The NCAA Division 3 men’s college lacrosse tournament is down to four teams, and to a certain extent, it’s the usual suspects. The top teams in both the South and the North have made it their way to the semis, and they are each facing a tough opponent, with a high seed.
Salisbury is looking to win two more games to claim their 56,257th National Title. Ok, it would actually only be #10, but that’s still a big deal. Stevenson will be Salisbury’s opponent, and they are yet to make a trip to the title game. Maybe 2012 will be their year! Tufts also made it to the semis, but in the North, and they’ll be looking for their third trip to the title game, and second championship. Tufts plays Cortland, which owns 2 titles and has made 6 trips to the title game.
Below I’ll preview each of these fantastic match ups and provide predictions on who will win! My D3 picks have been pretty spot on so far. I’d trust me.
Tufts @ Cortland – North Semifinal
Yes, this game is being played at the higher seed’s field. That’s just the way D3 rolls. It would make for a HUGE advantage usually, but in past years, Cortland has been pretty quiet. It’s late in the year and not everyone is around. In fact, commencement at Cortland was on May 11th, so A LOT of people are gone. Basically, it will be a lot of parents and friends from both teams. Fans should be 60-40 Cortland? So it’s not as big of a home field advantage as you might think.
And that underscores the point that this game will be won on the field beautifully. It doesn’t matter where these two teams are playing… they are both going to bring it. Tufts proved they can pour on the offense when they need to against RIT in their 15-13 win, but they will face a much stiffer defense from the Red Dragons. And Cortland kept it low scoring and still dominated Union 9-4, showing they can control a game with ease.
Tufts can play lock down defense, but I think they’re going to be more proactive than just limiting Cortland. Cortland’s 6 on 6 defense is just so solid, and Tufts offense is still pretty young, so I could see Daly trying to create transition from their defensive end. A couple goals in tranny could be all the difference maker Tufts needs.
So for me, this game comes down to one thing: Can Tufts’s defense dictate the pace of play and create transition, while staying out of the penalty box? If they can, they win by 1. If they don’t, Cortland takes it by 2 or 3. I do think Cortland is the favorite here, but I’m picking Tufts in the 1 goal regulation upset.
Stevenson @ Salisbury – South Semifinal
This will be the third meeting between Stevenson and Salisbury, and the former two games were both extremely competitive, but also both won by Salisbury. The Gulls won the first tilt 11-10, and the second 12-9 to win the CAC. Stevenson showed that they are right there, but clearly a slight underdog. I think that’s just the way they want it.
When I played in D3, everyone always said that the hardest thing to do was to beat a great team three times in one season. Even if you were the favorite to win again, that third win was always rumored to be elusive. I don’t subscribe to this theory at all, but if you do, Stevenson thanks you for it. And they will need it.
Salisbury is beatable, and they are not the invincible behemoth I made them out to be earlier in the year. Other teams have caught up, but only to a certain extent. Because Salisbury was so far ahead so early on, I believe they have been able to do two very important things:
1) they have built an uncanny and versatile connection on offense. It’s almost like watching box lacrosse on a field sometimes, and I like it. When these guys are on I still think they are the top dog by a neck at least.
2) they have had the time to learn new things, and keep them secret, keep them safe. If Stevenson goes down, they’ll have to scrap back. If Salisbury goes down, they might have a couple super sneaky moves in store. I don’t know that they DO have these up their sleeve, but come on, it’s Salisbury… they’re tricksy!
And that pretty much seals it for me. This game could be 9-7, or it could be 19-17. It could be anywhere along the spectrum. And I think it will be close. But I definitely think Salisbury will win. But only if they bring it, although that kind of goes without saying at this point.
So I’ve picked an upset and the favorite to meet up in the finals, and I’m calling a Tufts – Salisbury final for their third time in a row. The more things change, the more they stay the same!