Nittany Lions Look To Improve Its Luck In Conference Play
April 22, 2011
By Will Donley, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
The Colonial Athletic Association conference championship is held at the home venue of the highest seeded team. Tied for second in the CAA, Penn State is in position to take over the CAA standings with a win against Delaware this Saturday. The Nittany Lions can then control their fate with one game remaining on the regular season schedule - a conference showdown against Hofstra that may decide the location of the conference championship.
Let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet. Let's take it one game at a time. Without a win Saturday night against Delaware, none of this is possible.
The Nittany Lions do not exactly have a great history of conference success. Last spring, in the team's first season competing in the CAA, Penn State was 1-4 in the conference. The Nittany Lions' only win came in overtime against Hofstra.
Prior to joining the CAA, Penn State competed in the East Coast Athletic Association (ECAC). The ECAC consisted of talented teams like Loyola, Georgetown, UMass and Rutgers.
A founding member of the ECAC lacrosse league in 2000, the Nittany Lions experienced mixed success in 10 years of competition. Penn State finished 28-31 all time in ECAC conference play. The Nittany Lions only topped the league once in 2005 when it shared the title with UMass.
But, this is the CAA we are talking about. The game is a little bit faster. The players are a little bit more athletic. The game plans are a little bit savvier.
The winner of the CAA receives an automatic bid to the NCAA postseason tournament. Last season's champion, Delaware, played North Carolina in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Blue Hens lost 14-13.
Villanova won the CAA in 2009. The Wildcats lost to the Virginia Cavaliers 18-6 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The last CAA champion to make it past the first round of the NCAA tournament was Delaware in 2007. That year, the Blue Hens made it all the way to the NCAA semifinals before losing to Johns Hopkins. Along the way, Delaware upset teams like UMBC and Virginia.
This season, there are two CAA teams ranked in the USILA Division I Coaches Poll. Delaware is ranked No. 19, and Hofstra is sitting at No. 8 in the poll.
Hofstra is in position to make the NCAA tournament without winning the conference title. The Pride are 11-1 on the season.
Delaware, like Penn State, needs a conference title in order to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. That makes Saturday's game even more important. The Blue Hens are playing at home, under the lights, on senior night and in the university's football stadium. They should have no trouble getting excited for this one.
The Nittany Lions must weather the storm early. If Penn State can withstand Delaware's fury through the first 10 minutes of play, the Nittany Lions will be in position to defeat the Blue Hens late in the game.
Will Donley, Senior Attackman, Penn State Men's Lacrosse Team, GoPSUsports.com