Here are some schedule highlights and games of note:
We Call 'Em Rotaries
February 17: Fairfield; February 21: Vermont; February 24: Boston University; March 7: Sacred Heart; March 10: at Massachusetts-Lowell; March 24: at Bryant; April 14: Brown
Half of Providence's games this season will come against teams from New England, the heart and soul of this nation and probably where freedom was invented as well as the hoverboard (at least according to locals). This may appear to be a heavy regional influence on the Friars' slate, but the team's 2015 schedule actually reflects restraint compared to the team's chowder-infused calendar in 2014: Providence faced nine -- !!!!! -- New England teams a season ago, those opponents accounting for 60 percent of the Friars' dates.
This is a good thing. Schedules that are lined with regional opponents is what makes college lacrosse great: It ensures that local fans can follow the team throughout the season; it keeps costs manageable for programs; and it incites the possibility for rivalries to take shape and create circumstances conducive to frequent we-hate-these-guys-and-want-to-crush-their-skulls moments on the calendar. There's nothing "small time" about playing teams within a 60-minute radius of your home field; rather, there's actually something important and valuable in keeping things relatively local -- it further creates a community to which a sense of place is formed. It's actually disappointing that Providence wasn't able to find dates with Yale, Massachusetts, and Quinnipiac in 2015 -- New England teams the Friars faced in 2014 -- because of what a dense regional schedule offers to a team.
The Next Step is the Hardest
March 28: at St. John's; April 4: Georgetown; April 11: Marquette; April 18: at Denver; April 25: Villanova
Providence is the only Big East program -- current or former -- that has not participated in the Big East Tournament. The league has sponsored a postseason brain-thumping since the 2012 season and the Friars have not participated in one, running with a 3-15 record in Big East play over the last three seasons (averaging a 1-5 record). That's like making a really nice Jello ring with, like, fruit and stuff inside of it and not being invited to the party everyone else is going to.
This is the step that Providence is working toward. The university is investing in the program, but what's defining the Friars at the moment is the program's relative lack of success compared to their conference peers. It's probably a reach for Providence to move into the league's top four this coming spring (the conference saddling the Friars with the Pioneers and Wildcats to close their league campaign may foreclose any opportunity for Providence to progress to a May adventure), but the pressure remains for the Friars to redefine their lacrosse existence in the somewhat near future. Once Providence takes that next step, though, the world will open and bloom before them.
Cream- and Tomato-Based Chowder is for Chuckleheads
March 24: at Bryant; April 14: Brown
Here is a recipe for Rhode Island clam chowder, my favorite kind of clam chowder:
- 24 medium-size quahog clams, usually rated ‘‘top neck’’ or ‘‘cherrystone,’’ rinsed
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ¼ pound slab bacon or salt pork, diced
- 1 large Spanish onion, diced
- 2 large ribs celery, cleaned and diced
- 12 red bliss potatoes, cubed
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ¼ cup chopped parsley.
- Put the clams in a large, heavy Dutch oven, add about 4 cups water, then set over medium-high heat. Cover, and cook until clams have opened, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. (Clams that fail to open after 15 to 20 minutes should be discarded.) Strain clam broth through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or doubled-up paper towels, and set aside. Remove clams from shells, and set those aside as well.
- Rinse out the pot, and return it to the stove. Add butter, and turn heat to medium-low. Add the bacon or salt pork, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat has rendered and the pork has started to brown, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove pork from fat, and set aside.
- Add onions and celery to the fat, and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in potatoes and wine, and continue cooking until the wine has evaporated and the potatoes have just started to soften, approximately 5 minutes. Add 4 cups of clam broth, reserving the rest for another use. Add the thyme and the bay leaf.
- Partly cover the pot, and simmer gently until potatoes are tender, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, chop the clams into bits that are about the size of the bacon dice.
- When the potatoes are tender, stir in the chopped clams and reserved bacon. Add black pepper to taste. Let the chowder come just to a simmer, and remove from heat. Fish out the thyme and bay leaf, and discard.
- The chowder should be allowed to sit for a while to cure. Reheat it before serving, then garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with oyster crackers.