Can Georgetown Sustain Success This Time Around?

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Jake Carraway, part of Georgetown's terrific junior attack tandem with Daniel Bucaro, had four hat tricks during a five-game winning streak late last season.


US Lacrosse Magazine released the Nike/US Lacrosse Division I Men’s Preseason Top 20 on Jan. 2. Team-by-team previews will be unveiled on uslaxmagazine.com through the end of the month and will also appear as part of the magazine’s NCAA preview edition in February.

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No. 18 Georgetown

2018 Record: 12-5 (3-2 Big East)
Coach: Kevin Warne (7th year)
All-Time Record: 307-311
NCAA Appearances: 12
Final Fours: 1
Championships: 0

The Georgetown lacrosse program has a template now, and it is coach Kevin Warne’s task to utilize it as much as possible.

Much was made of the Hoyas’ senior class last season, a group that grew sick of the losing, sick of missing the postseason, sick of irrelevance. Georgetown was nothing of the sort last year, saving its best performances for May, when it smothered Denver 8-3 in the Big East title game and then forced Johns Hopkins into overtime in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

But that galvanizing group — attackman Craig Berge, goalie Nick Marrocco, defensive midfielder Ryan Hursey and others — has graduated, and it’s up to a new group of leaders to continue the Hoyas’ progress.

“It’s cliché, but we have to worry about ourselves,” Warne said. “We need to get better every day and we need to work hard every day. I didn’t have to coach effort last year. Last year, those guys took care of the accountability and holding each other to a standard.”

Will the 2019 team do the same?

“November was a thousand times better than September,” Warne said. “I feel pretty good about where we are.”

This isn’t the first time Georgetown appeared on the cusp of a sustained breakthrough under Warne. The Hoyas went 10-6 and made the Big East title game in 2015, only to win a combined six games over the next two seasons.

Just as there are lessons for the upperclassmen who are holdovers from those lean times, there are things Warne can take from the struggles as well.

“I just think quite honestly, and I said this to my boss, when we had success in 2015, I did a really stinky job of just maintaining things,” Warne said. “We have a much better plan now. Those seniors did a lot to give us the blueprint. We have a much better feel of who we are.”

Injuries during the fall didn’t help, especially on an attack unit that was thinned considerably. Overall health will play a role in determining Georgetown’s outcomes this spring, as will finding new starters in the goal and on faceoffs.

But there’s an established path to success, something the Hoyas hope to follow in the months to come.

“We need to make sure our story isn’t just a good story for one good team and we start to become a consistent program,” Warne said. “That’s our biggest challenge.”






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The Case For Georgetown

Some of the heavy lifting was done last year, simply returning the Hoyas to relevance in the Big East and ending a postseason drought of more than a decade. Some of the “whys” should carry over as well. A revamped coaching staff helped make some effective changes, and Georgetown emerged as a team that avoided silly miscues and shared the ball. If that continues, and if a promising attack unit can remain healthy from the start to finish, the Hoyas will head into May with a chance to earn a second consecutive NCAA berth.

The Case Against Georgetown

There isn’t an easy way to replace a first team All-American selection anywhere on the field, but goalie might be as tough a spot as any. Nick Marrocco posted a posted a 7.95 goals against average and stopped 54.5 percent of the shots he faced as a senior. Junior Jack Stephenson, sophomore Owen McElroy and freshman Chris Brandau will continue the competition to take over the starting job throughout the preseason. “Your guess is as good as mine,” Warne said. “I’ll let you know who the starter is after practice on Feb. 8.” A consistent presence in the cage would significantly elevate the Hoyas’ ceiling.

Path to the Playoffs

Georgetown faces only one NCAA tournament from last season in its first nine games (Robert Morris), and while there are some bounceback candidates on its nonconference schedule (Hofstra and Towson), the truth is the Hoyas will have to do much of their heavy lifting from late March on. High-profile games include a visit from Marquette (March 23), a trip to Denver (March 30) and a midweek date with Loyola (April 9) in Baltimore. Lose all three of those, and Georgetown probably will need another Big East tournament title to make the postseason.

Players To Watch

Jake Carraway, A, Jr.
44 G, 20 A

He had four hat tricks during Georgetown’s five-game winning streak late last season, including one against Denver in the Big East title game. He’ll again form a potent tandem with senior Daniel Bucaro on the Hoyas’ starting attack, with senior Robert Clark in line to join them after starting the last five games of 2018.

Gibson Smith, D, So.
59 GB, 19 CT

After an instant impact as a freshman, Smith will be one of the anchors of the Hoyas’ defense. “His best lacrosse is still in front of him,” Warne said. “We used him so much on wings facing off. He has one of the best sticks I’ve ever coached. He’s valuable in so many ways.”

Lucas Wittenberg, M, Sr.
23 G, 20 A

Wittenberg will be the centerpiece of the Hoyas’ midfield. “I think we need to have a big year from him, and he’s built to have a good year,” Warne said. “Confidence-wise, he just blew through the roof last year.”

National Rankings

Category

Rank

Value

Offense 25th 11.06 GPG
Defense 7th 8.12 GAA
Faceoffs 33rd 48.7 FO%
Ground Balls 50th 26.06/game
Caused TO 25th 7.18/game
Shooting 9th 33.3%
Man-Up 26th 37.2%
Man-Down 16th 71.8%
Assists 14th 6.82/game
Turnovers 17th 11.65/game
Clearing 7th 91.1%

Power Ratings (Scale of 1-5)

Offense
⭐⭐⭐

Defense
⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goalkeeping
⭐⭐

Faceoff
⭐⭐

1

Only one player in Georgetown lacrosse history has piled up 200 career points: Greg McCavera with 236 from 1996-99. Daniel Bucaro (139 points) has a chance to become the second; he had 55 points in just 12 games before a season-ending injury last year.

5-Year Trend
Clearing Percentage

Year

Rank

Pct

2014 4th 82.9
2015 42nd 84.2
2016 44th 85.7
2017 46th 86.1
2018 7th 91.1

Coach Confidential
Kevin Warne

“If we’re injury-free, we could put ourselves in a good position to have success. But if we can’t figure out who we are very quickly, we might struggle.”

Enemy Lines

“Can we see Coach Warne cry again?  His culture is in place and his players believe in him.”

“Was it the senior class or was it a change in philosophy on the coaching staff that made them better? I have a feeling it’s a little of both. Once you start to win like that, it doesn’t disappear. I don’t think they’re going to allow or the kids will allow them to go back to the old ways. I think they’ll be fine. I don’t think they’ll be as good, but they’ll be right in the hunt, at least in the Big East.”

“Was last year real? Culture change and Bucaro still make them scary.”

“Although they graduated a lot of big-time contributors, they have fresh faces and energy to keep the momentum rolling.”

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