And just like that, the regular season is over. The all-important second season starts this week.
In case you missed it, the NCAA playoff brackets for the D-I, D-II, and D-III tournaments – aka The Big Dance – were announced last night, and play-in rounds begin on Wednesday (Tuesday for D-III). By this time next week, the D-III field will be down to 16 teams, D-II will be down to four, and D-I will be down to eight.
Locally, the D-III teams that won conference championship AQs (automatic qualifiers) include RIT (Liberty League), Cortland (SUNYAC), Morrisville (NEAC), and, for the first time in program history, St. John Fisher College (Empire Eight). Congrats to all! Overall, an amazing 27 D-III teams earned automatic Pool A bids, which reflects the 241 teams competing nationwide.
In D-II, congrats to the LeMoyne Dolphins, who not only knocked off previously undefeated Adelphi a few weeks ago, but also defeated defending national champions Merrimack in this year’s NE 10 tournament. As a result, Coach Sheehan’s Dolphins are the #1 seed in the North Region; this weekend they’ll host the winner of Wednesday’s Mercy/Seton Hill play-in game.
In D-I, there were a number of upsets in conference playoffs which, in turn, squeezed some pretty good teams right out of the 17-team field. Yale didn’t win the Ivy title, Loyola didn’t win the Patriot championship, and Denver got knocked out of the Big East picture. Yale and Loyola still managed to receive at-large bids; Denver did not. Neither did North Carolina, Cornell, or High Point, the surprise team of February after they beat Virginia and Duke.
So, which games am I looking forward to the most?
In D-III, I was hoping for a Cortland/St. John Fisher match-up. The two teams don’t play one another and I was hoping that the game I asked for back in February or March might actually happen in the NCAAs… but no such luck. Instead, Cortland’s going to Union and the Cardinals are going down to Gettysburg. The Cortland/Union tilt will be a good one – Coach Beville will be going toe-to-toe with former Cortland All-American attackman Paul Wehrum. For my money, that’s the best match-up of the entire first round of games.
Otherwise, it looks like there could be a Wesleyan/Amherst game in the foreseeable future, as long as both NESCAC teams take care of business in the first round. If everyone holds serve, we could see a Tufts/Wesleyan and RIT/Williams quarterfinal in the North Region, and a York vs. Cabrini quarterfinal in the South.
In D-II, a LeMoyne/Adelphi rematch on May 18/19 for the North’s berth in the NCAA national championship would be great entertainment – and a home game for the Dolphins. In the South, I only recognize two teams – Limestone and Tampa. Limestone is a perfect 18-0 and could face the UT Spartans this weekend if Tampa beats Wingate on Wednesday.
In D-I, the 17-team field leaves no room for error. The Towson/Maryland match-up jumps right off the bracket page, as does the Syracuse/Loyola contest – and these are first-round games! Personally, I’m also going to be watching the Hopkins/Notre Dame game, as Coaches Corrigan and Pietramala always make for good theater. In the second round, a Yale/Penn rematch is on the horizon, and if things work out the way I think they might, we could have a Memorial Day Weekend Final Four line-up including #1 Penn State, #4 Penn or #5 Yale, and any combination of Big Ten and/or ACC powerhouses Duke, Hopkins, Virginia, and Maryland. Think about it – months and months of planning, preparation, and drill, and it will all be over in three weeks. Crazy…
But there are other games I want to see.
I want to see first-year head coach Eric Miccio (Oswego ’12) and his OCC Lazers continue to win national championships at the JUCO level, preferably against Nassau CC or maybe new-kid-on-the-block Howard JC.
I want to see West Genesee and Baldwinsville play for the Section 3 Class A title; both varsity programs are led by head coaches who have succeeded local and national legends.
I want to see J-D and neighbor CBA meet for a Section 3 Class C championship – that ought to keep people’s attention.
On June 8, there will be four New York State championship games played at St. John Fisher College, and I’d love to be there to watch those title games. Unfortunately, I’m already committed to coaching teams at Oswego’s own Lax by the Lake Tournament, which is celebrating its 25th year. Fifth and sixth grade boys and varsity boys’ divisions play on Saturday, while 3/4, 7/8, and JV all play on Sunday. Should be a lot of fun!
A couple of days later, on Tuesday, June 11, the Section 3 Senior All-Star Games will be played at ES-M High School. Over the years, I’ve watched those games as a college coach, a high school coach, and a Dad, and no matter what pair of eyes I’m seeing it through, it’s been a great experience. Save the date.
