Blogs and Commentary

posted 03.30.2011 at 9.30 a.m. by Paul Ohanian

Familiar Roar From the Top

Championships are never won or lost in March, but as we flip the calendar this week, it's hard not to be impressed with the resume that the College of New Jersey is building in 2011.

Despite moving to the No. 1 ranking in the IWLCA Division III women's poll for the first time earlier this week, I don't think there's been a more impressive team through the first half of the season.

The Lions closed out March with a 20-2 non-conference victory over Eastern (Pa.) College on Tuesday, improving to 9-0 overall.

A closer look shows just how dominant they have been.

In six of the nine games, the Lion defense has held its opponent to two goals or fewer. The defense ranks second in the nation with a 2.11 goals against average.

Meanwhile, the offense, led by junior Leigh Mitchell and national player-of-the-year candidate Ali Jaeger, is averaging over 17 goals per game. TCNJ has outscored its first nine opponents by a 156-19 margin, and ranks second in the country in scoring differential.

In fairness, the early season schedule has been less than overwhelming, with only Cortland and Ursinus considered to be teams of pedigree. The stiffer tests come in April, with Gettysburg, Salisbury, Rowan and Franklin and Marshall slated for the first two weeks of the month. We'll know more about the Lions by the tax deadline, but I'd be surprised if TCNJ doesn't hold serve.

Of course, New Jersey's candidacy as one of the prohibitive title contenders is anything but news to the lacrosse community. Led by Hall of Fame coach Sharon Pfluger, the Lions are always one of the giants in the Division III women's ranks – with an unmatched 13 national championships, five national runner-up finishes and four additional third-place showings.

Do the math. The Lions have played in the national championship game 19 times in the 26 years that the NCAA has hosted the event. It's almost like the event isn't official unless TCNJ is participating.

Pfluger has an incomprehensible 367-35-1 record in 24 seasons and owns the sport's best winning percentage at over 91 percent. She has coached 130 All-Americans at TCNJ and had 14 players recognized as national players-of-the-year.

Extreme success is the standard in Ewing, N.J., so keeping one eye trained on the Lions at all times is perfectly acceptable if you're Hamilton or Salisbury or Gettysburg or any of the other contenders.

It would be wise to not lose sight of the king of the jungle. With the Lions now perched atop the national poll, that shouldn't be hard to do.