May 22, 2014

From the Editor: A Season of Upstarts

by Matt DaSilva | | Twitter

This column appears in the June 2014 edition of Lacrosse Magazine. Start your subscription today by joining US Lacrosse.

The biggest buzzword in lacrosse is growth. Maybe it's because we want validation from the mainstream sports realm, but we're kind of obsessed with numbers.

We complained when the number of NCAA Division I men's lacrosse programs was stuck on 60.

We celebrated when the number of NCAA Division I women's lacrosse programs surpassed 100.

We oohed when Paul Rabil hit 111 mph on the radar gun and aahed when Mike Sawyer eclipsed him at 114.

We cringed when a 2012 NCAA report had lacrosse at the top of the charts in drug and alcohol use.

We touted with pride the latest US Lacrosse participation report, which showed lacrosse drawing near to 750,000 players on organized teams in 2013.

We can't wait to welcome 38 nations, including nine first-time entrants, to Denver for the FIL World Championship next month. We hope that number will one day reach the tipping point that puts lacrosse in the Olympics.

But growth without substance is meaningless. That's why it was so encouraging to see several college lacrosse startups succeed this spring. (For the purposes of this column, I'm defining startups as any Division I institution that has added or revived a lacrosse program in the last 10 years.)

Let's start with the most recent wave of newbies. Richmond's men nearly stunned Virginia in their debut and qualified for the Atlantic Sun tournament—a conference whose frontrunners were High Point (second year) and Mercer (fourth year). Second-year Marquette topped traditional powers Hofstra and Georgetown and went 4-1 in the Big East. Those teams almost made us forget about Michigan, the crowned jewel of startups, which made strides in year three.

On the women's side, USC made noise in the MPSF by taking down then-No. 12 Stanford in April. Colorado, in its inaugural season, was making a run at the MPSF crown right as this edition of Lacrosse Magazine went to press, beating Oregon (10th year) in double overtime to end the regular season and San Diego State (third year) in overtime of the MPSF quarterfinals. It's no surprise both USC and Colorado have former Northwestern players at the helm.

Digging deeper, the St. John's men (revived in 2005) and Big East regular season champ Louisville women (seventh year) have become perennial top-20 contenders.

It's only a matter of time before one of these teams makes a deep NCAA tournament run, especially as the fields expand.

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