The following weekend, June 14th and 15th, the Upstate Lacrosse Association kicks off its 2019 slate of youth games with its Opening Weekend at Everest Park in Auburn. This year, the newly-formed Upstate Lacrosse Foundation will also be hosting its Lax Around the Clock, 24-hour lacrosse marathon, with proceeds going to the ULF.
What an opportunity! I wrote about this event a few months ago, but here we are, just about five weeks out, so now it’s time to make your move. From 5 PM on Friday through 5 PM on Saturday, one-hour slots are available, with a registration fee of $200 per team.
As I wrote on March 18, (“Action Items”), “Now, I’m sure that the Baldwinsville JV team will register, as will teams from West Genesee, Auburn, and Skaneateles. There will be boys’ and girls’ U-10 and U-12 teams from Marcellus, Fulton, and Homer.
But I want to think outside the box, and I want you to do the same.
I want to see something like the good-old days, when alumni teams from Cornell, Cortland, and Syracuse played at Griffin Field at Onondaga Lake Park. Those games were awesome! What if we try to resurrect those kinds of alumni games, college against college?
Or how about the eight or ten teams that play at Henninger High School every summer in the City League? There’s a lot of talent and a lot of players there every week.
Or the Lake Placid teams? High Peaks, Graph-Tex, Ultra Legends, Roadhawks, Achy Bones, and – dare I suggest it? – even the Sailin’Shoe has players all over CNY. Are there enough Elder Statesmen around Upstate NY to field a team? What about an SU alumni team, or a Cornell squad? LeMoyne? OCC? Oswego vs. Cortland? RIT vs. Nazareth?
You pick the age parameters, but go ahead and throw down those gloves! Call out your buddies and their team. Play at 2 AM. You’ll have a ball and raise funds for the ULF.
Imagine a LeMoyne 40-and-over squad against an Ithaca 40-and-over team (maybe the head coaches would even suit up!)… Bragging rights for an entire year! Or Roadhawk alums vs. Finger Lakes alums, or Superior Seal & Paving vs. GTX…”
But since mid-March, I’ve thought of some other interesting match-ups.
What about an F-M vs. West Genesee alumni game – with Coach Messere and Kenneally (or maybe even Coach Hall!) on the sidelines! Or maybe Skaneateles HS alums vs. Marcellus or Auburn grads? How about it – any takers?
Or maybe a “badge game” – maybe Onondaga County first responders vs. Oswego/Cayuga County uniformed public servants?
The possibilities are endless. Contact either Dennis Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dave Alexander at email@example.com if you’re interested in registering a team, or if you have any questions.
Later in June, I’m looking forward to having our Oswego kids play some indoor (“box”) lacrosse in a four-team JV and V league in Fulton. Hoping to resurrect the spirit and great memories of its 1980s predecessor, the potential is certainly there. The plan is to have teams from South Jefferson, Central Square, Oswego, and Fulton play two games a week for four weeks in June and July. Stay tuned; hopefully you’ll be hearing more about this once we get started…
The end of June brings the Summit Lacrosse Ventures calendar of tournaments to New York State, and I’m lucky enough to work a few and see my son Eric, too. These days he’s running a state-wide youth league all across Colorado as part of his duties with SLV, but once the end of June arrives, he’ll be back in Saratoga Springs and Lake Placid for dates in June, July, and – of course! – August.
But before that magical week in August – the 30th Lake Placid Summit Lacrosse Tournament – we’ve also set a Harborfest date for the latest attempt to hold an Oswego HS alumni game. That’s’ right, on Saturday, July 27 (the day after Smash Mouth’s free concert, and the day of yet another amazing Grucci fireworks display), all former Bucs are invited to gear up and sweat out some fluids and play some lacrosse.
That’s another game I want to see.
And folks, that’s just May, June, and July. Wait till you see what August, September, and October have in store…
Until then, please, drive carefully!
- Dan Witmer
Dan Witmer is the author of two books. The Best of Road Trip Dad – the Laker Lacrosse Collection is an accumulation of 45 articles written for JustLacrosseUpstate between the years 2012 and 2018, about the history and traditions, the people, and the stories of the Oswego State men’s lacrosse program. The book is available on Amazon.com, and at the river’s end bookstore in Oswego, the SUNY Oswego College Store in the Marano Campus Center, The Sports Outfit on West Genesee Street in Fairmount, and Geared 2 Sports in Cortland. ...and piles to go before I sleep - The Book of Wit is his memoir describing his 33 year career teaching HS English and coaching at Hannibal Central School. It is available on Amazon.com and at the river's end bookstore.