January 21, 2014

#LMRanks: No. 14 Bucknell Bison (MD1)

by Phil Shore | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | College Preview 2014

Bucknell attackman Todd Heritage draws a lot of attention from defenses and has still scored 96 career goals. (Kevin P. Tucker)

Previous: No. 15 Ohio State Buckeyes

Vitals

2013 Record: 12-4 (5-1 Patriot League)
Coach: Frank Fedorjaka (9th year)
Record at Bucknell: 80-43

Power Ratings (scale of 1 to 5)

Offense: 4
Defense: 4
Goalkeeping: 2
Faceoff: 2

Top Returner

A Todd Heritage (Sr.)
While Bucknell will miss Chase Bailey's team-high 36 goals from last year, Heritage wasn't too far behind, with 34. In 49 career games, Heritage has scored 96 career goals. Heritage has proven he is a phenomenal finisher and playing in front of the cage he draws a lot of attention. That should open up things for the young midfielders like Thomas Flibotte and Kyle Shanahan, which the Bisons will need to pick up the slack from Bailey's graduation.

X-Factor

M Thomas Flibotte (So.)
Last season as a freshman, Flibotte played in all 16 games and did so mostly on the second-line midfield. He managed to score 29 goals on that second unit, third most on the team. His offensive output made coach Frank Fedorjaka comfortable moving All-American David Dickson from midfield to attack. The position change loads the attack with three of the team's top four leaders in points while giving Flibotte even more opportunities to shine in the midfield. "He was a first-team All-Conference player and he was on our second midfield line," Fedorjaka said. "You want to complete the [offensive] puzzle with Flibotte moving on to the first line."

Tournament Trend

2009 Did Not Qualify
2010 Did Not Qualify
2011 First Round
2012 Did Not Qualify
2013 Did Not Qualify

What's New?

The Bison have many returning starters but will be putting some of them in new positions to maximize their offense. Senior midfielder Sean Burke will be taking more faceoffs this year, which gives more opportunities to sophomores Thomas Flibotte and Kyle Shanahan. David Dickson will move to attack to play alongside Todd Heritage and Sean Doyle. Fedorjaka anticipates a great chemistry between Dickson and Doyle. "The two of them together are going to put pressure on the opposing defense. Those two work really well together," he said. "We really wanted to load up on our attack."

Telling Number

8.65
New starting goalie Sam Grinberg's goals against average in five games and just over 83 minutes of playing time last year. It's a small sample size, but if he qualified, that number would've put Grinberg tied for 13th in the NCAA in goals against average, only two spots lower than 2013 starter and key player Kyle Feeney. If Grinberg can post a similar number throughout the rest of the season, they may not miss Feeney as much as some would think.

Enemy Lines

What rival coaches say

"Great system and player development at Bucknell. David Dickson sets up players with his passing better than anyone in his league... Can they get by Lehigh?.. Unique brand of lacrosse, 10-man ride and defensive schemes... Replace long-time goalie. Very good offense talent coming back... A team that many in the Patriot League think may be able to challenge Loyola... Defensive system is one that maintains its potency even with a revolving door of players... Interested to see how the goalie situation plays out and also how they will faceoff as that has been a major Achilles' heel in recent years... The 10-man ride has the ability to totally change games, just like it did in the Bison's upset over Cornell last season."

"Lots of young talent returns for the Bison. David Dickson can feed the ball and will distribute points evenly throughout this team... The battle for the Patriot League goes through Lehigh and Bucknell, and will likely be decided on a field in late April in Bethlehem or Lewisburg, Pa. Frank Fedorjaka may be the best coach in Division I, creating teams that are annually incredibly sound with their schemes. Why would anyone schedule them if you didn't have to due to the league schedule? The defense always plays so well as a unit. MLL draft pick Jackson Place wreaks havoc in Bucknell's signature 10-man ride. On the offensive end, much returns for the 2014 season: one of the best feeders in Division I in David Dickson (48 last year), Todd Heritage can fill the net (34 goals) and Sean Doyle (27 goals, 15 assists) was one of the best freshman nationally in 2013."

