Editor’s Note: Please welcome Lance Antoine to LAS! Lance will be writing about all things lacrosse this year, and for his next post, he’s reviewing the 2013 lacrosse season, or as he likes to call it – The Year Of The Underdog.
I don’t think it was a surprise to anyone when Rob Pannell won the Tewaaraton Award this year. But what was a surprise was the way this season played out for Cornell… and now that I think about it… the season played out surprisingly for just about everybody.
Think about Duke for example, the underdog of their Semifinals AND Championship games, and they ended up winning. Duke started off very SLOWLY as well, and lost their regular season home opener to Denver 12-14. Duke battled back and forth the next few games in a win loss pattern. Once game 7 rolled around though, Duke buckled down and took care of business and went on to win almost every other game on their schedule, only losing to North Carolina in the ACC Semifinals. Duke then, as we all know, went on to win everything. It’s safe to say Duke was the poster child for all “underdogs” this year.
Moving on to Syracuse, the other underdog. At the beginning of the year critics didn’t see the ‘Cuse team beyond Jojo Marasco, especially when Nicky Galasso went down. In the end the team was much more than just him – everyone from Loy to Cometti contributed and found a role. They were so exciting to watch during the tournament, pulling off the same amazing last minute wins in crucial games. There was always a reason Cuse could lose, but they won, and almost brought another title back to Upstate.
Now that we’re on the subject of the tournament, let’s talk about the new guys, Penn State. PSU was new to the Top 10 of D1 this year, and in the beginning no one even gave them a chance. So Penn State did what anybody would do: they set out to prove everybody wrong. They ended up going undefeated in their conference, and had an overall record of 12-5.
Penn State was good enough to earn a spot in the tournament after dropping their conference title game to Towson. They went all out all year, and made HUGE leaps, but lost to Yale 10-7 in the first round. Yale is another underdog team. Who picked them to win the Ivy again? VERY few people. But in 2013, anything can happen!
Let’s also take a moment to talk about a team that didn’t make the tournament, and one that fell in a shocking first round battle. Going along with the underdog theme, these were the teams that made the other teams underdogs. When you think of elite college teams, almost instantly, Hopkins and Maryland should pop into your head.
This year is weird for both of those teams, firstly because only one of them made the tournament. Hopkins started off the season strong with three consecutive wins. Their final record was 9-5,and this includes losses from Princeton, Syracuse, and Loyola. They missed the cut in the end, stopping their 41 consecutive appearances in the tournament.
On the other hand Maryland made the tournament but their time was cut short… very short. For a long time Maryland was the front runner and fan favorite to win it all. They won every away game, and finished with a record of 10-4. Going into the first round of the tournament no one saw what was about to come next for the Terps. They lost to Cornell by 8 points in the end, and it was a shocker.
Enough of D1 though, next stop is some good ol’ D2 lacrosse. I think the stand out underdog would have to be Limestone. Limestone started of the season ranked 3rd and in the end they ended up a spot higher at 2nd. They only had two losses, one being to Mercyhurst and the other to Le Moyne. Their shot per game averaged out at about 38 and goals at about 15. Now barring that conversion rate, less than a 1:2 ratio of shots to goals, it pretty incredible they only lost two games in the entire regular season. They had a fabulous season for what their stats showed, and almost made the finals, losing in the semis 18-17 in OT to Mercyhurst.
Moving right along now, we take a trip to D3 to take a look at two teams, Nazareth and Stevenson. Stevenson won the title this year in an action-packed game over RIT. Stevenson came in with the odds against them being ranked fourth, and needing to overcome Salisbury’s recent dominance, as well as Dickinson’s perfect regular season. A powerful second half drove them past an extremely talented RIT team to win it all. They only had a total of two losses the entire season. Statistic wise they had amazing clears, ground balls and face-offs. Each of these stat’s percentages were over .500.
The bigger surprise from D-3 though had to be Nazareth. Nazareth’s overall record was 15-5. Nazareth’s stats aren’t all that impressive, and they don’t really show up on the season scoreboard. The primary goalie for Nazareth Scott Brown, who was a huge part of the team’s success. His save percentage was over 50% and the goals against him was only about nine per game. Few people picked Naz to improve this much in 2013, and while they didn’t do what Stevenson did, they proved the Underdog is never truly out of the running.
So what can we all draw from this? Well stats can tell the truth and a lie at the same time, and any team can still seemingly do anything despite what’s against them. Lastly, always expect the unexpected. This college season had it’s ups and downs, but in the end, it didn’t matter what the number next to your team was. The only number that mattered in the end was the number on the scoreboard after the last whistle was blown.