The Morning Jac: Sydney's Tough Loss
The ODAC is a good men's lacrosse league. I don't think anyone can realistically contest that. Still, the conference has had a problem of late. It's members can't seem to get a viable second team ready for an at-large selection to the NCAA tournament.
Yes, I know the ODAC pushed two through to the tourney in '09, but that was only because Washington & Lee – a team that would not have been selected from Pool C – stunned Roanoke in the championship game to nab the automatic qualifier. What I'm talking about is a second team that you know, whether or not they get the AQ, will earn a bid.
The NESCAC has figured it out, even moving to the point of having a pair of at-larges. The Centennial has done it as well. But the ODAC lags. Last year and in 2008, it was Lynchburg left on the outside. W&L has been close on a couple of occasions, along with Hampden-Sydney. However, there has been no lead-pipe lock at-large school in the league for several years.
Why? Well, we kind of got a glimpse on Wednesday. Hampden-Sydney, ranked No. 11 in the country and already owning a win over No. 16 Gettysburg on the road, travelled to No. 20 Cabrini. The Tigers proceeded to get beat up for three quarters, trailing 9-2 at one point, only to surge in the fourth and come up two goals shy in a 12-10 loss.
There are readily available excuses as to why Sydney lost. It could have been the six-hour bus-ride from Farmville to Philly. It could be that they were playing a desperate team. In the grand scheme of things, one could argue that the game really wasn't really that important - the esoteric NCAA system stipulates this was not a regional game.
Yet, that is the type of game Hampden-Sydney and other top ODACs have to win if they want to re-establish themselves as a conference worthy of an annual Pool C berth. Teams have to go on the road and consistently beat tough teams. On a sidenote: while it's easy to marginalize the CSAC, Cabrini is undoubtedly a good team. You don't get ranked No. 20 with an 0-2 record unless the coaches think you're pretty good.
Could this be more of a perception issue for me than reality? Absolutely. Hampden-Sydney will likely win the rest of their non-conference games, meaning it will ultimately come down to how successful the Tigers are in ODAC play. But when its team don't consistently win those important non-conference contests, it will be very hard for a conference to be a consistent contender for multiple NCAA bids.
Best & Worst
Best thing about today: No. 14 Virginia Tech travels to the Lone Star state to face No. 8 Texas in an inter-conference MCLA dandy.
Worst thing about today: The good folks at US Lacrosse hooked me up with a new computer here at the Lacrosse Magazine Midwest Bureau. But since it's an iMac, my bookmarks don't transfer, so I have to re-bookmark 500+ team pages. Brutal.