The Colonials are coming off a program record 11 wins in 2012. Can they get close in 2013 without Kiel Matisz?
I love me some Colonials lacrosse. Hectic, fast-paced, and probably powered by a nuclear reactor always on the cusp of melting down, Robert Morris may be the most electric team in the country. None of that is a problem for eye-darters like myself, but this is an issue: The Colonials are tucked away in the NEC, one of the worst leagues in the nation (although things are going in the right direction at the top of the conference's hierarchy). If Robert Morris were in a higher profile league, there's no doubt in my mind that the world would be Colonials fans, wearing tricorne hats while protesting the income tax or something. Andrew McMinn is a fire starter at the head of Bobby Mo's program, and I hope he never changes the team's style.
Where the Colonials are now is a tough spot to be in. Expectations have risen for the program, and with Bryant and Mount St. Mary's looking like they'll contend with Robert Morris at the top of the NEC, things could be a little tough for the Colonials without all-everything Kiel Matisz next spring. There is hope, however: The schedule isn't impossible, but it is quietly challenging, allowing Robert Morris to pursue double-digit wins again in a fairly safe environment.
Let's get some.
Dream Big (Like, About Dinosaurs or Something)
March 2: Drexel; March 23: v. St. John's; April 6: @ Bryant; April 14: Mount St. Mary's
I'm not saying that Robert Morris' season is going to be determined by four games, but there are four games on the slate that matter more than all the others (and for different reasons). These games aren't against the cultured blue bloods of the sport -- that seems to run opposite of Robert Morris' near-Pittsburgh location, full of sandwiches packed with meat, cole slaw, and french fries because, apparently, making food look exactly like it will when it gets digested in your stomach is the thing to do in Western Pennsylvania -- but they are valuable for a Colonials program that is trying to show itself as a player.
Drexel and St. John's -- teams that will likely hang around the top 20 this year -- are solid tests for Robert Morris, but are more importantly an opportunity. Wins in these types of "ladder games" are huge for raising program profile, and trying to cut out some room in the meaty middle of Division I lacrosse kind of requires that these games start to go in the win column on a somewhat consistent basis. Wins here won't register on the national radar as important in March, but they will help define Robert Morris' season and where the program is destined.
Then there are the Colonials' two big NEC games -- back-to-back dates against Bryant and Mount St. Mary's. (Which begs the question: Why didn't the NEC try and back-load conference games with a Robert Morris-Bryant-Mount St. Mary's round robin? If you want to build excitement about your league race, it only takes a second of not being in a coma to put your best teams against each other at the tail end of the year.) It's obviously too early to guess where these games go, but they'll ultimately define the NEC race as the conference approaches its first-ever NCAA Tournament-approved league championship.
Dream Not-Quite-As-Big (Like, About Plants or Something)
February 9: Bellarmine; February 16: UMBC; February 23: Detroit; March 9: @ Dartmouth; March 12: @ Jacksonville; March 16: Hobart
Well, this is going to happen, and I kind of like that fact. On a week-to-week basis we all kind of think about Maryland-Hopkins, Cornell-Princeton, Syracuse-Notre Dame, etc.; our eyes are always trained on the big games. But in the entire context of Division I lacrosse, those games are the minority; the majority of Division I is Robert Morris-UMBC. Those contests have significant impact on seasons and programs, dominating the overall schedule more than anything. It's the heart of college lacrosse, and regardless of whether Robert Morris wishes it could get higher profile games, these kinds of tilts keep college lacrosse chugging along. Shine on, you crazy diamonds.