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Connor Wilson’s D3 Lacrosse Report: The Second Coming

A couple of NESCAC teams have started their seasons and to me, a truly biased NESCAC fan, this means the season is really starting.  Considering 4 teams from the old ‘CAC are in most people’s top 20 (Tufts, Middlebury, Conn College, Bowdoin) and a couple of others are expected to be in and out of contention (Amherst, Williams, Wesleyan), the NESCAC starting up is important.  Of course, it’s far from the only thing that matters in DIII, so there’s still a whole lot to cover!

Down in Maryland, both Salisbury and Stevenson are rolling, and each is sitting at 5-0.  Looks like the CAC will be a two-horse race in 2011, once again.  Hey, it’s better than Salisbury beating everyone 22-1 like they did 5 years ago.  Now they beat half the teams 22-1, play a good game with Stevenson and win the rest by only 6 or 7.  Ok, I’m exaggerating, but the point is that the CAC (not the ‘CAC, which is short for NESCAC) is much more exciting with more than just one good team.  Hopefully St. Mary’s, or someone else, can step up and become a solid third team.

In Upstate NY, SUNY Cortland is 2-0, having played Union and Widener.  Right now their goals against average is 1.5 goals a game.  Yes, you read that right.  1.5 goals a game.  Neither Union nor Widener are Top 20 programs, but Union is ok and Cortland actually shut Widener out completely, winning 13-0.  Cortland’s 2002 defense was pretty beast, but the 2011 version is looking pretty good right now.

Cortland Lacrosse Chris DeLuca lax
Cortland is looking VERY strong again in 2011.

Photo courtesy Syracuse.com

Stevens played 3 of the best non-NESCAC teams in New England and won all three games beating Endicott, Eastern CT State and Springfield.  The competition will improve when they play the top teams in the Empire 8 (which has 9 teams) but before that, they’ll have to get through Lynchburg on the road.  I’m not a firm believer in the Hornets, so I think the Stevens Ducks can pull that win out and go undefeated into conference play.  Stevens is a team to watch though.  Of course, they could always lose games to Muhlenberg or Montclair State if they don’t take it one game at a time.

Stevens Lacrosse lax Springfield Lacrosse 2011
Stevens took down SC earlier this year.

Photo courtesy Stevens’ AWESOME men’s lacrosse page

This early in the season there are always those teams that have a bunch of wins but haven’t played anyone too impressive.  St. John Fisher, Carthage, Keene State and York all come to mind as early undefeated teams with this exact problem.  St. John Fisher and York both play in conferences with very strong teams so we will know how good both of these teams are eventually.  From my point of view, neither St. JF nor York will make the NCAAs, but Fisher could pull it out with some luck.  I think York still has a lot of work to do before they catch Salisbury or Stevenson.

Keene State destroyed Bates and while Bates is on the bottom of the NESCAC, this is still an impressive win.  Why?  Because Keene State beat them 14-3, and while Bates is not a good NESCAC team, they are still a good team.  Their biggest loss last year was by 6 and they lost to 5 NESCAC games by 3 goals or less.  Keene plays Geneseo and Springfield and no one else that is that good.  They could very well be undefeated come tourney time.  I guess we won’t know more about Keene until then!  Carthage plays no one at all.  Not even one good game.  But that’s ok, they’re relatively new.  They do play Adrian at the end of the season and whoever wins this one might get the Pool B nod to the NCAAs.  I like Adrian’s chance because they will have played St. John Fisher (lost 15-6), Kenyon, Wittenber and Wooster.  The first was a good test and the other 3 are Pool B teams, which helps.  Of course, if Adrian loses all 3 games, they probably won’t be going anywhere.  And neither will Carthage.  But it’s way too early to really tell!  D-III on Laxpower does a pretty good job of predicting the NCAA field though!

Hampden-Sydney H-SC lacrosse Lynchburg lax
H-SC Vs. Lynchburg should be an interesting game this year!

Photo courtesy HSC.edu

The ODAC is looking pretty competitive this year with Roanoke, Lynchburg and Hampden-Sydney all performing well early on.  At least to most people they’ve performed well.  I like H-SC this year and have been ranking them all season.  My top 10 move for them may be a bit drastic, but time will tell.  I think Lynchburg is overrated and gets by with great athletes over bad teams.  When they play tougher games, where their opponents have atheltes too, they could be exposed.  Roanoke has been pumping in the goals early, but that’s nothing new.  They have a great string of games coming up starting on the 12th with Dickinson and continuing with Stevenson on the 16th, Lynchburg on the 19th and Salisbury on the 23rd.  Where exactly the Maroons fit in will be very clear by then.

