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Disappointment! Eastern fails to get a bid to Division III tourmnament despite conference title

Monday, 6th May 2013

Categories Boy's/Men's, College, Posted 5/6/13
From Press Release

One-by-one, the names of colleges went up on the screen. As they did, the Eastern men’s lacrosse team, along with another 100 or so friends and family went through the mental checklist. Every member of the team and coaching staff knew the names to look for, and too many of those names were coming up.

With one game to play, there was still an available Pool B slot, but that slot went to Centre College.

The Eagles’ historic season comes to a close with the team on a 10-game winning streak. The heartbreak usually associated with a oss in the final game instead came with the enitre team sitting in bleachers in Eastern’s gym watching and waiting as the field was announced without their name called.

The 15 wins are the best in program history. Eastern’s 11 seniors graduate as far-and-away the most successful group to ever come through the program. Over four years, the Eagles are 49-18. In the nine years prior to their arrival, the program had won only 37 games.

The NCAA Selection Committee selected Centre (11-3) from Kentucky, Otterbein (12-5) from Ohio, Colorado College (13-4), Sewanee (14-3) from Tennessee, and Christopher Newport (8-8) from Virginia as the five Pool B teams on Sunday. Eastern (15-2) and Keuka (12-1) from New York were the two teams on the outside. Keuka lost its first game of the year to R.I.T. and then won 12 straight on the way to the NEAC Championship.

The helpless feeling as the names of the other Pool B teams were named was not a completely new feeling for head Coach Kevin Wallace and the rest of the Eastern staff.

They knew from the moment the Ursinus game ended early in the year, that things were not breaking right. The team took a trip to California to play Whittier, who was supposed to be a Pool B contender. The Poets were unbeaten when the Eagles played them. Whittier finished the year losing 10-of-13. Wesley, McDaniel, Swarthmore, and Hood all had historically bad years as well.

Messiah College, which typically contended in the MAC, was also in a down year, and a filler game against Bryn Athyn wound up hurting the Eagles SOS even more.

From March 20th on, the Eagles did all they could, but, unfortunately, things were out of their hands. Some hopeful news came from Ohio when Otterbein lost to an 8-6 Oberlin team, and more hope came from Kentucky when Centre lost in its conference semifinals to Berry College. Those losses, it turned out, were losses that the Committee could overlook.

“While we knew that Colorado College and Sewanee were nearly locks,” Wallace related, “We had hoped that our play would speak for itself. We played right with a Gettysburg team that was in the National Rankings all year, but, unfortunately, a loss in overtime still goes down as a loss. I’m really disappointed for our whole team, but especially for our seniors. They and their families have given so much to this program, that it is really hard that we don’t get a chance to play in the Tournament.”

The Eagles had spent much of the off-season and the season with a bitter taste from last-year’s NCAA Tournament appearance at Cabrini. The Eagles showed considerable inexperience in a lopsided loss to the Cavaliers.

While no one will ever know, and the transitive property of victory is always a little suspicious, it appeared that the gap had closed when the Cavaliers beat Gettysburg 12-11 in the same week that the Bullets beat Eastern in overtime by the same score.

“We are not the best team not in the Tournament,” Wallace said, “but we did feel like we would stack up against any of the Pool B teams in the field, and we still feel like we can play with anybody. We will not have that chance.”

The Eastern schedule for next season next year includes Colorado College and Aurora University from this year’s tournament and Wesley and McDaniel have been replaced with York and Haverford.

In 2012, the Eagles earned the AQ from the MAC. Because the Freedom Conference is technically a new conference constructed only for lacrosse (Arcadia is not in the Freedom Conference for most sports, but the Knights compete in the Freedom Conference to give the league seven teams.), the league has to wait two years for an AQ.

Next year is Eastern’s final year in Pool B.



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