torch for the State of Michigan in the lacrosse world. Sadly, that hasn't gone so well over the past few years, as the Titans have failed to come within spitting distance of a .500 record in their first two season of existence (even going winless in their 2009 debut).

2011 should represent another step forward for UDM. In the program's third year, the Titans have a chance to hit new heights, with plenty of returning players just about everywhere except the attack.

That means the attack should be a weakness in 2011, as a couple of sophomores won't participate this spring. Midfield, defense, and goalie, on the other hand, should improve markedly as there's another year of seasoning in most of the lineup.



Key Returners: AJ Levell, Mike Brown

Losses: Vince Diana

AJ Levell started almost the entire 2010 season as a true freshman, before he was spelled against Canisius by Vince Diana, who went on to start the final two games of the year. It's unclear whether the replacement was performance or injury based, but Levell was between the pipes for the first two victories in program history, and should be improved in his second year at the college level.

Mike Brown is a career backup who has played other positions in his time at UDM, and the Titans also added Danny Kransberger from Forest Hills Central. He may see some playing time as a true freshman.

Official site goalies preview.


Key Returners: Jason McDonald, Adam Nolan, Jamie Hebden

Losses: Chris Butts, Matt Clugston, Andrew Khalil, Nick Hoye

Junior Jason McDonald and sophomore Jamie Hebden started every game last year, and junior Adam Nolan was also a letterwinner for the Titans, and that trio should form a solid defensive unit that is improved from last year.

The only returning backup is sophomore John Dwyer, but there are three incoming freshmen (Nick Garippa, Max Zwolan, and Brian Smith) hoping to compete for playing time.

Official site defense preview.


Key Returners: Matt Gregson, Tim Lehto, Ty Maruyama, LSM Tim Shoemaker, LSM Jordan Houtby

Losses: Austin Keefer, Mike Fields, Joshua Summers, Jon Bemben, John Hogan, Vince Wigdahl

Matt Gregson and Tim Lehto return from the top offensive midfield line, but the third spot will likely fall to a freshman, per the official site. The second line is a pair of juniors, Ty Maruyama and John Niwicki, along with sophomore Chris Nemes (whose older brothers played at Syracuse and Michigan State).

Tim Shoemaker is a returning starter at LSM, and had XXX last year. Other defensive midfielders include Brad Janer, a team captain whose younger brother Jeff is a freshman at Michigan.

There are plenty of other midfielders on the roster, and it looks like midfield depth should be one of the strengths of the roster.

Official site midfield preview. LSMs covered in defensive preview.


Key Returners: Scott Harris

Losses: Joel Matthews, Tyler Staruch, Matt Arb.

The Titans are going to be without the services of their only All-Conference performer from 2010, as sophomore Joel Matthews will sit out the season to focus on academics, as will his classmate Tyler Staruch. Matthews led the team with 37 goals and also chipped in 11 assists, so his loss is a substantial one.

Junior Scott Harris is the lone upperclassman in the attack unit, and one of the few returning players with much experience. Chris Nemes might play some in the attack with the lack of returning playmakers, because the other options are almost exclusively freshmen. Ty Maruyama also played both attack and midfield last year.

Attack should be an area of weakness with little proven talent on the roster with the loss of last season's leading scorer and leading assist man.

Official site attack preview.


Key Returners: Brandon Davenport, Tyler Corcoran

Losses: None

Brandon Davenport and Tyler Corcoran took the majority of Detroit's faceoff draws last year, with mixed results. Redshirt sophomore Danny Preston wasn't much better in 2009, and he missed last season with injury.

The addition of experience and healthy bodies should improve the faceoff percentage in 2011, which could be a big boon to the team overall. As I mentioned in the Tempo-Free Breakdown, faceoffs were often a big weakness in UDM's game last year, even playing a big role in a few losses. For the Titans to improve this year, they'll have to do better at the centerfield X.

Official site faceoff preview.

The Schedule

@ Delaware

Feb. 5, 1PM. Newark, DE

2010: 10-7 (4-2 Colonial) #16 LaxPower

The opening game of the season should be a very tough one for the Titans. On the road against a top-25 team is not a pleasant situation for a program still trying to find its feet. Inside Lacrosse #24 Delaware preview.

Prediction: Auto-loss.

@ Ohio State

Feb. 10, 7PM. Columbus, OH

2010: 7-8 (3-4 ECAC) #28 LaxPower

The Titans stay on the road, and face another tough opponent as Ohio State is also ranked in the top-25 by some experts. Though Detroit was nearly doubled up by the Buckeyes last season, I think the Titans are the more improved team. Inside Lacrosse #23 Ohio State preview.

Prediction: Likely Loss.

