Well, here we are, somehow entering the second week of March already. By now, all the college programs are well into their 2020 campaigns; in fact, believe it or not, we’re about to enter the Spring Break season – and yet, somehow, high school pre-season practices haven’t even started yet.
Indeed, we live in strange times…
Still, after watching one D-III game last weekend, and another this past Saturday, I feel like I’m ready to rank my Top 20 D-III men’s lacrosse teams in Upstate New York.
Full disclosure – I started compiling my Top 20 by looking at last week’s USILA D-III Coaches’ Poll. RIT was #5, Union was #11, St. John Fisher was #13, St. Lawrence was #15, and Cortland was #19. Both RPI and Geneseo were listed as “Also receiving votes.”
So, the first seven teams were already done, right?
Wrong. Not to discredit the coaches on the USILA rankings committee, but I took a close look at who played whom, margins of victory (or loss), and put my own little spin on things. That’s what I do.
I researched the schedules of some 35+ D-III teams in what I call Upstate – members of the SUNYAC, Empire 8 (minus Stevens Tech, which is in New Jersey), Liberty League, and NEAC conferences… plus Hamilton College, the lone NESCAC member located in NY. I looked at their W-L records, their opponents, their upcoming schedules, and when they begin conference play (if they haven’t done so already).
I did not look at individual factors – like who’s got the hot goalie, the stud attackman, or the dominant FOGO. I didn’t figure out who’s got their top scorers back from last year, who’s got a killer man-up unit, etc.
It might be difficult to rank everyone based on just two to five games, but that’s exactly what I’ve done. I went with my own hunches, so if you’re not happy with where I ranked your squad, feel free to use this column as bulletin board motivation. As I’ve written before, you can thank me later when or if you prove me wrong.
Here then, without further ado, are my Top 20 Upstate D-III teams – as of Sunday, March 8:
1. RIT (4-0)
The Tigers have been the last Upstate team standing for the past few years, and until someone knocks them off, they’ll continue to be #1 in my book. Want a better reason? Look at their schedule; they’ve already beaten OWU, Bates, Nazareth, and Clarkson, but that’s nothing compared to their next four games – #9 York, #15 St. Lawrence, #13 St. John Fisher, and #2 Amherst. They started their Liberty League schedule this past weekend, downing the Clarkson Golden Knights.
2. Union (3-1)
The Dutchmen have played four games against New England opponents, beating Endicott, Babson, and Springfield and losing to #4 Williams. Next up is #13 St. John Fisher on Wednesday, so that ought to tell us a little more about both teams. Union opens its Liberty League slate against Vassar at Wilton HS in CT on March 21.
3. St. Lawrence (3-0)
The Saints are off to another strong start and sit in first place among SUNYAC schools; after all, they’ve beaten Potsdam, Cortland, and Geneseo. Their next three games will tell us more – RIT on Friday and Lynchburg on Saturday, then WNEC next Tuesday. St. Lawrence opens its league slate on March 21 at RPI.
4. St. John Fisher (3-1)
Just how good are the E8 Cardinals? Wins against Miseracordia and Clark may not have turned many heads, but beating Ithaca certainly did. Their lone loss was to #7 Denison, in double-overtime. The next two weeks should be enlightening; the Cardinals are at Union on Wednesday, Oswego on Saturday, and then home vs. RIT on March 18. They open their Empire Eight schedule at Hartwick on March 21.
5. RPI (4-1)
The Engineers have four wins already, knocking off Scranton, Keene State, Babson, and MIT, with a lone loss to the up-and-coming Coast Guard Academy. In the next two weeks, they’ll face off against #4 Williams on Wednesday, Bard on Saturday, Middlebury on St. Patrick’s Day, and then St. Lawrence on March 21.
6. Geneseo (3-1)
It’s been a while since anyone has put Geneseo ahead of Cortland, but that’s exactly what I’m doing. The Knights have wins against Baldwin-Wallace, Ithaca, and Morrisville, and their only loss was a 9-7 setback to St. Lawrence. In the coming weeks, they’ll face Alfred and SUNY Maritime, as well as #1 Salisbury next Tuesday and Nazareth on March 21. Keep an eye on the Knights; they open SUNYAC play on March 28 when they host Potsdam.
7. Cortland (2-1)
The Red Dragons have not exactly started with a bang. Wins are against Scranton and SUNY Maritime, and their loss to St. Lawrence wasn’t as close as Geneseo’s. Nonetheless, they’ll have every opportunity to make up ground in the weeks ahead. After Morrisville on Tuesday, they’ll play #1 Salisbury on Saturday and #2 Amherst on March 18. SUNYAC games begin on March 28 when the Red Dragons host newcomer New Paltz.
