The 2015 season is complete -- *single tear* -- and that means that it's time for College Crosse to highlight the best of Division I lacrosse this year. These awards and certificates of amazing human achievement will appear in four parts. The honors, however, are not redeemable for any form currency, mostly because macroeconomics is a lie.
Best Team Powered by Fun
Albany Great Danes
There wasn't a team in Division I lacrosse in 2015 that was remotely as interesting, exciting, and fueled by candy and rainbows as much as Albany. The Great Danes ran at an estimated 76.47 possessions per 60 minutes -- almost 13 full possessions per 60 minutes more than the national average -- and displayed one of the top five offenses in the nation, the confluence of these two factors -- a willingness to move only in a blur and a sustained rage to assault opposing defenses -- providing the groundwork for 1,140 minutes of concentrated exuberance. The Great Danes blew the top off of the "Fun Factor" scale this past spring, drastically outpacing teams like Stony Brook, Syracuse, Notre Dame, and North Carolina -- teams with profiles similar to Albany but not quite as insane -- that fell in behind the Danes in the measure.
Albany was a precious jewel throughout its campaign, and even though the Great Danes crashed out of the NCAA Tournament in the quarterfinals (again), its 16-3 effort -- one in which the Great Danes failed to reach 10 tallies only once (a seven-goal loss to Cornell in horrible conditions in Dallas, Texas) -- remains the perfect template for what college lacrosse can be when an eight cylinder engine is dropped into a Power Wheels dune racer and an ambulance service is put on speed dial. Albany was appointment watching -- save for the team's brutal and unnecessary 25-0 decimation of UMass-Lowell -- yet again this season, and that fact -- the continued relevance of something that doesn't mind things spiraling sideways -- ensures that there are white hats in the universe.
Best Moment of Questioning the Existence of God
UMBC at Monmouth, February 21, 2015
UMBC's 4-2 victory of Monmouth in bone-chilling weather should have torn your face clear off of your melon. This was arguably the worst game played during the 2015 season -- the combined six-goal output was the lowest in Division I this past year and was about 15 goals off the mean total score in Division I this past season -- but there is a kind of fascinating beauty in the dark cloud that rests around your soul knowing that this game happened. Here are some facts about this game which are truly unbelievable:
- UMBC had as many turnovers (14) as shots on goal (14). Not to be outdone, Monmouth had more turnovers (19) than shots on goal (10). In fact, Monmouth had more unforced turnovers (15) than shots on goal (10), UMBC total turnovers (14), and turnovers that it caused against UMBC (11). There were 33 total giveaways in the game -- that's more turnovers that combined clears (24), combined saves (18), and combined faceoffs (10). This game was so sloppy -- in 29* -- that it should have come with a stern warning from the government.
- UMBC shot 16.67 percent on 24 shots; Monmouth shot 8.33 percent on 24 attempts. The two teams combined to shoot 12.5 percent. Don Zimmerman, UMBC's head coach, had this to say about the offensive display in West Long Branch, New Jersey: "You could say, ‘Well, we would have liked to have scored more goals.’ It wasn’t a ‘pretty’ win, but it was a win, and that was our goal, and we accomplished our goal." Mission accomplished: Lacrosse was almost ruined forever but managed to survive.
- There were about 40 possessions in the game, give or take a few in either direction. Nobody scored in the first quarter, Monmouth suffered through 35:14 scoring drought to open the game, and the Hawks managed to put just north of 41 percent of its two dozen shots on goal. There is fiction and then there's whatever the hell happened on the Jersey Shore in February.
Best Game -- Postseason
Denver-Notre Dame, May 23, 2015
There was only one overtime game in the NCAA Tournament and it gets the nod as the best postseason game in 2015. Honorable mention honorees include: (1) the High Point-Richmond final in the Southern Conference Tournament (a double overtime thriller that went completely bonkers); (2) the Loyola-Army Patriot League Tournament quarterfinal match (the Black Knights scored the last six goals of regulation, including the winner with six seconds remaining in the game); (3) the Duke-Syracuse ACC Tournament final (there were 29 combined goals and a sense of urgency from both teams); and (4) the Johns Hopkins-Maryland national semifinal (Kyle Bernlohr's game-saving stop with the butt end of his stick may be one of the defining moments of the season).
There was a palpable feeling that Wes Berg's incomprehensible behind the back goal with 4:23 left on the clock sealed the Pioneers' fate of a national championship game appearance. Yet, the Irish battled back from a 6-10 deficit to score four straight goals in a 3:29 span to knot the scoreboard at 10 with just nine seconds remaining in regulation. Sergio Perkovic attained superhuman strength in Notre Dame's run, registering a maker before Berg's mind-bending goal and depositing the next three goals of the game past Ryan LaPlante (Perkovic tallied all five of his goals in the final quarter). Notre Dame had an opportunity to make the first legitimate offensive attempt in the extra session, but a huge Carson Cannon strip of Matt Kavanagh set the stage for Berg -- on a feed from Tyler Pace that started with Zach Miller dancing around his defender out of a timeout -- to rush the ball past Shane Doss with a nasty shot from the alley to Doss' right.
Two of the five best teams in the nation put on an incredible performance with mega stakes hanging in the balance, the eventual winner surviving a heroic rally from a team that refused to die in a ditch on the side of a country road.