It certainly has been an interesting season in NAIA women’s lacrosse. There have been many powerhouse programs over the course of this season that have earned their way into the national tournament, and it’s extremely difficult this year to determine who is the clear favorite to bring home the national title. With the tournament starting in less than a week and some intriguing matchups set, I want to break down the first round of the NAIA women’s lacrosse nationals.
Before getting started, I want to clear the air on an issue that has turned some heads in the lacrosse community. There were four at-large bids for this tournament, and it felt like Concordia Ann Arbor was the clear favorite to secure one of these spots. Concordia finished conference play undefeated, even beating eventual WHAC champions Lawrence Tech during the regular season. It lost all of its momentum come the conference tournament as Siena Heights upset the Cardinals in a game that was never really close.
Concordia should definitely have a spot in this NAIA women’s lacrosse nationals bracket, but I would also make the argument that Siena Heights earned its spot as well. Things become weird when you start looking at the other at-large teams that made the tournament over Concordia. Life University is currently 0-5 against teams that made the national tournament this year, and yes, you read that right. SCAD Savannah lost both of its games versus Reinhardt in embarrassing fashion. Despite these results, both Life and SCAD secured at-large bids over Concordia, who at least has one win over a national contending team in Lawrence Tech. It felt right to address this issue first as it has raised some eyebrows in the lacrosse community.
NAIA Women’s Lacrosse Nationals First Round Preview
Keiser vs Siena Heights
Keiser currently enters the tournament as the likely favorite to win this tournament. The Seahawks finished the regular season undefeated and swept through their conference tournament, outscoring their opponents, 48-18. They’ve had zero issues this season as their closest margin of victory was a mere four goals against Life earlier in the campaign.
Siena Heights finished its regular season and conference tournament play with a record of 7-3. It inevitably fell short against a dominant Lawrence Tech team in its conference championship as the Saints played sloppy lacrosse the entire game. Siena Heights had 23 turnovers and only 24 shots all game against Lawrence Tech, so it definitely wasn’t the team’s best performance. I hope the Saints can find a way to fix their turnover issue before tournament play begins as Keiser will have no issue capitalizing on their mistakes.
Benedictine vs Lawrence Tech
Its hard to make predictions on this particular matchup for a number of reasons. Due to campus wide COVID-19 issues, Lawrence Tech had to play seven games over the course of 10 days before bringing home a WHAC championship. Day by day, the Blue Devils got better and better as the team finally seemed to get back in the rhythm of things after such a long break in its season. Overall, the team looks solid with a very efficient offense and a very communicative defense.
Benedictine looks like a force to be reckoned with, too, as it enters the NAIA women’s lacrosse national tournament with a 13-1 season mark. While this record is impressive on paper, the KCAC conference definitely is not on the same playing field as Benedictine. The Ravens outscored their opponents this year 296-43, which is an absolutely absurd margin of victory. While Benedictine has looked phenomenal against lesser opponents, it will be interesting to see how this team competes on the big stage against a hungry Blue Devils side.
Reinhardt vs Life
Reinhardt enters the tournament 11-1 with its only loss coming against Keiser in an out-of-conference matchup all the way back in February. These two teams have already played each other this year, with Reinhardt coming out on top, 20-9. It’s hard to come up with any reason why Life should win this game. It enters the tournament 10-6, with five of its losses coming against Reinhardt, Cumberlands, and Keiser. It had five chances to beat any of these three teams and failed time after time, so what’s going to make this time any different?
Reinhardt just demolished SCAD in the conference championship, 20-7, and is probably feeling pretty good about itself coming into the tournament. I hope Life comes ready to play, because Reinhardt has had its foot on the gas since the begin of March and has intention of slowing down.
Cumberlands vs SCAD Savannah
This is my most anticipated first-round matchup. This game truly feels that it could swing in any direction. Both these team enter the tournament with losses in each of their respective conference championship games. SCAD had no issue during the regular season as it dominated every team it played not named Reinhardt. Cumberlands swept through its season until meeting Keiser in the conference championship. No team ever wants to lose, but if your only losses are against the top two teams in the country, you certainly are doing something right.
Both Cumberlands and SCAD are elite-level teams, and there isn’t really an argument against that. This game will certainly be an exciting one as both teams are hungry for revenge after falling short in their conference championships.