(Photo Courtesy of Princeton Athletics)
Ever since the 2020 season was cut short, there has been much discussion around how good this season could have been for the Ivy League. When the season was cut, three of the top five teams in the country hailed from the Ivy League. Overall, the conference had four top-20 teams and multiple teams that had received top-20 votes throughout the season.
For many, the 2020 season very much resembled the 1990 season in the Ivy League as there were many similarities. And while we will never be able to fully compare the 1990 and 2020 seasons, we can try to look at them both and see how they could have potentially stacked up against each other if both were played in their entirety.
And while the length of the 1990 and 2020 seasons is much different, there are still many similarities that we can point to.
For one, both seasons saw Ivy League teams rank amongst the best in the country. In 1990, four teams from the Ivy League made the NCAA tournament (Brown, Harvard, Princeton, Yale). That feat has only been repeated once since (2006). And remember, the NCAA Tournament was much smaller in 1990 than it is in the modern-day.
In 2020, three teams from the Ivy League were ranked in the top-five (Cornell, Princeton, Yale). Penn was also ranked in the top-20 to end the season, giving the conference four teams ranked in the top-20. Brown and Dartmouth had received votes throughout the season, as well, with Brown receiving votes in the final poll before the season was cancelled.
While the number of high-caliber teams is a good marker to how good or bad a year was/is for a conference, the amount of talent across a given conference is also a good measuring stick. Both the 1990 and 2020 seasons saw no shortage of talent take the field for teams in the Ivy League.
In 1990, Brown was led by a star-studded offense with guys like Darren Lowe, Andy Towers, Rich Touhey, Tom Dwyer, and others. Harvard was led by David Kramer and Chris Bentley. Princeton had guys like Torr Marro, Dave Morrow, and Justin Tortolani, who were all freshman and sophomores at the time. Yale was led by Jon Reese, who was named Ivy League Player of The Year, won the Lt. Don C. McLaughlin Jr. Memorial Award for the most outstanding DI midfielder. Rees is also considered one of the best athletes to ever play at Yale and in the Ivy League, in general.
And that is just some of the top talent that played on those Ivy League teams that made the NCAA tournament in 1990. Teams like Cornell, Dartmouth, and Penn also had quality players on their squads in 1990.
Similarly, the Ivy League in 2020 featured a very deep talent crop. Brown had Phil Goss in goal, Cornell’s offense featured the stud that is Jeff Teat, Princeton featured an electric playmaker in Michael Sowers, who looked to be the front-runner for the Tewaaraton Award at the time of the season getting cut short. Also, one of the greatest faceoff men of all-time, TD Ierlan, hailed from Yale.
Just like in 1990, that’s just scratching the surface as there was high-quality talent up and down each of the aforementioned teams’ rosters’, and Dartmouth, Harvard, and Penn had some absolute studs, as well.
While we cam sit back and look at the similarities between the two seasons as it pertains to the Ivy League, we will never get to truly see if 2020 could have surpasses the 1990 season as the best for the Ivy League in the history of the conference.
As previously mentioned, Brown, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale all made the NCAA tournament in 1990. That is one of the reasons as to why many argue it was the greatest season of Ivy League lacrosse in history. Additionally, Yale was the number two seed and faced Princeton in the quarterfinals to get to Championship weekend, where they lost to Loyola.
The way things were looking at the time the season was cut short, 2020 could have very well seen two Ivy League teams suit up in Philadelphia at Lincoln Financial Field in May during Championship Weekend. The question seemed to be which two of the three (Cornell, Princeton, Yale) would it be. Also, was there a chance that all three could have gotten bids into the NCAA tournament? If that did indeed end up happening, it would have been the first time since 2015 that the conference got that many bids.
But as many have to come to grips with, we will never truly know the answers to some of those questions surrounding how good the Ivy League was this season. But there is no question that for the three weeks and some change that we got to see of those teams, the conference was pushing for the big stage and had some of the most elite teams and players in the country. And because of that, it is not even a question that the 2020 season could have earned the right to be called the best year in Ivy League lacrosse history, surpassing any other season that could be argued as the greatest in lacrosse history, including 1990.