Midseason record undervalues Robert Morris men’s lacrosse’s potential

Mens+lacrosse+celebrates+a+goal+against+Drexel.+Photo+credit%3A+Cameron+Macariola

Men’s lacrosse celebrates a goal against Drexel. Photo credit: Cameron Macariola

By Nathan Breisinger, Editor in Chief

Coming into the 2022 season, there were a lot of question marks surrounding the Robert Morris men’s lacrosse team.

Head coach Craig McDonald was left with several gaps in his offense entering his first year at the helm.

With the most prolific men’s lacrosse player in program history, Ryan Smith, riding off to the National Lacrosse League and stalwarts Austin Popovich and Jimmy Perkins graduating, the team needed to implore a new wave of production.

That production has come from an inventory of players, but two individuals have accelerated the offense throughout the front half of the season.

Senior Taggart Clark has risen to the occasion not only in the eyes of RMU but also nationally. Clark’s team-leading 26 goals place him 20th in the country.

Right behind Clark in goals sits graduate senior Corson Kealey with 25. The Ottawa, Ontario native has been an all-around force for the Colonials as he comes off of a six-goal performance against Drexel.

Both Clark and Kealey have been exemplary on the field, not only as producers but also as leaders.

Despite the 4-4 record, the Colonials show signs of being a respected national program by season’s end.

Like last year, the Colonials started with the storied Duke Blue Devils. After falling to Duke by nine goals, RMU lost two more tightly contested games against Bucknell and Stony Brook.

One common theme appeared when examining the early season tilts; slow starts. Against Duke, the deficit was 10-1 by the 5:33 mark in the first quarter; against Bucknell, they fell behind 5-1 nearing the end of the first quarter; Stony Brook was much of the same as a seven-goal deficit stared them right in the face after eight minutes of play.

While the Colonials closed the gap in each game, falling behind early did not favor them as the game progressed.

That area of the game has undoubtedly been fixed over the second half of non-conference play. RMU has won four out of their last five games as they have played a much better-rounded game than their three-game losing streak.

The Colonials’ most recent victories came against two strong lacrosse programs. With a gritty win against Marquette and a one-goal win over Drexel, the Colonials illustrated their determination and resiliency.

Clark and Kealey showcased their potent production value in the two wins, but other names also made their presence known.

Faceoff specialist freshman Bo Columbus has been exceptional at draw controls all year. He propelled the Colonials with a stellar goal against Drexel after he fought for the ground ball after a faceoff. He then went down broadway and scored to give RMU a 15-14 win.

Columbus has won 54 percent of the draws he has taken, which is second-best in the ASUN Conference. His ability to fight for ground balls off the draw has led to several quick-strike goals for RMU.

Jake Boudreau, Dan Taddeo and Ben Starkey have added to the offense for the Colonials as well. Boudreau especially has shown his versatility on the field, which has added to the team’s depth.

James Leary has been a stout defender on the back end all year. Against Canisius, Leary broke the program record for causing turnovers with seven. He has turned defense into offense, repeatedly scoring highlight-reel goals.

Behind Leary, the goalkeeping unit has also improved as the season progressed. Ben Savick and Liam Rosenthal have appeared in three games, making some timely saves, but freshman Nate Randall has received the most playing time.

Randall has started seven games for the Colonials, becoming a reliable netminder. His confidence has increased with every game. His flexibility, awareness and ability to track the ball have made him a solid goalkeeper.

On the surface, a 4-4 record indicates that the Colonials are a consistent team and not much more than that. However, in a few weeks, the Colonials have matured under McDonald. Confidence has grown and production has improved. Errors that the team was making early have been observed and corrected.

Besides Mercer and Canisius, every non-conference team was within Inside Lacrosse’s Top 20 poll or receiving votes.

The ability to play teams like Stony Brook and High Point closely and then beat Marquette and Drexel expresses the Colonials’ persistence against a rugged slate of opponents.

All of the non-conference action has led to the start of the ASUN play. With the attention shifted towards the inaugural conference season, it will surely offer its fair share of obstacles, but the Colonials are familiar with each team in the conference.

Last year, while playing an independent schedule, the Colonials faced four of their new conference foes, sweeping the slate.

With five games left, McDonald and the Colonials control their destiny as they hope to sit atop the ASUN mountain once it’s all said and done.