Friday, May 1, 2009

The Big East: No One Is Safe

By Shawn Lopez

The Atlantic Coast Conference is historically known as the most competitive conference for women’s lacrosse. With “old school veterans,” like North Carolina, Maryland, Duke, and Virginia, fans are quick to assume that the national champions will most likely belong to this conference. However, the popularity of women’s lacrosse has been rapidly growing over the past several years and competitors are coming from all over, namely the Big East.

The women’s lacrosse Big East Conference has consisted of six teams for the past few years. These teams include Rutgers, Syracuse, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Connecticut, and Loyola. The addition of two new programs, Cincinnati and Louisville, was made this 2009 season.

Syracuse, Georgetown, and Notre Dame have made names for themselves over the past decade, making NCAA tournament appearances year in and year out. These three teams match up well against the powerhouse Atlantic Coast Conference teams.

Rutgers and Loyola have see-sawed back and forth for the fourth and lowest seed of the Big East tournament leading up to the NCAA’s. The first 3 seeds are most often secured in place. Not this year.

The Big East Conference was extremely competitive this year. The teams matched up very well against one another and there was no powerhouse team. The so- called “upsets” were no longer upsets. They became the norm, and no team’s position in the Big East tournament was safe.

Georgetown and Syracuse tied for the Big East Tournament’s No. 1 seed with matching 6-1 records. Cuse’s sole loss was to its fellow first seed, Georgetown. The No. 3 seed was Notre Dame (5-2). The Irish’s losses were to both Syracuse and Georgetown. This news is standard, almost predictable but here is where things get confusing.

Georgetown’s sole loss was to Loyola. However, Loyola did not even make it to the Big East tournament, with a record of 3-4. Loyola shared this record with Rutgers and Louisville. Despite having the same record, Louisville beat both Rutgers and Loyola and therefore advanced as the No. 4 seed in the Big East Tournament. On top of all this, Louisville was the only team out of the three to lose to the No. 6 seeded team, Connecticut.

Kelly Quinlan, sophomore attacker for Loyola, was devastated when she found out her team was not advancing to the Big East Tournament. “Here we are going out of our minds because we just beat the No. 1 seed and now we come to find out our season is over. It’s just really heartbreaking. This was supposed to be our comeback year.”

Rutgers Head Coach Laura Brand shared a similar response. “It’s hard not to think, ‘if only that one play, that one game, we could have done this or fixed that.’” This will be the first time in three years Rutgers will not be making an appearance in the Big East tournament.

Louisville, on the other hand, was clearly ecstatic about their advancement because it will be their first Big East Tournament appearance. Only a year into the program and the Cardinals beat out four other Big East competitors. Sophomore defender, Melissa Little said, “I’m just so proud of the progress we’ve made. This is quite a feat.”

Clearly, every team in the Big East was beatable, which is extremely rare for women’s lacrosse in general. A two-way tie for first and a three-way tie for fourth makes for a very interesting season for all of the teams.

The Big East Tournament will begin at 5:30 PM on Friday, April 24 in Washington D.C at Georgetown University’s Multisport field when the No. 2 seed Syracuse matches up with the No. 3 seed Notre Dame. Directly after that game, the No. 1 seed Georgetown will compete with No. 4 seed Louisville at 7:45 PM.

The winners of each game will compete in the Big East Championship 1:00 PM Sunday April 26. The Big East Champions will proceed to compete in the NCAA tournament in Towson, MD. It is possible to advance to the NCAA tournament without winning the Big East Championship. Depending on a team’s overall record and toughness of schedule, a team may receive a NCAA bid to advance. I have a good feeling multiple Big East teams will make appearances in the NCAA tournament this year and they might just show the ACC kids a thing or two. Anything can happen!

Shawn Lopez is a sophomore at Rutgers University, double majoring in Journalism and Media Studies and Exercise Science, Sports Management. She is also a member of the Rutgers Women's Varsity Lacrosse team. After college, she would like to pursue a career in sports journalism.

For previous reports on the women's lacrosse season:

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