It’s a measure of how far Hofstra and Jack Concannon, have come that while the 2017 season remains perfect, largely because of Concannon’s emergence as one of the premier goalies in the nation, sometimes his inevitable imperfections come under scrutiny.
“Probably, our expectations are too high,” Hofstra coach Seth Tierney said with a wry smile after he was asked about Concannon making “only” nine saves in an 11-9 victory at Delaware Saturday that left the Pride at 10-0 and the country’s only undefeated men’s Division I lacrosse team after No. 1 Penn State lost to Maryland.
“We’ll take nine saves from Jack. He made a couple of big saves in tight in the first half,” Tierney said. Concannon helped Hofstra build a 6-2 halftime lead with seven saves before the break. The Pride led 8-4 before the Blue Hens rallied to within 8-7 with 12:27 left in the game. Then Hofstra regained control on consecutive goals by Josh Byrnes, Jimmy Yanes and Byrnes, who finished with four goals and an assist and now has 50 points with 29 goals. Yanes scored three goals and two assists.
“We have to go into every game thinking about protecting Jack and not relying on him,” Tierney said in an interview with Newsday this week at his office overlooking the lacrosse field at Shuart Stadium. “Give up shots that he’s comfortable with and make sure our offense plays a role in what Jack does as well. Turnovers and bad angle shots could lead to transition and puts Jack at a disadvantage. When you have a hot goalie, there’s a tendency to rely on him.”
Concannon has embodied the term ‘hot goalie’ all season. The former St. Anthony’s star entered yesterday’s game No. 2 in the county in saves percentage (62.6) and No. 5 in saves per game (12.7), and has his team is poised to move up from its No. 3 national ranking. He is enjoying the team’s ride and some recognition around the Hempstead campus.
“There’s definitely a little bit of lacrosse buzz,” he told Newsday this week. “I’ll be sitting in class and you here a kid say, ‘Hey, Hofstra is No. 3 in the country.’ That’s crazy.’ It’s good to hear because it’s been a while since people were talking like that.”
Though Hofstra only was ranked 35th in Inside Lacrosse’s preseason poll, Concannon sensed early on that this was a much better team. “I did have a feeling even before any game was played. During preseason practice and lifts, I felt something in the air,” Concannon said. “The tightness of this group is unmatched. Once we got on the field and after that first game (an 11-9 victory over Monmouth) it hit me that this is a special group.”
The 6-2 junior from Lindenhurst has been extra special. This week he was added to the list of Tewaaraton Award candidates, making him eligible for the sport’s Heisman Trophy equivalent given to the most outstanding player. He appears headed for All-American status as well. “He’s had a very good season, but just like the polls, it’s premature to name him anything yet,” said Tierney, ever the realist. “He’s stolen a few and he’d like a few back. But he accepts his mistakes, which is an unbelievable trait. The last thing you want is a finger-pointing goalie. He takes the blame for every shot that goes in. He just says, ‘It’s on me,’ whether it’s on him or not.”
Rarely has it been on Concannon, which he attributes to his teammates. “My defense is giving me the shots that I want to see,” he said, disputing any notion that he may be facing too many shots. “The defense is designed to force shooters into spots where I feel comfortable.”
Concannon acknowledged that his role is both stopper and starter. “When I make a big save, it’s a momentum-builder for the team,” he said. “The sideline is going crazy and it gives the team some energy. It’s huge for me, too. Making your first big save really locks you in. You’re ready for the next one.”
Just like the unbeaten Pride.