After going 9-5 last season, the Army Black Knights return all of its key players. This should have opponents worried considering Army didn't lose by more than a goal to any team last season, even against Loyola and Notre Dame. While the Black Knights did not make the NCAA Tournament in 2014, this team should not be underestimated.
Surprisingly, Army is one of the few teams that has a significant edge against Syracuse in its all-time series with SU. Currently, the ‘Cuse lags behind Army 22-39. At one point, very early on in the series, Syracuse went on an abysmal 2-35 streak against the Black Knights, but since 1984 the Orange have gone 17-2 against its counterparts. Of course one of those recent losses to Army came at home in the first round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament in which the Syracuse Orange was the #2 seed, so the recent years haven't been all good.
Thus far in 2014, Army has played three warm-up games against UMass, VMI, and Jacksonville, which are a combined 0-6. Against UMass, a team that beat Army in 2014, the Black Knights took down the Minutemen 12-7. Against each VMI and Jacksonville, Army put up at least 20 points.
Preseason Second Team All-American John Glesener leads the Army Black Knights offense. The local product out of Camillus, NY, finished 2014 fourth in the country in goals per game at 3.07 and led Army in goals at 43 and points at 57. Glesener gets a lot of velocity behind the ball, and when he plays he keeps his body between his stick and the goalie giving him an advantage when he pulls the trigger as the goalie has less time to pick up the shot. Although Glesener has gotten off to a slower start in 2015 with just six goals and five assists, he is on the short list for the Tewaaraton Trophy. The top scorer on the Black Knights attack right now is Cole Johnson who has already topped his 2014 statistics, putting up 11 goals and 13 points. The scary thing about this sophomore's emergence is he has 11 goals on 15 shots and 11 shots on goal. Third year starter Connor Cook has nine goals so far in 2015.
Beyond its stud attackman, the Black Knights other major strength is its senior goalie Sam Somers, a Preseason Third Team All-American. Last year Somers had an absolutely astounding 5.43 goals against average and backed that up with a .622 save percentage. Three games into the season Somers has allowed 12 goals and made 16 saves (.571). On any other team, I think Somers would have been a finalist for the Tewaaraton last season; this kid can take over a game like he did in 2014 against Loyola picking up 16 saves... like this one below.
Austin Schultz, the only returning starter from 2014, anchors the close defense in front of Somers. Army was first in the nation in scoring defense last season and currently sits at fourth this year. Schultz had just six groundballs and five caused turnovers last year. Senior Sean Jollota was previously the fourth defenseman in the unit but after the loss of two starters from a year ago, Jollota is currently the second starter for the Black Knights. Jollota had ten groundballs and seven caused turnovers as a non-starter last year and through three games in 2015 he has picked up five GBs and five CTs. The third defenseman is sophomore Reaves Klipstein who saw action in three games last year and has put up a pair of groundballs and caused turnovers this year.
The Black Knights have another excellent weapon at the long-stick midfielder position in senior Jimbo D'Aprile. The Smithtown, NY native pulled in 29 groundballs and led his team with 18 CTs last year. When you add in a very good group of defensive midfielders, this is one of the best defensive units in the country.
#3 Syracuse will host #15 Army at 7 p.m. The game can be heard at WTKW 99.5 FM and seen on TWSC and ESPN3.