Le Moyne and RIT are the 2021 title holders and a full DII and DIII men’s lacrosse season is behind us. It feels like a much bigger accomplishment this year than usual, but after what 2020 brought, getting anything feels like a blessing.
So, let’s review what happens in 2021 in DII and DII men’s lacrosse season and remember how we arrived at our national champions.
2021 DII/DIII Men’s Lacrosse Season in Review
2021 DII Men’s Lacrosse Season
Kudos to all the programs that had the ability to return to normalcy this spring. This year had some surprises, but one thing continues to happen: the level of play across the board is improving at a dramatic pace. Gone are the days of DII being a spot where DI dropouts fall to. Quality athletes and coaches have been roaming the sidelines in DII for years, but it’s amazing to see DII get the credit it deserves.
The make up of this season from a scheduling standpoint was reminiscent to the 1990’s and early 2000’s when you didn’t see many teams go out of conference or out of region. Teams from the North didn’t make their typical southern swing trips, so fans were really left out in the cold when it came to comparing teams this season.
Offense Wins Games, But Defense Wins Championships…
Le Moyne’s defense is great every year, but this year was different. Going into the championship game, the talk of the town was Lenoir Rhyne’s seemingly unstoppable offense, and deservedly so. But the way the Dolphins were able to handcuff the Bears in the championship game was outstanding. Le Moyne plays tremendous team defense, and that has been a staple for Dan Sheehan’s teams all the way back to the Travis Tarr days. Le Moyne does what it does, and it isn’t afraid to let you know it. As always, Le Moyne looks to reload in 2022.
Surprise Teams of the 2021 DII Men’s Lacrosse Season
Saint Anselm – What a year for the Hawks! They rattled of the best year in school history with their first appearance in the NCAAs and their first NCAA win against a tough Seton Hill team. Their only two losses came to eventual NCAA champion Le Moyne, but this was a breakout year for Saint Anselm. The question going into the NCAA Tournament was if this team was for real, and it silenced all the haters. Coach Sciamanna has elevated this program since he came on board, and the future looks bright in New Hampshire.
Frostburg State – This team quietly put together a solid season, albeit a short season. This is a team on the rise in DII, and it will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. Its only losses came at the hands of Seton Hill, and COVID-19 cut its season short. But this team has a ton of talent returning and probably the kid with the best name in DII – Bubba Love. Coach Gartelman has a great track record and has brought teams to the NCAA Tournament before (Lake Erie), so I would expect to see this team to continue to take steps forward.
2021 DIII Men’s Lacrosse Season
DIII saved the best for last. If you haven’t tuned in for the DIII NCAA tournament in years past, you’re missing out. These games are heart stoppers, and the game of the year was certainly the championship between RIT and Salisbury.
Tiger Beat Breaks Through
A questionable call late in the fourth quarter gave the Tigers the juice they needed to tie the game and send it to overtime. From there, you got a chance to see the Tigers call game with one of the most spectacular inside finishes in lacrosse history. Clearly it wasn’t drawn up, but you could see the box game DNA all over that finish as it gave the Tigers their first NCAA title. Years of heartbreak made this one extra special for the Tigers. The only thing more impressive than the game winner was just how much this win meant for all of the RIT players, staff, and alumni.
SURPRISE TEAMS OF THE 2021 DII MEN’S LACROSSE SEASON
Colorado College – For years, this team has always been a tough out for opponents. It’s hung tight but hasn’t had the opportunity to break through. That changed in 2021. A huge win over Christopher Newport gave the Tigers some momentum heading into the NCAA Tournament, where they won two games and gave RIT all it could handle.
Expect this team to continue to be relevant in years to come. Kudos to Colorado College for never being afraid to take a trip and play a tough schedule on the road. We all know budgets are tight at many DIII schools, but it would be nice to see some of those schools that go on spring break trips maybe take a chance and go out west to play CC or Whittier. Don’t be scared.
Christopher Newport – How about these guys? This was the year the Captains broke through. Two wins against Lynchburg put them on the map and kept them in the top 10 for the 2021 season. OK, this wasn’t much of a surprise. You could see this coming with what they were doing in 2019 and 2020. But this season was impressive nonetheless and put teams across DIII on notice. Coach Thompson is doing his thing, and it isn’t going to stop anytime soon!
End of an Era
This is a combined tip of the cap as we see some really special coaches in DII and DIII call it a career at their respective institutions. Congratulations to Gettysburg’s Hank Janczyk, Denison’s Mike Caravana, and UTampa’s Rory Whipple on fantastic careers. All three of these men have left a mark at their respective institutions and on the game of lacrosse. The sport will be different without them, but I’m sure they won’t venture too far away from the game.
As each season trickles into the next, make sure you take a moment to enjoy the elder statesmen in this game. This is an amazing game, and we have a lot of these people to thank for it. Without them, who knows where this game would be.