Morning Jac: Naz Tastes Bitter & Sweet
Rob Randall called Sunday "bittersweet." The bitter was obviously the 24-10 loss to RIT in the Empire 8 championship game, a contest in which the Tigers hung 15 goals on the Golden Flyers in the first half alone. Despite the setback, Randall, who is in his 11th season with Naz, told his team to hang onto their uniforms when they returned to campus.
"I told them yesterday after our game that we weren't going to collect the equipment because I felt there was still a shot we could get in," said Randall. "Stevenson would get a Pool C along with Amherst, Middlebury and Stevens, and then there were two spots left. The way I was looking at it, it was Trinity, Bowdoin, Nazareth, Haverford, Gettysburg and Lynchburg, possibly. Things just kind of fell our way."
The sweet arrived when the Flyers grabbed one of those two seeds when the tourney was unveiled late Sunday nigtht. Naz will now host Union -- the automatic qualifier out of the Liberty League -- in the first round on Wednesday. It's obviously a boon for Naz, which brings an 11-6 record into the NCAAs, but it is also referendum on the Empire 8.
"There have certainly been some years where people have questioned the Empire 8 teams not getting selected," said Randall. "This year, I think one thing that has really helped the Empire 8 is RIT is undefeated still and Stevens had a great year. Then you throw us in the mix a little bit with Ithaca and St. John Fisher, and I just feel like the NCAA committee had a little more respect for those teams. That certainly helped our team."
With RIT the top seed in the North and Stevens sporting just two losses, the high E8 tide managed to lift the Nazareth boat, as well. Not that there hasn't been some low points. In addition to RIT wipeout, Nazareth lost to Bowdoin, 21-5 on March 16. There are a lot of variables in Division III lacrosse, and if you're not on, you're going to get beat.
"Two days earlier we played Western New England and we beat them, 17-5," said Randall. "We weren't that much better than WNEC and two days later Bowdoin put a thumping on us, but Bowdoin wasn't really that much better than we were."
The Bowdoin loss, as well as the 19-6 loss to Stevens that was avenged in the conference semifinals, are in the past. Now it is the Dutchmen who are the focus of Randall's weary crew, which will be playing their third game in six days.
"At this time of year, we're not practicing for a real long time and there's only so much you can cover," said Randall. "You just try to make it as quick and efficient as possible. We're definitely tired. With the way our tournament sets up with Friday and Sunday and then play again on Wednesday, it's a challenge. We've got to prepare ourselves for what I think is a very athletic Union team."
And if the Flyers beat the Dutchmen and advance on to play Tufts? That would be sweet.