It's going to be a different kind of experience for Mount St. Mary's in 2014, and the schedule that the Mountaineers will face is relentless. There's a ton of excitement on the 16-game slate, and the lack of breathers is going to create frequent pressure on The Mount to steady themselves against the ropes.
Here are some schedule highlights and games of note:
It Pays to Know People
February 8: @Maryland; February 25: Virginia; March 4: Johns Hopkins; March 15: Drexel; April 5: @Bucknell
How many non-power conference teams can claim that they'll host three non-conference top 20 teams on their home field? That's what The Mount gets this coming spring, hosting three high profile opponents that will make trips to Emmitsburg, Maryland in 2014 (the Mountaineers traveled to Virginia, Hopkins, and Drexel in 2013). This is what makes college lacrosse unique from college football or college hoops: The lil' guy gets a chance to take a shot at an elite opponent's arteries on its own home field, allowing its fans the opportunity to serenade a name opponent with loving refrains of disgust and hate. And then there are the trips to Maryland and Bucknell, further brushes with fame for the Mountaineers.
Also: Woof; those five games have the potential for Mount St. Mary's to end up in a ditch on the side of the road, left for dead. The Mount may have scheduled a shade over its heads in the out-of-conference portion of its schedule. Those five teams could constitute almost 30 percent of the NCAA Tournament field come May.
Make Some Noise
February 12: @Georgetown; February 22: @Delaware; March 1: @Towson; March 22: UMBC
Mount St. Mary's looks like an underdog in these four games, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that The Mount scheduled "ladder games" against competition located in the hierarchical tier to which the Mountaineers hope to find residence. How Mount St. Mary's performs in these games is more important than how they show against elite non-conference competition; these games, in addition to its conference dates, is where The Mount defines itself on the national landscape.
Dr. NEC's Cure-All Elixir
March 25: Robert Morris; March 29: Hobart; April 1: @St. Joseph's; April 12: @Bryant; April 19: Wagner; April 26: @Sacred Heart
Mount St. Mary's missed the NEC Tournament last season after starting its conference campaign with three straight losses to Sacred Heart, Quinnipiac, and Robert Morris. For a program that inherently needs its league tournament to gain entrance to the NCAA Tournament, failing to make the league playoffs -- in a soft conference -- is akin to aiming a bazooka at your foot and assuming that bones are stronger than explosive shells. In 2014, The Mount needs to avoid putting itself in another impossible position, and the schedule isn't particularly organized in a way that the Mountaineers can string together three victories in a row: Starting with Bobby Mo and Hobart is going to create difficulty for a re-tooling roster that will be replacing 22 -- !!! -- seniors and graduate students from 2013; a date against St. Joseph's immediately bleeds into games against Bucknell and Bryant, an odd position for a game that the Mountaineers need in the left-hand column of their record; and the closing slate of Wagner and Sacred Heart looks like opportunities for victories, but (1) where will Mount St. Mary's be on the table at that point, and (2) what physical and mental condition will The Mount be in when they face each team. There's nothing easy about Division I lacrosse -- regardless of conference -- and the Mount is going to need to accelerate through the league portion of the schedule to ensure a place in the NEC Tournament in 2014.