@ Bellarmine

Feb. 12, 1PM. Louisville, KY

2010: 9-6 (3-4 ECAC) #47 LaxPower

Bellarmine's team is rebounding from the loss their long-time coach Jack McGetrick, but the Knights should be improved from last year. Their scrimmage victory over Michigan (after getting pasted by the Wolverines last year) shows that they're moving in the right direction. Still, Detroit is improved at well. Last year, the teams played a 4-goal game in the season opener. Inside Lacrosse #37 Bellarmine preview.

Prediction: Toss-up.

@ Maryland

Feb. 19, 1PM. College Park, MD

2010: 12-4 (1-2 ACC) #4 LaxPower

Maryland is a consistent power, and the Terrapins are expected to continue their string of successful seasons in 2011. Detroit's program is a long way from beating ACC opponents on the road. Inside Lacrosse #6 Maryland Preview won't come out until next Friday.

Prediction: Auto-loss.


Feb. 26, Noon. Pontiac (Ultimate Soccer Arenas)

New to Division-I

If Detroit wants to prove its team belongs on the biggest stage, winning a home(ish) opener against a team that's in its first year of varsity lacrosse is absolutely necessary.

Prediction: Auto-win.


Mar. 6, 2PM. DH

2010: 8-7 (2-4 Patriot) #44 LaxPower

By playing their first "home" game outside of Detroit, the Titans get the benefit of two home openers. However, the true home opener matches them up against a team that handed them their worst loss of last season, a 21-9 drubbing. That game was marked by horrible defensive efficiency, and the improved Detroit D should hold down the offense a bit. Inside Lacrosse #36 Lehigh preview.

Prediction: Toss-up.

@ Mount St. Mary's

Mar. 9, 1PM. Emmitsburg, MD

2010: 12-5 (7-1 MAAC) #32 LaxPower

Struggles on the faceoff (.333) against Mount St. Mary's last year helped lead to a 3-goal Titans loss. With an improved team (especially on faceoffs), Detroit should perform better. However, this game is on the road, and I'm not sure UDM is ready to compete with a team like the Mount. Inside Lacrosse #33 Mount St. Mary's preview.

Prediction: Likely Loss.

Robert Morris

Mar. 13, 11AM. DH

2010: 10-5 (Independent) #31 LaxPower

Robert Morris got the best of Detroit last year, as the Titans turned in a remarkably bad .120 offensive efficiency. RMU should be a pretty solid team this year, so this will be a tough win for UDM. Inside Lacrosse #21 Robert Morris preview.

Prediction: Likely loss.


Mar. 19, 1PM.

2010: 2-13 (0-8 MAAC) #57 LaxPower

When your program has only won three games in its existence, and one of them came against VMI, you have to expect that your improved 2011 squad will be able to repeat the deed at home.

Prediction: Likely win.

@ Jacksonville

Mar. 26, 1PM. Jacksonville, MI

2010: 6-7 (Independent) #33 LaxPower

Jacksonville was a first-year program in 2010, and still managed to be much, much better than second-year Detroit. Now that Jacksonville's players have two years in the system, it's likely that they'll be even more improved than the Titans.

Prediction: Likely loss.

@ Siena

Apr. 2, 1PM. Loudonville, KY

2010: 12-5 (8-0 MAAC) #37 LaxPower

The Titans lost a 1-goal heartbreaker to Siena last year, partially because they had slightly worse performance on faceoffs and clears (although their efficiency was actually higher). Since Detroit is so improved, I think they stand a decent chance on the road. Inside Lacrosse #40 Siena preview.

Prediction: Toss-up.


Apr. 9, Noon.

2010: 7-9 (5-3 MAAC) #50 LaxPower

Detroit played Manhattan close last year, but a slight disadvantage in possessions and efficiency led to a defeat. With a greatly improved Detroit team, and this game at home, it should be a strong chance for a Titan win.

Prediction: Likely win.


Apr. 16, 3PM. DH

2010: 6-7 (5-3 MAAC) #54 LaxPower

Detroit lost to Canisius in a 1-goal game last year, as a last-second shot for the Titans hit the pipe. Faceoff struggles were the name of that game (shockingly), and an improved Detroit team should be able to come away with a win at home.

Prediction: Likely win.

@ Marist

Apr. 30, 1PM. Poughkeepsie, NY

2010: 8-7 (5-3 MAAC) #51 LaxPower

Marist took UDM behind the woodshed last year, more than doubling up the Titans. With an advantage in possessions, Detroit couldn't make the most of them (while allowing Marist to do just that) led to an ugly loss. Though the Detroit defense should be improved, it probably won't be enough to get a road victory.

Prediction: Likely loss.

The Total

In 14 games, that's one auto-win, three likely wins, three toss-ups, five likely losses, and a pair of auto-losses. With the toss-ups, let's err on the side of optimism, predicting a 2-1 record in those games. That adds up to a 6-8 record prediction for Detroit in 2011.

Don't forget to check out yesterday's tempo-free post on the Titans.

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