Breaking down the Waterdogs’ high-value rookie additions
On this play, McConvey clears the ball quickly and then scans the field before maneuvering behind the hastily set defensive zone. After passing to Xander Dickson, McConvey slips past his defender, gets the ball back, fakes high and then finishes on the edge of the crease.
McConvey is still Vermont’s all-time scoring leader after earning 127 goals and 47 assists for 174 points over four undergraduate seasons. He followed that by scoring 48 points on 21 assists for UVA as a graduate this year, producing a more balanced scoring distribution.
By translating his lacrosse IQ into off-ball success last season, McConvey proved he can produce at a high level in a complementary role. His disruptiveness paired with the team’s creative, high-volume scorers – Michael Sowers, Jake Carraway and Kieran McArdle – has league-leading potential. The Waterdogs were in need of an offensive-minded midfielder, and they got arguably the best one in the draft at the turn.
James Reilly holds Georgetown’s program record for career faceoff wins and ground balls. He’s just the 13th NCAA Division I player to win 800 career faceoffs and the ninth to collect 500 ground balls.
After the Waterdogs won a measly 41% of faceoffs last season ranking seventh in the league, they needed a change at the faceoff X. Specialist Jake Withers won 46.9% of his attempts in six games, but led the league with a 53% counter rate (i.e. win percentage after a clamp loss). Meanwhile, Zac Tucci won just 43.1% in four appearances.
With Withers gone, Tucci and Reilly are the only two faceoff specialists on the roster. So Reilly, the PLL’s version of Mr. Irrelevant, could prove extremely relevant for the defending champions as he fights for the starting faceoff spot. Consistency and availability at the X would be a welcome change for the Waterdogs if Reilly’s production translates.
With the Hoyas, Reilly took at least 300 faceoffs in all four normal seasons and averaged a career .572 win percentage. This year, his .586 win percentage ranks 16th nationally and earned him unanimous All-Big East First Team honors.
Reilly’s urgency at the X compliments the Waterdogs’ fast-paced transition offense. He’ll be thrown right into the mix with Tucci, competing for faceoff opportunities throughout training camp. Considering how depleted their faceoff room was, grabbing an accomplished specialist with the last pick in the draft was massive for the Waterdogs.
Two days after the draft, the Waterdogs signed a second Virginia midfielder: Jeff Conner. Playing a less defined role than McConvey, Conner’s two-way responsibilities were anything but limited.
“Jeff is in a lot of meetings,” Tiffany said in his player bio. “If the offense is meeting first, followed by the defense, he is in both. If Kip grabs all of the faceoff specialists and wing men, Jeff is there. When the man-up unit gets together, you can find Jeff. He is a rarity, as Jeff is relied upon to know all schemes and systems.”
Lax All-Stars predicted that Conner would go 12th overall in this draft, citing his ability to take over games on both sides of the ball.
The Waterdogs are “built around versatility,” Copelan said, so the way Conner can find playing time in a crowded midfield is by highlighting that. Defensive presence is something the team lacked last season, especially in the midfield. With two LSM’s on the PUP list, Conner can earn a spot in the rotation by showing off his spark on both ends.
Conner will compete against fellow waiver pickups Kyle Borda and Jack Traynor in camp, who both have experience in off-ball roles, Copelan said. But neither plays both sides of the ball like Conner does. “There’s something there with all three of those guys, and I’m excited to see who can rise to the top,” Coplean added.
At worst, Conner is a diverse and knowledgeable competitor with defensive upside. At best, he’s a two-way playmaker with game-changing potential.