College NCAA

Virginia Lax (D1) Scrimmages Lynchburg (D3), Wins 13-9

Lynchburg Virginia Scrimmage fall ball lacrosse 2011-12
D3 vs D1 in lax is unlike D3 vs D1 in other sports.
Lynchburg Virginia Scrimmage fall ball lacrosse 2011-12

D3 vs D1 in lax is unlike D3 vs D1 in other sports.

Scrimmage results don’t mean all that much.  And Fall Ball scrimmage results mean even less in the grand scheme of things.  That being said, teams definitely gain a lot of perspective from scrimmages, and it’s hard to say they mean nothing.  So when 2011 NCAA Division 1 Champion Virginia travels to Top 20 D3 Lynchburg College in Virginia, and only wins 13-9, people are going to talk.  Even if, as SwankLax points out in the comments, Virginia only played Freshman and Sophomores.  And they should talk!

Now I’m certainly not saying the 13-9 score this week would be the score in the Spring, and I have no idea if Lynchburg OR UVa’s (Fr/So) “starters” played the whole game.  Even if they did play the whole game, the score still doesn’t mean all that much, simply because this was a fall scrimmage.  So let’s not get TOO caught up in a simple score from a fall ball game.

But I have to be honest, I LOVE seeing a good D3 team play competitively with the best of D1.  I played D3 lax in college, and I know how good it is.  I’m not using this score to definitively say that D3 lax is as good as D1 lax, and I don’t actually believe that it is, but it certainly is interesting to compare the two.  The brief report from Lynchburg’s site also gave us the following “important” info: Lynchburg was up 7-6 at halftime and Mark Cockerton had 5 goals and 3 assists for UVa.  Just kidding.  That wasn’t important.  NONE of this is that important.  But it’s fun to know and discuss, isn’t it?

Lynchburg Virginia Scrimmage fall ball lacrosse 2011-12

The Hornets had some stuff to celebrate.

So why do I think this is so interesting?  Because a D3 lax team can step onto the field with a top level D1 squad, and actually play with them, even if it’s only their younger guys.  And you simply don’t find this parity in a lot of other college sports.  As is often the case, the “bigger” the sport, the bigger the difference is between divisions.  Imagine a really good D3 football team (like Mt. Union) playing a middle of the road D1 football team (like Rice)!  It wouldn’t even be close.  The same thing would happen if a D3 basketball team were to take on a good, but not great (Top 20-40) D1 squad.  The differences would be staggering.

And yes, I have no doubt that Viriginia is the better team, even thought I didn’t see the game.  In fact, I’d bet every team in the NCAA Division 1 Top 20 is better than Lynchburg… but the difference just isn’t that huge.  D1 teams have bigger & better star players, better depth, better overall athleticism and size, as well as scholarships and D1 facilities.  But the fact that there are still so few D1 teams means that the talent starts to seep down, and make its way onto D2, D3 and MCLA rosters.  Coach John Raba, of D3 Wesleyan University made this very point in a recent interview on LAS.

So no, I’m not saying D3 lacrosse is as good as D1 lacrosse overall.  But I can definitely appreciate the relative parity our sport enjoys.  And as more and more kids and high schools offer the sport, I actually think the gap between D1 and D3 will get SMALLER… unless D1 adds a number of new teams.  But that’s pretty exciting too.

Lynchburg Virginia Scrimmage fall ball lacrosse 2011-12 fans

Lynchburg had a great fan turnout!

Growth is rapidly outstripping the collegiate offering for lacrosse, and this only means higher levels of play across the NCAA board.  And it probably means more really good MCLA squads as well.  In fact, if D1 NCAA lax doesn’t grow by at least 5 teams in the next 10 years, I could see squads like Salisbury, Cortland, LeMoyne, CW Post, BYU and others become just as good as almost any Top 10-20 D1 team.  The best in D1 will still be the best, but that gap could conceivably shrink down to infinitesimally small levels, when compare to other college sports.

Just something cool about our sport that I thought I’d share… now cue the “D3 lax sucks” calls.  I know they’re coming…

Photos courtesy Lynchburg Facebook Page.