This weekend, there are some really good games slated.  Haverford – Denison will be good.  No doubt about it.  Haverford would like to get a solid win and Denison would like to prove that the teams in the NCAC, and Pool B teams in general, are for real.  Without a win, DIII fans will continue to question the Pool B NCAA tournament selections, both in theory and specifically regarding the number of bids Pool B receives.  It can be an ugly discussion.

Wesleyan plays Bowdoin in what is going to be a great early NESCAC game.  Gettysburg is trying to prove that 2011 can still be their year and after they play Merchant Marine on the 8th, they play Cortland on the 12th.  Cortland will dominate this game and win 11-4 or something like that.  Bullets fans must be praying I’m wrong.  But I haven’t seen the O from Gburg yet to believe they can score on Cortland.  4 goals might be too high actually.  Cortland does play Montclair State on the 9th, but I expect them to be totally healthy for Gettysburg.

One of my favorite things about DIII Lacrosse in 2011 are all the new teams.  LOVE IT!  I look down the list of 179 teams in the division and I am ecstatic that I only recognize 158 of them.  I’m learning about the newer guys though and am really quite shocked at the number of teams in Texas, Wisconsin, Illinois and even Mississippi!  I hear there will even be a DIII team in Louisiana at Centenary College, if all goes right, in the near future.  DIII lax truly is Growing the Game!  These teams aren’t competing at the highest levels yet, but within 10 years, some of them could be doing quite well, making the NCAAs and even winning games in the tourney.  One can only hope, and coach, and talk about it and promote!

To illustrate my point, check out the below video from Berry College.  The Vikings play their lax down in Georgia and lost to Guilford last week 11-6.  The horror movie gear intro could be cut out, or at least down, but after that?  Solid work.  I’d play D3 lax in Georgia if I could do it all over again.  Sounds awesome, actually.

Supposedly, you can see OWU score a goal on Wesley in this clip.  I’m not sold.

AND NOW, THE POLLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Coaches’ Poll            Laxpower Forum Poll         Connor’s Poll

Tufts                                Tufts                                               Tufts

Stevenson                      Cortland                                        Cortland

Salisbury                       Stevenson                                     Salisbury

Cortland                        Salisbury                                      Stevenson

Roanoke                       Roanoke                                       Hampden-Sydney

RIT                                 Middlebury                                  Middlebury

Middlebury                  RIT                                                 Roanoke

Haverford                    Haverford                                     Haverford

Lynchburg                  Conn College                                Conn College

Conn College             Hampden-Sydney                       RIT

Hampden-Sydney     Lynchburg                                    Stevens

Denison                       Denison                                        RPI

Dickinson                   Stevens                                         Denison

RPI                               RPI                                                 Bowdoin

Stevens                        Dickinson                                    Gettysburg

Gettysburg                 Gettysburg                                     Amherst

Nazareth                    Bowdoin                                        Endicott

Geneseo                      Nazareth                                       Keene State

Bowdoin                     Geneseo                                         Dickinson

Cabrini                       Cabrini                                           Ithaca

There you have it.  Points that can, and will, undoubtedly be made:

– I rank a lot of NESCAC teams that have yet to play a game.  That’s just because I think they’re better than most of the other teams out there.  Biased?  Sure.  Honest?  You betcha.  Spot on?  Historically, the NESCAC has always delivered.

– Hampden-Sydney is high.  Yes, they are.  Deal with it.  I think they’re good.  If they lose later on, I’ll drop them down for sure.  But for now, they’re winning and looking pretty good doing so.

– I have Stevens higher than most.  They won 3 games against good teams, 2 on the road, by comfortable margins.  I’m hearing some good things from the alums out of Hoboken so I’m more of a believer.

– I didn’t rank Cabrini.  Heck, I didn’t even consider them for the top 25!  They weren’t good when they had Grugan, but they had Grugan and he won games for them.  Now he’s gone and their toughness is still there, but I just don’t believe in the Cavaliers right now one bit.

– We won’t see a new face in the Final Four this year is my bet.  Maybe in the South, but I don’t see anyone up North giving Cortland or Tufts a run for their money.  They will be my #1 and #2 until they lose.  If they lose.  I like Salisbury over Stevenson right now.  I still think Stevenson is explosive but I don’t think they have the composure the the Gulls do.  That’s a lot to take away from 3-4 webcasts, but I’m sticking with it.  For now.