Men’s lax NCAA draw
For the first time, on Sunday the Middlebury College men’s lacrosse team lost a NESCAC championship game, 13-12 at Tufts. No doubt the Panthers are still kicking themselves for losing that 11-7 lead they held late in the third period against the 16-1 Jumbos, who were ranked No. 6 in NCAA Division III.
But truth be told, the game that really mattered was played on Saturday, when the then-No. 16 Panthers avenged an 11-6 regular-season setback to Bowdoin to reach the NESCAC final. That win, plus their 4-0 record outside the league, proved to be enough to give the Panthers not only a berth in the NCAA D-III tournament, but a first-round home game on Wednesday vs. Goucher (14-3). Game time will be 3 p.m.
Goucher may have a better record, but does not play the same quality of schedule — there’s a reason the 11-5 Panthers were awarded a home game. On the plus side for Goucher, the Gophers have gone 14-1 since a 16-6 setback in their second game of the season to powerful Gettysburg. But that one loss was to Eastern Connecticut, not exactly a juggernaut. Let’s say for the sake of argument, the Panthers advance.
Next up would be RPI (14-2). The Panthers have already defeated RPI this spring, 9-6 on May 20 on the Engineers’ home turf. Hard to complain about that match-up if I am Coach Dave Campbell.
Who would be their next opponent if the Panthers win the rematch in lovely Troy, N.Y.? (OK, just kidding, I’ve been there. With all due respect to my brother the RPI alum, it’s not exactly Paris in April.)
In all likelihood in an NCAA quarterfinal, Tufts again, unless the Jumbos lose their first game to either Montclair State or Endicott. Stranger things have happened, but let’s suppose Tufts prevails.
Do the Jumbos really want to see the Panthers again for the third time this spring? My guess would be no.
Look, this is still a tough row to hoe for the Panthers. But a five-loss team can’t ask for a much better shot in the NCAA tournament than it received.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.