(Photo Courtesy of Dartmouth Athletics)
The Dartmouth Big Green have only had one 11-win season in the NCAA era and one NCAA Tournament berth in program history. Both of those milestones came during Big Green’s 2003 season, which was the fifth and final year under head coach Rick Sowell.
When Sowell arrived in Hanover, N.H. ahead of the 1999 season Dartmouth was a far cry from the power they once were in the late 1930s and early 1940s under the program’s first head coach Tom Dent. The Big Green hadn’t had a winning season since 1994, which was only their fourth winning season in the NCAA era.
But Sowell did what may have seemed impossible, he achieved real, tangible success at Dartmouth. And while his first four seasons at the helm of the Big Green were nothing special, he helped lead them to the best season in program history during 2003.
Coming into that 2003 season, the Big Green were looking to get the bad taste out of their mouths that going 6-7 overall and 0-6 in the Ivy League in 2002 had left. And with Jamie Coffin, Scott Roslyn, Ben Grinnell, and others leading a pretty potent offense, the Big Green certainly washed that out and much more.
Dartmouth started the season on a four-game winning streak, beating Colgate, Quinnipiac, Vermont, and Lehigh to open the season. And while they would lose to UMBC and Cornell in the middle of the season, the Dartmouth ended the regular season on a four-game winning streak, beating Yale, Brown, Princeton, and Harvard to close our the season and secure their first Ivy League title since 1965.
The biggest highlight of the regular season for the Big Green was when they went down to Princeton and behind a 17-save performance from Andrew Goldstein, took down Bill Tierney’s No. 2 ranked Princeton squad, 13-6. Dartmouth was unranked. The victory marked the first for Dartmouth over Princeton since 1956 and still stands as one of the greatest upsets in the history of the game, in the minds of many.
2003 saw Dartmouth make their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, being unseeded and matched up against Syracuse. The Big Green hung in there with Orange the whole way, taking an 11-10 lead with 4:23 left in the fourth. However, the mighty Orange offense, led by Mikey Powell, rambled off three straight goals in the final two minutes to secure the 13-11 victory, thus putting an end to the best season in Dartmouth history.
Following that 2003 season, Sowell left to take the head coaching job at St. John’s, and Bill Wilson took over as head coach. And while they posted three consecutive winning seasons, where they won eight games, in Wilson’s first three years, the Big Green were never able to repeat the success of that 2003 season. 2006, Wilson’s third season, was the last winning season Dartmouth enjoyed in lacrosse.
Now under head coach Brendan Callahan, Dartmouth has shown some promise and has made strides that make one think that the Big Green could find their way back to the NCAA Tournament sooner rather than later.