Is the NESCAC really the king of NCAA DIII men’s lacrosse? I’m sure all the diehards in the Northeast would like to think so.
For those not privy to the New England Small College Athletic Conference, or NESCAC, it is a conference of highly regarded liberal arts schools based mostly in New England with one institution, Hamilton College, in Upstate New York. Originally formed in 1971, the NESCAC has remained with the same roster since adding Connecticut College in 1982 and is known for possessing some of the largest financial endowments of any liberal arts colleges in the world.
12 times since the NESCAC first made its appearance in the NCAA DIII National Championship through Middlebury in 1999, a conference team returned to the finals. Tack on another seven semifinal showings in that timespan and we’ve got the NESCAC making itself at home come Memorial Day Weekend. Prior to 1993 the NESCAC typically forbade its members from participating in the NCAA championships, despite four of the schools (Amherst, Tufts, Wesleyan, and Williams) helping to found the NCAA in 1905.
After last year’s memorable conference tournament, we get yet another major letdown caused by the coronavirus, barring us from another magical postseason. Tufts and Middlebury going to overtime was an instant classic, followed by Tufts capturing another OT win in the championship against Williams was absolutely unforgettable.
Despite Tufts winning the conference playoffs, five of the 11 teams in the NESCAC made the big bracket to force a reset. The Jumbos were knocked out in the NCAA Quarterfinals by Amherst and once the dust settled, Williams and Amherst were the winners of their respective sections. Unfortunately that aligned the two winners to meet in the semifinals, disrupting any chance for the first all-NESCAC National Championship. While Amherst got the best of Williams, 12-8, in the Final Four, the Mammoth would ultimately fall in the finale, 16-12, to Cabrini.
What-ifs of 2020
The coronavirus is going to keep us from knowing how 2020 would shake out. Bates was fortunate enough to see the turf six times this season, while four others only made it out three times before the season was cut short. Tufts flew out of the gate the quickest, off to a 4-0 record, 100 goals for and 42 against, with a beatdown of Colby, 24-10, and thrashing of Amherst, 25-15, to already show for themselves.
After last season, Amherst graduated conference scoring champion Evan Wolf (75 goals in 2019), handing the reigns over to now-senior Jon Coffey set to improve on his 55 goals in 2019 by starting 2020 with 17 goals in four games. Tufts was pretty well reloaded for 2020, relying on a solid core of sophomore and junior talent the season prior. It was still a surprise to see a 10 point swings for Tufts against the national runners-up.
Williams was completely stocked for this campaign, graduating only defenseman Cameron Brown, the lone senior to see all 22 games, with a squad so young they could still roll into 2021 fairly intact. Based on the results of the Amherst vs. Tufts game, it looks like Williams or Middlebury would be the squads coming to dethrone the Jumbos this year. Middlebury was off to a 3-0 start, with conference wins of Bowdoin and Connecticut College already banked. The five unanswered goals Tufts plugged in during the 2020 NESCAC Semifinal fourth quarter to set up overtime will forever haunt the Panthers.
Roster wise, Wesleyan took a hit going into this year and is taking the biggest beating going into the future. Before the season started, the Cards graduated six seniors that played every game they were available for in 2019 and had seven more ready to move on after 2020. The first sign that things were changing was falling in a rematch of last year’s NCAA Second Round to Western New England, 13-10.
National Championship Numbers
2018 – Most recent NESCAC National Championship (Wesleyan vs Salisbury, 8-6)
2000 – First NESCAC National Championship – (Middlebury vs Salisbury State, 16-12)
36.8% – Percentage of National Championships by NESCAC since first winning in 2000
61.9% – Percentage of National Championship appearances by NESCAC first showing in 1999
154 – Goals scored by NESCAC in National Championship games
4 – Greatest number of seasons without NESCAC in National Championship since 1999 (2006-2009)
19 – Most goals scored by a NESCAC National Champion (Tufts vs Lynchburg, 19-11, 2015)
8 – Least goals scored by a NESCAC National Champion (Wesleyan vs Salisbury, 8-6, 2018)
22,219 – Fans at a National Championship featuring the NESCAC (Tufts vs Salisbury, May 25, 2014)
30 – NCAA all-time most points scored in a tournament (John Uppgren, Tufts, 2015)
21 – NCAA all-time most goals in a tournament (Harry Stanton, Wesleyan, 2017, 4 games)
51 – Career all-time most goals scored in the tournament (John Uppgren, Tufts, 2013-2016, 18 games)
99 – NCAA team record for goals in the tournament (Tufts, 2016)
275 – NCAA team record for shots in the tournament (Tufts, 2015)
3 – Most NESCAC National Championship wins (Tufts and Middlebury)
6 – Most NESCAC National Championship appearances (Middlebury)
Middlebury – 3 National Championship wins (2000, 2001, 2002), 6 appearances (1999, 2003, 2005), 8 Semifinal appearances (2004, 2009)
Tufts – 3 National Championship wins (2010, 2014, 2015), 5 appearances (2011, 2016), 6 Semifinal appearances (2012)
Wesleyan – 1 National Championship win (2018), 1 appearance, 4 Semifinal appearances (2006, 2007, 2017)
Amherst – 1 National Championship appearance (2019), 1 Semifinal appearance
Williams – 1 Semifinal appearance (2019)
*Bates, Colby, Trinity, Bowdoin, Hamilton, and Connecticut College are all still seeking a first trip to the NCAA DIII Semifinals.