2013 Recap


Reigning Patriot League Rookie of the Year Sean Doyle is among seven top point-producers back from Bucknell's top eight last season. (Kevin P. Tucker)

In a Nutshell: Bucknell opened the season with two road games, beating Delaware but losing to Mount Saint Mary's, a loss that would hurt them later in the season. From there, the team rattled off seven consecutive victories, including wins over Massachusetts, Cornell and Albany. After their 18-12 victory over Albany, the Bison achieved a No. 6 ranking. The team would face Lehigh, who beat them the year before, in the penultimate regular season game with the winning team taking home-field advantage in the Patriot League tournament. The Mountain Hawks won, leaving Bucknell with the No. 2 seed. The two would meet again in the Patriot League championship game, with Lehigh once again coming out the victors. Bucknell hoped for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament with a 12-4 record, but was invited.

High Point: The high point of the season came during a week in upstate New York. The Bison went on the road to take on Cornell on March 19 and then Albany on March 23. Bucknell won both, defeating the Big Red in a 9-8 thriller and topping Albany 18-12. The two victories propelled Bucknell to an 8-1 start to the season, a No. 6 national ranking, and even a first-place vote in the polls. Fedorjaka said the team was feeling very good about its start to the season.

Low Point: While the loss to Mount Saint Mary's didn't help the team's resume when they tried to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, Fedorjaka said that there was no doubt the low-point was the loss to Lehigh in the Patriot League championship game. Had the Bison defeated the Mountain Hawks then, they would have earned the automatic qualifier and the loss to Mount Saint Mary's wouldn't have played a part in the selection process. "That was a big hurdle we didn't get over last year," Fedorjaka said about the team's losses to Lehigh.

2014 Preview

Best Case: The Bison get great leadership from their seven seniors and show great chemistry within a large portion of their returning starters, resulting in the team's first NCAA appearance since 2011. Heritage, Doyle and Dickson complement each other well and force opposing defenders to make a hard choice in who to put their best pole on, which in turn makes all three attackmen even better. Flibotte and Shanahan take big jumps in their second seasons and make the offense one of the most potent in all of Division I. A defense returning two starters and a few talented freshmen continues Bucknell's strong defensive reputation (with the trademark 10-man ride as well) and helps Grinberg while he gets his feet wet as the starter. After losing three games to Lehigh in two years, the Bison get past the Mountain Hawks.

Worst Case: Lehigh continues to be a thorn in Bucknell's side, Patriot League newcomer Loyola adds to the team's struggles, and one of the two knocks Bucknell out of the Patriot League tournament and the team fails to get in to the NCAA tournament despite an expanded bracket. Midfielders Ghelfi, Flibotte and Shanahan experience sophomore slumps, causing the midfield to be unable to support the attack, making the team's three best scorers a non-threat. Grinberg struggles in the shadows of Kyle Feeney and, after not being a faceoff guy for a few years, senior Peter Burke doesn't get going at the X.

Self-Examination: Frank Fedorjaka on ...

A Todd Heritage (Sr.)
"Todd is the consummate finisher. He's got really good hands. He catches the bad passes, which doubles his goal production. He's a lefty and an off-ball shooter. He is usually one of the nation's leading percentage shooters. He doesn't spend a whole lot of time behind the goal. He's very smart off-ball. He's a terrific feeder. He draws a lot of attention inside which gives more space for our midfielders."

M David Dickson (Jr.)
"David is going to be playing attack this year. He set a Patriot League record for assists. He had 48. That's really hard to do as a midfielder. He sees the field well. He has terrific lacrosse IQ. He's very quick. He's a tough cover and you have to slide to him. Now behind goal, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense. Everyone's eyes light up when he has the ball because they know he'll find them when they're open."

A Sean Doyle (So.)
"He was the Patriot League Rookie of the Year. He was our quarterback of the attack unit as a freshman but he had two finishers with him. Now he's working two-man games with David Dickson. We expect Doyle to be better and not have the best team's guy on him 100 percent of the time. He has a high lacrosse IQ. ... He's really balanced. He can shoot it and can feed it. I imagine his production is going to be higher."

Lacrosse Magazine will continue its 2014 college lacrosse preview throughout January and into February, with team-by-team breakdowns of the top teams in NCAA Division I, II and III men's and women's lacrosse. Follow the countdown at LaxMagazine.com/LMRanks and on twitter at #LMRanks.


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