(Photo Courtesy of Princeton Athletics)
The college lacrosse season is over. Whether you have fulled wrapped your mind around it or not, it is reality. All that we will ever have of the 2020 college lacrosse season is five weeks. And for some teams, the season was even shorter than that.
While we all realize that these are unprecedented times and why this had to happen, it is still hard to believe. And one of the most crushing things about the current state of things isn’t that the season is over, but that we may never get to see how some of the more profound storylines in college lacrosse this season end.
Some may carry over into the 2021 season with the NCAA’s ruling that gives players and extra year of eligibility, but others may have been have ended way before they were expected to.
How Will The Michael Sowers Story End at Princeton?
The Princeton Tigers are viewed as of the “blue bloods” in the game. The Tigers had unprecedented success in the 1990s and early 20o0s under legendary head coach Bill Tierney, viewed by many as the greatest coach of all-time.
Many of those teams and their legacies are tied to the great players that donned the black and orange during that time. Jesse Hubbard, Ryan Boyle, Josh Sims, Scott Bacigalupo, and many others are forever tied with the Princeton lacrosse history. And most importantly, the success they brought to Princeton during their time. Michael Sowers is in the conversation with all those aforementioned players.
But how do lacrosse fans, and Princeton fans, in particular, view his legacy? Do they see him as the school’s all-time leading scorer, a feat which he achieved in just three seasons, and the likely greatest to ever step foot on grounds of Class of 1952 Stadium or the savior of a once-proud program who had his chances cut short by uncontrolled circumstances?
Michael Sowers’ legacy at Princeton is undoubtedly a great one. But the way things were looking this season, with the Tigers sitting at 5-0, ranked as the number two team in the country, and the supporting cast around Sowers to push the Tigers into territory where they have not been in around a decade, it could have possibly ended up being even more special than anyone could have imagined.
Could Michael Sowers have helped lead the Princeton Tigers back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012 or possibly even to Championship Weekend for the first time since 2004? At the moment, that question looks like it could remain unanswered for eternity.
But it is pretty clear that many believed in the magic of this Princeton team and thought they could make a serious run. They had a talented midfield, Erik Peters was playing stellar in goal, George Baughn was anchoring their defense with much poise, and their attack was thriving with Sowers quarterbacking their entire offense. It was a truly exceptional group of talented players.
Depending on whether the Ivy League allows players and extra year and what the next step for Sowers is, we may never see what looked to be a truly prophetic ending to a marvelous collegiate career. And in terms of what his legacy will ultimately end up being, only time will reveal the true answer.
Will Yale Make a Third Straight Championship Weekend Trip?
What Andy Shay has built at Yale is truly magnificent. While the culture and brotherhood that current and former Bulldog players have is special in its own right, the success that Shay has brought to Yale is even more impressive, especially for a program that up until 2012 had only made the NCAA tournament three times in program history.
In 2018, everything came full circle in New Haven, Conn. when the Bulldogs claimed their first NCAA championship in program history. Ever since Memorial Day in 2018, Yale has been the hunted instead of the hunter. They are viewed as one of the truly elite programs in our game and have had the talent to get to Championship Weekend each of the past two seasons.
This 2020 season was looking to be a promising one for Yale. Could they have made that third straight trip to not only Championship Weekend, but to the national title game? Would they have to go through Virginia and avenge last year’s championship game loss to get there? Who’s know what kind of ride 2020 could have ended up being for the Bulldogs.
One certain thing is that Yale had the talent to get it done. There is no doubt about that. From TD Ierlan at the faceoff dot, Chris Fake on defense, and an attack-heavy offense led by the likes of Matt Gaudet and Jackson Morrill. This was maybe Yale’s deepest team yet and they looked to be built for May.
If we could see this season thru in its entirety, who knows what this Yale team could have achieved. If they did have the chance to make it to championship weekend, would that push Yale lacrosse into a whole other spectrum where no Ivy League program has been since Tierney’s Princeton teams? Also, the TD Ierlan-Trevor Baptiste debate could have reached an all-time high and possibly ventured into the same arena as “G.O.A.T” debates in sorts such as basketball.
Does Penn State Finally Come of Age?
Penn State made their first run to Championship Weekend in 2019, losing to Yale in the semifinals. But coming into 2020 with pretty much their entire offense back, it appeared that the Nittany Lions had the horses to get done in May and possibly win their first national title.
Grant Ament, Mac O’Keefe, and Dylan Foulds helped make up one of the most electric offenses that college lacrosse has ever seen. If the season would have continued, who knows how many records Ament, or this unit in general, could have broken – especially in the shot clock age. And in addition their offense, goalie Colby Kneese and faceoff man Gerard Arceri are two of the best at their craft.
2020 was pegged by many as “The Year of Penn State” but, unfortunately, we will not get to see if that will end up being the case. And Penn State winning the championship or even getting to Championship Weekend would have been huge for the sport, which has only seen a handful of schools reach that level of success.
Can Virginia Repeat?
The Virginia Cavaliers put together one impressive run in 2019 en route to their first national title since 2011. And coming into 2020, many pegged Virginia as a favorite to get back to Championship Weekend and repeat.
Head Coach Lars Tiffany and the Cavaliers had the talent to get back to the top of the college lacrosse world. And much of the headlining talent on this year’s Virginia team were seniors, with guys like Dox Aitken, Jared Conners, and Michael Kraus.
In addition to those headliners, the Cavaliers showed much depth early in 2020 with guys like redshirt freshman Peyton Cormier stepping up to the challenge and thriving. Virginia, despite having a bit of a rocky start, could have very well made another championship weekend run. And how exciting would it have bee if we were treated to a Virginia-Yale rematch somewhere in the NCAA tournament?
Does Syracuse End The Drought?
Much talk surrounded this Syracuse program coming into the season with Chase Scanlan transferring in and being given the No. 22 jersey and Pat March being hired as the Orange’s new offensive coordinator. And that hype turned to be pretty true as Syracuse ended the shortened season 5-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation.
While that number one ranking feels good for the Orange, they were aiming for much bigger goals, which included getting back to Championship Weekend for the first time since 2013 when they lost to Duke in the championship game. And with a loaded midfield of Jamie Trimboli, Tucker Dordevic, and Brendan Curry and an attack led by Chase Scanlan, the Syracuse offense had championship talent all over the field. They also possessed some stellar talent on the defensive end, with Drake Porter in cage, while defenseman Nick Mellen and SSDM Peter Dearth were reportedly coming back from injury soon.
The 2020 Syracuse team really could have been something special. Imagine how big of a moment that would have been for the Orange to make it to Philadelphia? Could that have started the complete resurrection of a program that is supposed to be the gold standard of college lacrosse? Above all, seeing the No. 22 Syracuse jersey on Memorial Day Weekend would have been a very special sight for many.