Furman was originally slated to participate in Division I lacrosse starting with the 2015 season. That timeline was moved up a season when Richie Meade, late of Navy, came on board and accelerated the Paladins toward a 2014 genesis. That's an aggressive approach to program building, but it’s one that fits Meade's profile perfectly.
Here are some schedule highlights and games of note:
March 29: High Point; April 5: Richmond; April 12: @VMI; April 19: @Mercer
The Paladins' record at the end of 2014 really doesn't matter; what matters is that Furman learns to get on and off the bus like a Division I lacrosse team and steadily improves as the season progresses. Where this is most important is in mid-March when the Paladins open Atlantic Sun play against competition comparable to their station in college lacrosse's hierarchy: A string of relatively new programs combined with a date against a program that has struggled to establish itself as a consistent competitor not only positions the Paladins for 2015, but also gives Furman the opportunity to generate momentum against peer programs that are looking to create an identity. These games are defining moments for the Paladins, occasions to learn what Division I lacrosse requires against opponents that are on a similar adventure. Furman's performances in this stretch -- consecutive Saturdays that feature back-to-back home games followed by back-to-back road trips -- is ultimately the focal point for determining (1) what Meade is able to build as a foundation, and (2) what shape the Atlantic Sun will take.
February 1: Lehigh; February 9: North Carolina; March 19: Duke
If Meade's looking to generate excitement around lacrosse in South Carolina, he accomplished that task with his addition of three hammers to the team's out-of-conference portion of its schedule: Lehigh is retooling entering the coming spring, but are likely a top 20 team when the preseason rankings are released; the Tar Heels are coming off of a heartbreaking loss in the NCAA Tournament in 2013 and should begin the 2014 season as a top five team; and Duke -- the Paladins scrimmaged the Devils this fall -- looks like a crushing destroyer once again, a challenger for Memorial Monday honors. This is moonshot scheduling, but calling in favors to get these three programs to visit Greenville is more important for Furman lacrosse than the simple taste of elite competition that the program will experience. How the Paladins' community responds to these three games is vitally important for future support of the program.
February 15: @Air Force; February 22: v. Army (Washington D.C.); March 1: @Bellarmine; March 11: @Georgetown
I'm not saying that Furman is going to win any of these games, but:
- March 2, 2013: Marquette 8, Air Force 6
- April 23, 2013: Marquette 9, Bellarmine 8 (OT)
- February 8, 2013: High Point 9, Towson 7
Every program is different and first-year efforts can vary, but . . . this wouldn't be uninhabited territory.