(Photo: Roman Creech/CSU Lacrosse)
Colorado State’s 2014 was ultimately a disappointment after its two-year reign as the MCLA champion came to an end. However, despite the significant losses that the team is incurring, there’s promise in both the system and the offensive depth that could have the Rams right back into contention. This is part of an ongoing series during which we will focus on one of the MCLA’s top teams each day, counting down till Christmas to the true “cream of the crop.”
Postseason finish: MCLA Tournament Second Round
Quick season recap: Four games into the season, the Rams were right where they’d usually been at, sitting atop the MCLA polls with an undefeated record. Three of those games had come within two or fewer goals, but they’d come against tough opponents, notably GCU and Michigan State. At that point the wheels came off a bit with back-to-back losses to RMLC foe BYU and then Arizona State, but Colorado State was able to shake off the rust and go 6-2 the remainder of the regular season, with the only losses coming to national semifinalist Chapman and national champion Colorado. In RMLC Tournament play, CSU was stopped short by BYU in the semis, and the Rams would enter the MCLA Tournament as the 5 seed. After narrowly dispatching Simon Fraser, 5-3, the team’s rematch with Chapman would once again go the Panthers’ way, as Colorado State’s season would come to a close with the 8-2 second round loss.
Roster losses: The famed platoon system of Colorado State, which utilized both Jack Regan and Koltin Fatzinger as its goalies, will come to an end as both have wrapped up their Rams’ careers. The fall-out of such a drastic change (they’d been splitting time with one another since each other’s sophomore years in 2012) could be one to monitor for the CSU defensive side of things. Of the team’s long poles, defenseman Tim Miaskiewicz will be missed the most, as a First Team All-American with shutdown capabilities. Often this team is praised for its offensive balance and reliance on teamwork rather than stardom, but no team can easily recover from losing its two points leaders. Attackmen Sean Smith and Kacy Carter posted 66 combined points as captains in 2014, leading the offense through its treacherous schedule, and both earned All-American nods for their success. The depth takes a slight hit but not a major one, as the most notable loss lower on the list of impact players is midfielder Ethan Lahoda, whose hat trick against Davenport last season represented the difference in that narrow game.
Who to watch for: David Salamie, goalie
Salamie, a newly-named starter on this Colorado State roster after redshirting last season, will be expected to make an immediate impact. In many ways, he could represent a significant part of the Rams 2015 season. After snagging the starting goalie spot in the fall, he has impressed the coaching staff with his play. “He’s played great in fall ball,” head coach Alex Smith said. If that play carries into the spring, Salamie will be a big factor in whether or not this defense can maintain its former glory. He’ll be filling big shoes and the pressure will be high, but if his play reaches an elite level, it is going to be challenging for any team to score on this Rams team.
They’re dangerous if the younger players on this offense continue to exemplify the teamwork of year’s past. Colorado State’s offense is systematic and will require precision from younger contributors, such as junior attackman Jake Johnson (third on the team with 19 points last year) and junior midfielder Brian Allen, who scored 13 goals in 2014. Offensively the team will also have the assistance of All-American face-off specialist Brian Roach, who is back for his senior year as a player that could swing results with his status as the best at his position in the RMLC. If he can keep going at the pace he’s been at, this offense will benefit from being able to go on runs and stay on runs. The true test for this offensive unit will be whether or not a distributor will rise to fill the void left behind by the departed Sean Smith. It was an uncharacteristic down-year for this offensive system, which had previously had five or more players break the six-assist mark in every season since 2008. Last year? The Rams had only one such player, the lowest mark in team history. Look to the team’s youth for the potential turnaround in this aspect of the game, as sophomores midfielder Chase Warner and attackman A.J. Stewart both tallied six assists (to tie for second on the team) in their first year with the program. The RMLC is a difficult conference to break through in, with many strong and potent defenses awaiting the Rams at every turn, but the youngsters on this team will be relied upon for production and could be the make-or-break point of this team’s 2015 season.
Achilles’ heel: Defensive depth. Although there’s a long list of offensive players that could potentially become difference makers, it’s a much shorter one for this defense. Defensemen Alec Gieser and Gerwick, both All-RMLC selections in 2014, will need to be heavily relied upon as the defensive core with Miaskiewicz gone. Beyond the two of them, there are a lot of question marks with no defined players waiting in the wings. This is going to become an important factor in the year particularly with a new goalie in net for the first time in three years, as Salamie takes over the reigns in front of the net. It will be a storyline to follow as the season develops, with defensive depth being the only glaring knock on a Colorado State team that consistently finds ways to contend. If defensemen deeper on the roster start to fill out the defensive side of the ball as role players, every team in the MCLA should be on the lookout for the Rams and their very hard-to-beat balance.
Trey Lanthier is a lacrosse reporter and editor at WCSN, as well as a contributor for Inside Lacrosse. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter, @TreyLanthier.