8. Ithaca (2-2)
When the Bombers started 2020 off with unexpected losses to Geneseo and St. John Fisher, maybe some people crossed them off for the year. But with wins against Lycoming and then this weekend’s shocker against 2019 national champion Cabrini, let me be the first guy jumping back on the Bombers’ bandwagon declaring that they are indeed alive and well. Was the Cabrini W a fluke? We’ll only have to wait until tomorrow to get a better idea; the Bombers play #6 Tufts on the road.
9. Nazareth (3-2)
The Flyers have struggled a little in the past, but they appear to be making steps in the right direction this spring. They’ve notched wins versus Springfield, Brockport, and Ohio Northern and dropped decisions to RIT and Endicott. In the next two weeks, they’ll play DeSales (Tuesday), WNEC (Saturday), Hamilton on March 18, and an old-fashioned 585 rivalry game vs. Geneseo on March 21.
10. Oswego (3-0)
The Lakers came out on the good end of two one-goal decisions vs. Hartwick and Alfred, and then they downed Morrisville this past weekend. This week should tell us more – Clarkson on Tuesday and St. John Fisher on Saturday. The following week has them on Long Island vs. Saint Joseph’s and then home on March 21 against Keuka. SUNYAC play begins on March 28 at Oneonta.
11. Clarkson (2-1)
The Golden Knights have wins against Canton and Plattsburgh, and their only loss so far is to RIT. Looks like tomorrow’s game vs. Oswego will be for the RTD #10 slot. After Oswego, Clarkson has Vassar on Saturday, Babson on March 16, and Skidmore on March 21. Liberty League play started this past weekend at RIT.
12. Plattsburgh (2-1)
The Cardinals have wins over Skidmore and New England, and a loss to Clarkson. In the next two weeks, they’ll face challenges from Middlebury, Wheaton, Wentworth, and Norwich. SUNYAC action heats up on March 28 when they host Brockport.
13. Hamilton (2-1)
The Continentals have beaten Utica and Bowdoin, with a single loss to #2 Amherst. Their next three games will tell us more – home versus Hartwick tomorrow, at Conn College on Saturday, and at Nazareth on March 18. Hamilton’s NESCAC schedule started their first game of the season, back on February 29 vs. Bowdoin. Crazy!
14. Potsdam (2-1)
The Bears have wins over SUNY Poly and Utica, and their lone loss is to St. Lawrence, so they’ve got most of their 2020 season ahead of them still. They’ll be busy for the next two weeks, but they could (should?) come out of the stretch with five wins – over Castleton, Marion, Cazenovia, Canton, and Morrisville. SUNYAC play begins March 28 at Geneseo.
15. Brockport (2-1)
Like Potsdam, the Golden Eagles are also 2-1, having knocked off Alfred and Delhi, and losing to Nazareth. Similarly, their next three games could be wins – at Keuka on Saturday, at Miseracordia on March 18, and at Lycoming on March 21. They open SUNYAC play at Plattsburgh on March 28.
16. Alfred (2-2)
The Saxons have wins against Medaille and SUNY Poly and losses to Brockport and Oswego, so they’re undefeated in the NEAC and winless in the SUNYAC. In the next two weeks, they’ll face Moravia (today), Geneseo (Thursday) and then Theil on March 21. Their Empire 8 schedule begins on March 28 when they host Sage.
17. SUNY Poly
(1-2) The Wildcats appear to continue their rise to competitiveness with a win over Canton and losses to Alfred and Potsdam. They’ll face off against a bunch of M schools over the next three games – Mt. St. Mary’s on Wednesday, Moravian on March 18, and Muhlenberg on March 21. NEAC play opens up on March 25 when they host Cobleskill.
18. Vassar (2-2)
The Brewers have wins over Mt. St. Mary’s and Oneonta and losses to Montclair State and Swarthmore. The next two weeks features home games against SUNY Maritime (Wednesday) and Clarkson (Saturday) and an away game at Union on March 21; the Clarkson contest is their Liberty League debut.
19. Skidmore (2-2)
The Thoroughbreds have beaten Sage and Castleton, and lost to Plattsburgh and Endicott. Their next four games are against the US Merchant Marine Academy, Ithaca, Norwich, and Clarkson. Liberty League play begins this Saturday at home against the IC Bombers.
20. Houghton (2-2)
The Highlanders have an interesting schedule; they are undefeated in the state of New York (with wins against Medaille and Cazenovia) and winless in the state of California (with losses to Whittier and St. Joseph’s College of Maine). They’ll give Pennsylvania a try on Tuesday at Keystone before staying closer to home for games at Alfred State and Utica, when they kick off their E-8 schedule on March 21.
There are roughly 35 Upstate D–III men’s lacrosse programs, and I’ve just highlighted my Top 20. I’ll probably re-visit these teams as they get deeper into their conference games, maybe around mid-to-late April.
Until then, good luck to everyone! Enjoy the game, play hard, and appreciate what others have done before you.
Drive safely, everyone.
- 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.