The NESCAC playoffs get underway this weekend, and with at least three teams as possible national title contenders, it should be some of the best lacrosse in the nation. These teams consistently play in tight contests with each other, and each campus should resemble a playoff atmosphere.
Wesleyan narrowly earned the top seed, but Amherst and Tufts are both looking at making deep runs as well. It should be a good preview for who we might see in late May.
No. 8 Bates at No. 1 Wesleyan
The season has gone a lot different for Bates than 2017. The Bobcats lost two of their last three games to drop to the final seed in the NESCAC playoffs. Big losses to Tufts and Amherst pushed them back before a five-goal win over Colby.
On the other hand, the Cardinals have remained a force. Other than a setback against Tufts early in the month, Wesleyan hasn’t stopped rolling since an early-season upset loss to Coast Guard. Behind 37 goals from Harry Stanton and a 46-point campaign from freshman Ronan Jacoby (Glastonbury, Conn.), the Cardinals remain favorites to go all the way in Division 3.
The Cardinals pulled out an early season 13-11 win over the Bobcats, one of the most competitive games for Wesleyan all season. They’ve only won three games by two goals or less, and the Bates game came on the heels of the Coast Guard loss.
No. 7 Bowdoin at No. 2 Amherst
The Mammoths were upended at the start of the month against Wesleyan, which in part resulted in the Cardinals being awarded the top seed. That was their only hiccup since a loss to RIT in March. After making a run last season, Amherst has proved it is here to stay as a D3 contender.
Evan Wolf has produced 68 points and Darien, Conn., sophomore Colin Minicus is right behind him as the Mammoths routinely score into the 20s.
However, the matchup against the Polar Bears could be tighter than people may think.
Last time these teams squared off on March 10, it was just a one-goal affair, a 16-15 win for the Mammoths. The Bears lost their last four to end the season facing the gauntlet of the NESCAC, but they’ve proven they can hang with one of the nation’s best.
No. 6 Middlebury at No. 3 Tufts
Like the previous two matchups, when these teams faced in the regular season, it was a tight game. The Jumbos pulled out the 13-10 win just two weeks ago, so these teams have plenty of familiarity heading into the postseason contest.
The Panthers midseason three-game losing streak downed them in the NESCAC standings, but they’re not a team to be overlooked. They defeated Bates earlier in the year and came close to upsetting Wesleyan. A.J. Kucinski, a former BC High star and Cohasset, Mass., native, has been the sparkplug of the offense for Middlebury.
On the other side, Tufts is still a force and a favorite to make a deep postseason run in the D3 national tournament.
Danny Murphy has replicated his sophomore season with another 57-point year at the top of the scoring chart for the Jumbos. Behind him, Ben Connelly has posted 46 points. The Jumbos’ only loss all year came to Amherst midway through April.
This could be the best matchup out of any of the NESCAC tourney games.
No. 5 Connecticut College at No. 4 Williams
Williams ended its season with wins in four of its last five contests, having its winning streak snapped by Middlebury at the tail end. That streak included victories over Western New England and NESCAC foe Bowdoin to finish a game up on Connecticut College and earn home field in their playoff contest.
Williams narrowly beat the Camels 11-9 when they played early in the year. Connecticut College, meanwhile, lost three of its last five to fall into the five seed. Led by Ben Parens at the faceoff dot, there’s a lot of things the Camels do well, and it starts with possessing the ball.