This is the first in a series of posts—intended for players, fans, and recruits—focusing on some of the lesser-known, lower-profile programs within Division 1 college lacrosse.
One of the best lacrosse players to attend Monmouth University never, in fact, played lacrosse at the New Jersey school.
Chris Hogan, who would ultimately win two Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, grew up in Wyckoff, 20 miles away from the West Long Branch campus, and played lacrosse at Ramapo High School.
Hogan had been a good enough middie to be honored as an Under Armour All-American in 2006.
He was actually only one of two future N.F.L. players to take part that inaugural UA game, the other being an attackman from San Diego’s Rancho Bernardo High School who would go on to Notre Dame and Maryland, Will Yeatman.
After starring at Penn State in lacrosse, Hogan returned to New Jersey and Monmouth to use up his eligibility.
But he used it to play football.
And he put in time at quarterback, receiver, and even cornerback.
And there was another, more immediate obstacle to Hogan picking up a stick at Monmouth.
At the time, the Hawks didn’t have a D1 program.
D1 Lacrosse Comes to Monmouth
D1 lacrosse at Monmouth didn’t debut until 2014.
The Monmouth University campus houses an assemblage consisting of 30,000 holdings honoring a local Jersey Shore artist.
It’s called the Bruce Springsteen Special Collection.
And if you were to sift through the Boss’s archive looking for a suitable soundtrack for that inaugural season, you might consider something like “My Best Was Never Good Enough”, or maybe, “If I Should Fall Behind”.
It was brutal—as most inaugural D1 seasons are.
The Hawks went 0-13, including a 20-4 humiliation at the hands of in-state rival Rutgers.
But that lopsided loss to the Scarlet Knights wasn’t really so representative of that first season.
The Hawks had a number of surprisingly close results for a first-year program.
That record would provide an early glimpse of what has become two hallmarks of the Monmouth program: defensive strength and consistency.
Brian Fisher and the Notre Dame Connection
Even Brian Fisher has recognized that these characteristics of Monmouth lacrosse—strong defense and program consistency—owe a lot to his experience with a D1 program emblematic of both: Notre Dame.
Before taking the Monmouth job, and becoming the head coach in program history, Fisher spent 6 seasons at Notre Dame working alongside another highly-regarded assistant—and now Harvard head coach—Gerry Byrne.
During Fisher’s time at South Bend, the Irish went 74-21, and qualified for the NCAA Tournament each of those 6 seasons. Notre Dame also made the Final Four (in 2012), and the national championship game in 2010.
Even with that relatively charmed trio of D1 programs premiering that year that also included Boston University and Richmond, the Hawks have made steady and impressive strides.
Monmouth improved to 6-8 in its second season; the Hawks also avenged their blowout loss the previous year to Rutgers (which had to have been satisfying to Fisher: he not only began his coaching career with the Scarlet Knights, but was a midfielder and faceoff man there from ’98 to 2001).
By 2015, the Hawks made their first post-season appearance in MAAC Tournament; a year later they reached they lost to Marist in the MAAC semifinals.
In 2017, in just its fourth year of existence, the program hit full stride.
The Hawks defeated a nationally-ranked Villanova team that year, and went 14-4. They also took the MAAC Tournament with a victory over Marist.
Monmouth entered the opening round of the NCAA Tournament that year—in which they lost to Bryant—with the longest wining streak in D1 lacrosse (11 games).
The Monmouth Recruiting Footprint
From the outset, Brian Fisher has been able to leverage his knowledge and contacts at Rutgers to tap in-state talent. The Hawks have 15 players from New Jersey on their 2022 roster.
The Jersey players represent a number of Shore Conference stalwarts like Christian Brothers Academy, Ocean Township, Wall, and Neptune.
But Monmouth’s is also strategically located near the lacrosse hotbeds of Maryland, Long Island, and Philadelphia—something that impending move to the CAA (see below) should allow the school to exploit even more effectively.
For instance, goalie Noah Lode (’22), a First-Team All-MAAC selection in ’21 is from Centreville, Maryland; another goalie, Garrett Conaway ’15, who led the nation in save percentage in 2015, was also from Maryland.
One of the program’s all-time leading scorers, Chris Daly ’17, is from the suburban Philadelphia area where Fisher himself grew up. Top defender Chris Hervada played at Philly-area power Haverford.
First-Team All MAAC middie Zach Clemente, on the other hand, was a Long Island product.
But Fisher and Monmouth pulled off its greatest recruiting coup in landing Bryce Wasserman (’18), one of the all-time best lacrosse players from Texas. The attackman became the program’s all-time leader in goals and assists before going on to be the MVP of the MLL, and now, a player in the Premier Lacrosse League.
Again, the recruitment of far-flung talent like Wasserman should be easier with the increased visibility of the program—and the university—expected to follow from the move to the CAA.
Monmouth Lacrosse in 2022
In its first two games of the 2022 season, the Hawks gave up 39 goals.
The one consolation for a program that prides itself on defense is that the opponents in those games were a top-10 Princeton team, and nationally-ranked Delaware.
Still, the Hawks have faced some headwinds coming off a ’21 season in which they went 8-3, won the program’s second MAAC Tournament championship, and secured its second NCAA Tournament appearance.
But the ’21 also came on the heels of two down years for the program; 2019 saw the Hawks go 4-8, and in the Covid-curtailed 2020 campaign they went 1-3.
Even in off-years, the Hawks usually don’t deviate much from the norm.
For instance, Monmouth regressed in 2018, going 7-8; but even then, they lost 5 of those 8 games by a goal, including a double-overtime loss to Princeton.
