By Abby Hope

Breaking down the DII Men’s & Women’s Lacrosse selection shows

The 2021 NCAA Division II Women’s lacrosse bracket is settled. From the South region, Queens enters as the 1 seed, accompanied by Limestone (2), and Mt. Olive (3). From the Midwest, University of Indianapolis enters as the 1 seed, along with Lindenwood (2), and Regis (3). Making bids in the Atlantic region were West Chester (1), Seton Hill (2), and East Stroudsburg (3). And from the East, Roberts Wesleyan (1), Mercy (2), and Bentley (3) will go dancing.

The NCAA selection committee has spoken, and the stage is set, but the committee did a poor job this year.

For starters, the “live” selection show began before the actual start time, so the news had hit social media prior to the true start time. This was completely unfair for the athletes, as well as their family and friends, to find out like that. That would never be acceptable in the pros, and it likely wouldn’t even happen for the major sports, so why is Division II Lacrosse not held to the same standard?

Secondly, DII Women’s Lacrosse is offered at 114 colleges across ten conferences. 12 teams in the bracket are not a justifiable number compared to the talent in the sport at this level. 29 teams were selected at the DI level. Sure, 12 is less than usual because of Covid restrictions, but how simple is it to make more host sites and let more teams in? The testing, social distancing, and all other protocol would remain the same, so what do a few more games in the tournament have to do with it? The game is expanding, especially at the DII level, and it is a shame to see that the bracket is not expanding along with it.

Do you think the NCAA doesn’t want to spend the extra dollars to expand what’s considered a non-revenue sport?  If it was football, they would expand it in a heartbeat but that’s another subject for another column, right?

Finally, the divisional rankings and the selections do not make sense. Five teams who were nationally ranked in the top 10 for the entire season did not earn a bid. Florida Southern, Rollins, Tampa, Le Moyne, and Adelphi all bounced around in the top 10 for most of the season.

Le Moyne senior captain, Erin McMullen, shared her thoughts on the NCAAs decision stating, “We were 13-1 this season and feel as though our season was taken away from us. Our one loss was to our rival, the defending national champions, Adelphi, who we beat twice this season. We have been ranked 3rd in the country all year and teams who are ranked 14th and 15th nationally made it over us. Under the US lacrosse rankings that came out on 5/10, after the bracket was released, Le Moyne and Florida Southern are still ranked above five teams; Roberts Wesleyan, Seton Hill, Bentley, Mount Olive, and Mercy, who made the 2021 NCAA tournament. It is definitely frustrating and not how I imagined my senior season to end.”

Let me give you a little insight into why McMullen is so upset?  All Le Moyne did this year was post a 13-1 record and 12-0 in the conference.  Their ONLY loss was in the Northeast 10 semifinals by a count of 9-8 to Adelphi.  If that was what kept the Dolphins from making the tournament, that just isn’t right.

Tampa assistant coach, Caili Guilday, holds a differing opinion when she said, “I think, personally, it’s just hard to truly pick the best teams from each region to compete when there were restrictions by conferences with the number of games that could be played and what schools could play. For example, the SSC was only able to play 10 games and zero out of conference competition. I think that each year brings new challenges and this year our biggest competitor was Covid. I think different criteria played more important roles.”

The NCAA has made the decision in the past to waive rules in unique situations. The limited number of games and missing the chance to play out of conference is a situation unique to this year.  Certain teams faced restrictions that others did not, and it hindered the outcome of the selection show. The NCAA is not shy in making decisions to offset unique instances, like when they waived the six-game requirement to get Ohio State into the Big Ten Championship game in 2020 but that’s football.  The unprecedented situations of this year should have been heavily considered in ALL sports, not just the ones that make money for the NCAA.

Maybe the SSC is partly to blame for not setting up the teams in the conference for the best chance of success. But ultimately, safety and public health was the top priority this season.

Unfortunately, with the Covid restrictions and differing rules between conferences, it is hard to truly judge a team. It is hard to say if this will the year of the catfish winner, but the external variables certainly raise skepticism.

Looking next to the men’s bracket, 5 teams from the North region and 5 teams from the South were selected for post-season life. The 5th seeded St. Anselm will play 4th seeded Seton Hill in the first round. Mercyhurst earned a spot at the 3 seed, they will face Mercy in the quarterfinals. Le Moyne takes the top seed from the North and receives a first-round bye.

From the South region, undefeated Tampa makes it in and will face Mt. Olive in the first round on Friday. Wingate (2) will go to battle against UIndy (3) in the quarterfinals and top-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne earns a bye and will have home-field advantage.

I asked a handful of the UT players about their feelings on being the lowest seed in the South.  Tampa’s captain, Ross Dickerson, who felt he had unfinished business from last year and came back for a 5th-year, and Jack Wood, the Spartans points leader, chimed in along with pre-season All-American defender Matthew Beddow plus 5th-year D1 transfer Marley Heimert.

AH : How do you feel about your seeding in the selection show?

RD : “I am very excited and grateful to be nominated to play in the postseason. Being ranked 5th is obviously lower than we want to be, but I think we can play and perform at a higher level, shock the tournament, and shock the committee.”

JW : “Personally, transferring from Syracuse with Blake Ulmer [starting goalie], we came here to take this team to the top. We have an unbelievable team, if you look at our past two seasons, we have gone undefeated. Unfortunately, with the whole Covid situation it has been hard to truly judge a team, but if you look at the number of All Americans, and the overall talent of our team, and the quality of our transfers, being the 5th seed is not justified. In no way is it going to push us back, as a matter of fact, we’re hungrier than ever being the underdog. Honestly, all year long we’ve been the team to beat, and everyone has played us like it’s their Super Bowl game and we’ve been looking at it like it’s just another game for us. Now that we play teams who have the same exact thing to lose and are in the same boat it makes us hungrier.”

MB : “Tampa has this under control. We are going to take it game by game. We’re going to prepare. Execute the game plan. Win. Tampa vs the world.”

MH : “I’m glad that we got 5th place because I think we’ll use that as fuel. We should be playing as an underdog and we thrive in that position. I’d rather be in this position than first place. Come out on top with a dub. Underdogs are hungry dogs.”

And hungry dogs run faster.

Photo courtesy of Todd Montgomery.