About the author

Connor Wilson

Connor is the Publisher of He lives in Brooklyn with his better half, continues to play and coach both box and field lacrosse in NYC as much as possible, and covers the great game that is lacrosse full-time. He spends his spare time stringing sticks and watching Futurama.


      • No diatribe here.

        The biggest differences between D1 and D3 have and will continue to be size and shooting ability. There are a lot of D3 players who would be at home on D1 rosters. There is also some degree of overlap between elite D3 and lower D1 teams. Arguments about Team X beating Team Y are largely mundane.

  • seeing as how the ‘order of skill’ so to speak (in many peoples opinions) is D1 D3 then D2, im not very shocked, especially since a lot of d3 schools harbor incredible players, that either just barely didnt go D1, or d1 caliber players that just preferred to go to a smaller school. whatever the case, i think the eyes of many people have been opened at how small the gap between D1 and D3 really is.

  • You are actually incorrect.  As the sport gets bigger the talent gap gets smaller b/c the only thing that differentiates a D1 player from a D2 or D3 player is academics, life situation, or simply choice of school.  If you look at the history of D1 vs D3 basketball regular season games (they happen every year), the scores are actually very close with both teams playing all their starters.  As the sport gets bigger it simply means that there is just way too much talent and not enough teams to take on that talent so the end result is very good players on the lower levels.  

    Right now, but not so much as before, a very high percentage of the best players are in D1 and everyone else ends up where they should be.  It’s not a all encompassing statement, I said a very high percentage.

    • I would disagree with you pretty strongly on a lot of your points, dude.

      D1 players will still be bigger, stronger, faster, and more skilled… on average.  So the differences between the two will be much more than just academics, life situation or choice of school as you seem to suggest.

      And as for your D3 basketball argument… NONE of the really good D1 teams play DIII teams.  And that’s who I was talking about.  BUT, if you want to look at D1 vs D3 basketball to see how competitive it is, we can go there…

      D3 record vs D1 teams
      2002 1-53
      2003 3-54
      2004 2-61
      2005 2-60

      I could go on, but I think you get the picture.  Now keep in mind, these are some of the BEST in D3 and the worst in D1.  I’m talking about the BEST in D1 for lax, football, basketball… it wouldn’t even be close.  Just like I said.

      Kentucky vs Nebraska Wesleyan would be a slaughter in bball. Unwatchable.  NW would simple be outclassed on the floor.  Salisbury vs Virginia in lacrosse would be a much better game.  Closer, more competitive, more enjoyable for players and fans alike.

      And again, I think there are more good players NOT in D1 right now than ever before.  Why?  Because there are simply SO many more good players, but not the equivalent number of new programs.

      • I see your point, but I wasn’t making a distinction between the best in D3 and the worst in D1.  I simply said that D3 vs D1 match ups happen every year and the scores are close.  Clearly you pointed out that there have been some games where the D3 team won, I’m arguing that all the other losses probably had some pretty close scores.  

        So, in lacrosse, as the recent Michigan scrimmages show that happened this weekend, the old conversation of if the MCLA Michigan be competitive against D1 talent, the truth is: NO.

        The D1 teams slaughtered the now D1 Michigan to prove a point and didn’t hold back again Michigan who is now a D1 team.

        It is the same thing in D3 vs D1 game in lacrosse.

        What I was arguing is that the basketball games are CLOSER.

        • oh.  Well your initial comment said that I was incorrect, so that’s why I responded that way.  I am comparing the best in D3 with “almost the best” of D1.

          basketball has SO many more teams than lacrosse, so one should expect to find a wider range of talent on the D1 teams. At the lower levels, they are basically very good D3 teams.  You’re right about that.  But in lacrosse, the best d3 teams would probably fit in to the #15-30 ranks of D1.  The same simply can not be said for basketball.  Therefore, the parity is being looked at between the best of both divisions, in both sports.

          I can see why you would make the comparison you did, and I think it is interesting.

          I never said that MCLA teams could compete NOW, just that it could happen in the future.  Also, UMich played Providence (a D1 team) close this fall.  And I firmly believe Salisbury (the best in D3) would still beat Michigan consistently this year.

          How many former NCAA DIII basketball players are there in the NBA right now?
          How many former NCAA DIII lacrosse players are in the MLL right now?

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