(Photo: Jacob Franklin/WCSN)
Arizona State men’s club lacrosse head coach Todd MacRobbie got his first chance to see how his offseason adjustments looked in a game last Friday night, when the then No. 8 Sun Devils lost to the then No. 15 Florida State Seminoles 6-5.
Despite losing their season opener, the new-look Devils laid the strategical foundations to what ASU is hoping to be a promising year.
With several new in-bound transfers in the midfield and a lot of young faces on defense, let’s break down how the Sun Devils’ Friday night game plan came together:
As they did for parts of last season, the Sun Devils used a 3-1-2 formation on offense. ASU had an offensive midfielder at the top of the box, while two wide midfielders played closer to the sideline, allowing the Sun Devils’ dangerous front three to play close to the cage.
Senior Rhett Rodgers and sophomore Jake Marthens were the two Sun Devils who spent the most time on offense playing behind the cage, while junior attackman Patrick Haviland patrolled the middle of the box.
“We knew we could sneak back pipe and get a couple of shots in,” said Rodgers. “We had two or three goals sneaking back pipe off the adjacent side.”
Marthens especially benefited from back-pipe cuts, scoring a hat trick during Friday’s season opener. The sophomore cut toward the goal from his perimeter position throughout the night, getting himself into dangerous shooting spots on all three of his goals.
With their possession inside the box, ASU was not shy to rotate the ball, looking for one of their potent forwards to get open. Their opening possession was the first example of the Devils’ passing-based strategy, with MacRobbie’s side rotating the rock for nearly two minutes before getting a shot away.
“(We need to work on) our general ball movement and off-ball movement,” Rodgers said. “We just need to stay within our sets. I think we got confused by their defensive style.”
Doing most of the passing on Friday were the Sun Devils’ offensive midfielders. Junior Tommy Carasco played at top of the box as well as along the sideline on most ASU possessions, while sophomore transfer Ben Parietti tallied a goal and assist in his Sun Devil debut.
Parietti, who transferred to Tempe this year after a spending his freshman year at NCAA Division 1 school Richmond in 2015, took full advantage of his opportunities in his first game in Maroon and Gold.
“I am one of the dodgers,” Parietti said, describing his new role in the offense. “I usually just move the ball and try to draw a slide and see who we can get open on the backside.”
Freshman Emerson Roth was another midfielder who saw a lot of playing time in the offensive box as the Dana Point, California, product impressed fans in his college debut. NJIT transfer Ryan Bradway and NAU transfer Cody Essary also saw some attacking action in their ASU debuts as well.
One of the biggest questions entering the 2017 season for ASU was regarding their young defensive core. Junior Nathan Blair is the only upper classman defenseman on ASU’s roster, and led the team from the back on Friday.
Blair was responsible for defending Florida State’s dynamic attackman Cole Lindquist, who had 111 career goals in three seasons with the Seminoles. Blair did well to stay top side on Lindquist, who managed just a goal and an assist in the season opener.
Aiding Blair in the back line were sophomores Cole Campbell and Niall McLaughlin, who had their hands full with Florida State’s other talented attackman Davis Goodman. While the defensive allowed just six goals against FSU, MacRobbie still sees room for improvement.
“They didn’t look good enough because we lost,” MacRobbie said. “The only thing you can do is get ready for the next one and improve.”
MacRobbie’s decision to have sophomore Trevor Driscoll take face-offs allowed last season’s face-off specialist Zac Mathien to play a bigger role defensively. The junior captain was a key cog in the Devils stifling defense, as ASU held a Seminole attack that averaged almost 16 goals per game in 2016 to less than half of that on Friday.
The play of veteran long-stick midfielders Zac Long and Kyle Corona was also key in ASU’s strong start defensively. The two seniors, who combined for 30 ground balls last year, showed their value in their own box once again, looking like strong anchors who will help the Devils’ young defenders this year.
One area MacRobbie and the Sun Devils focused on improving this past fall was their transition game. Juniors Wes Schuler, Alex Rocha, and Nick Bongiovanni pitched in with physical play to free up the teammates Kendall Griffin and Jeff Sanchez to run the ball into the FSU box throughout the night.
However, the Sun Devils’ head coach isn’t letting the unit get too comfortable until the results start to improve.
“Obviously it didn’t look good enough,” MacRobbie said. “We will have to improve upon that too.”