Despite the poor showing in ’19 and ’20, there were a few constants; outside two consecutive drubbings by Princeton (23-7 in 2019 and 20-9 in ’20), the most goals the Hawks gave up in these two seasons was 12; and in 9 of those 18 games, they held opponents to less than 10.
In the NCAA Tournament, Monmouth faced a North Carolina team seeded #1 overall and were overpowered 16-4.
The UNC result aside, the Hawks continued a tradition of strong defense, finishing the season as the nation’s second-best defense.
Ironically, it was on defense that the Hawks saw their greatest challenges coming into 2022.
They returned 5th-year goalie Noah Lode, a starter since his freshman year who had 13 saves against UNC, but lost defensive mainstay Chris Hervada, who is using his final season of eligibility at Villanova.
Monmouth also lost LSM Dillon Smart. Smart was a tenacious defender who excelled against top-shelf competition in the NCAA Tournament, matching UNC’s Andrew Tyeryar’s game-high 6 ground balls and causing two Tar Heel turnovers.
The Hawks won MAAC opener against Quinnipiac on March 26, upping their record to 4-3.
With the easier stretch of their schedule kicking in, Monmouth should see a bump in a few statistics. Matt Soutar, from nearby Mount Laurel, probably won’t equal the astounding 68.4% of faceoffs he won in 2021, but he should regain the 50% mark at least. Also look for continued production from another local from Christian Brothers Academy, Connor Macrae, an attackman who leads team in points (20,5), and middie Max Brooks (11,4), one of 14 players from Indiana on 2022 D1 lacrosse rosters.
The Move to The CAA
The maniacal pace of D1 conference realignment continues, and Monmouth is in the thick of it.
The Hawks are not alone.
As USA Lacrosse Magazine has pointed out, the number of D1 conferences involved in either voluntary or involuntary realignments now stands at 17.
Monmouth is one of three schools—the other two being Hampton and Stony Brook—that will be joining the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).
Monmouth’s departure from the MAAC set off a whole slew of possibilities and intrigues; the MAAC must simultaneously guard against a flanking move by the Atlantic 10 conference, which is reportedly considering sponsoring D1 lacrosse (and therefore possibly siphoning off another MAAC member, St. Bonaventure).
But let’s look at the implications of the move for Monmouth.
Among the advantages for the both the school and the lacrosse program:
- Broader geographic exposure: With 84% of its students coming from the state of New Jersey, Monmouth sees the potential to broaden its geographic base and appeal.
- Access to Population Centers: CAA rivals like Towson, UMass, Drexel, Hofstra, and Stony Brook can only raise Monmouth’s profile—athletic and non-athletic—in key population areas, and lacrosse hotbeds, like Long Island, Maryland, and Philadelphia.
- Academic Upgrade: It’s also been suggested that its new peers in the CAA will raise Monmouth’s academic standing and reputation.
- Direct Benefit to Lacrosse Program: The CAA tends to have higher RPI ratings than MAAC counterparts. These could directly benefit the program’s standing. Could this mean that the Monmouth could now hope for the CAA receiving multiple NCAA bids—beyond the one automatic qualifier bid it now receives? Not likely, the last time the CAA received two bids was in 2013—and one of those went to a Penn State team long lost to the Big Ten.
Beyond some hard feelings inevitably left among former MAAC institutions, the primary downside for the Hawks was financial.
Between required fees for exiting the MAAC and entering the CAA, the school must pay $1.5 million
But as the Monmouth student newspaper has pointed out, the annual fees for CAA membership will actually be less than what school had paid the MAAC.
Monmouth University and its Lacrosse Program
INSTITUTION: Monmouth University (Please note that there is also a Monmouth College in Illinois)
LOCATION: West Long Branch, New Jersey
UNDERGRADUATE ENROLLMENT: 4,263
TUITION & FEES: $41,680
LACROSSE COACHING STAFF:
Brian Fisher, Head Coach, firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew Geison, Associate Head Coach, email@example.com
Matt Trapani, Assistant, firstname.lastname@example.org
CONFERENCE: Will move from MAAC to CAA in fall of 2002.
2021 RECORD: 8-3
SOME NOTABLE RECENT MONMOUTH LACROSSE PLAYERS: Noah Lode ’22 (G, Queen’s Ann County, Centreville, Maryland), Max Brooks ’22 (M, Hamilton Southeastern, Fishers, Indiana), Rudy Beck ’21 (SSDM, Patterson Mill, Bel Air, Maryland), Zach Clemente ’21 ( M, Eastport-South Manor, Manorville, New York), Justin Schwenk Monmouth/Virginia ’20 (FO, Spring-Ford, Royersford, Pennsylvania), Gordon Phillips ’19 (LSM, Trinity Pauling, Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada), Bryce Wasserman ’18 (A, Grapevine Faith, Southlake, Texas), Dylan Schulte ’18 (M, Seneca/Bridgton Academy, Southampton, New Jersey), Grier Wilson ’18 (SSDM, St. John’s Catholic Prep, Ijamsville, Maryland), Garrett Pfeifer ’18 (D, Gilman, Towson, Maryland), Chris Daly ’17 (A, Lower Merion, Wynnewood, Pennsylvania), Eric Berger ’17 (M, Penn Charter, Ardsley, Pennsylvania), Garrett Conaway ’15 (G, Liberty, Marriottsville, Maryland)
(Source of tuition and enrollment data: U.S. News)
David Parry is the founder and editor of LaxAcrossAmerica. A New York-based digital marketer and copywriter, he played Division 1 lacrosse as a walk-on at Brown.