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College Crosse's Year-End Awards and Certificates of Amazing Human Achievement: Part IV

Highlighting some of the best of college lacrosse in 2015.

Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

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.

Part IV

Most Resilient Team
Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Notre Dame -- the top seed in the NCAA Tournament -- may not have summited the mountain in 2015, but the Irish plowed through its campaign with a 12-3 record and did so in circumstances that would have swamped teams of a lesser constitution. The Irish were defiantly tough this past spring and deserve recognition for advancing all the way to the national semifinals, falling in overtime to the eventual national champions.

  • The Irish bagged a dozen kills against only a trio of losses, the team's competition ranking at the top of the nation in strength of schedule:
    Adjusted Pythagorean Win Expectation 2 66.12%
    LaxPower 1 95.83
    Massey Ratings 1 8.00
    Z-Ratings 1 4543.4
    The only other school that approached Notre Dame's strength of schedule and its expected winning percentage was Syracuse, and the Irish navigated the NCAA Tournament one degree further than the Orange and were comparable to Syracuse in advanced rating metrics that measure relative intensity. The Irish conquered an almost impossible slate of opponents and did so with an ambition that is lacking in many Division I teams.
  • Notre Dame faced six teams that participated in The Show in the regular season -- Denver, Virginia, Ohio State, Syracuse, Duke (twice), North Carolina -- and went 5-2 in those games, the team's loss to Denver occurring in overtime at altitude early in March. Notre Dame was unbeaten in ACC regular season play, accumulating a 4-0 record against the most terrifying league in the nation.
  • The Irish found its way to the brink of the most important moment of the year despite having its offensive soul -- Matt Kavanagh -- hobbled with a pair of injuries -- the attackman sustained a stress reaction in his pelvis and a torn glute muscle -- that withheld him from practice for the last two months of the season and limited his effectiveness in games. With Notre Dame's premier offensive weapon confined to qualified ability, the Irish still accelerated when the weather turned affable and were within an overtime turnover of advancing to Memorial Day.

Best New Head Coach
Judd Lattimore, Holy Cross Crusaders

Holy Cross didn't enter the 2015 season with elevated expectations, but Lattimore -- in his first run as a head coach at college lacrosse's highest level of play -- managed to uncork three massive upsets, two of which brought the Crusaders to the fringe of taking part in the Patriot League Tournament. LaxPower's model for upset tracking marks Holy Cross' defeats of Army and Loyola as the third and fourth most prominent overplays of the year, respectively, and the Crusaders' conquering of Fairfield at the sunrise of Holy Cross' campaign ranks 16th in the site's model. The Massey Ratings illustrate the Crusaders' triumphs against the Black Knights and Greyhounds as the 11th and eighth most mind-bending outcomes in the Division I season, respectively, with the team's defeat of Fairfield as the 19th biggest overthrow of the year.

The Crusaders' season cooled after Holy Cross pulled off its three monster upsets -- the team went just 3-5 in its last eight games against mostly average to below average opponents -- but that does not erode the composition that Lattimore authored at the start of his first season in Worcester.

Best Game -- Regular Season
Syracuse at Notre Dame, March 28, 2015

With over 480 regular season games in 2015, it's hard to pinpoint one game as the absolute best of the pre-tournament -- conference and NCAA -- season. Yet, Syracuse's trip to Arlotta Stadium to face Notre Dame in late March stands out as a game that made rainbows shoot out of people's eyes. The Orange and Irish were ranked first and second in the media and coaches polls, respectively, and dueled to a 13-12 double overtime result with Notre Dame ending the day as the victor thanks to a Jack Near goal 1:06 into the second extra session.

The pace in Syracuse-Notre Dame wasn't exceptionally blistering -- the teams combined for 72 estimated possessions, those possessions yielding 66 opportunities in a 60-minute environment -- but both teams took a bone saw to each other's faces: The Orange clicked on around 32 percent of their offensive opportunities while the Irish were north of 37 percent, both teams making the scoreboard blink at an increased rate. Escalating the drama in the game was two set of circumstances: (1) Syracuse engaged in a 9-2 run in a 20:56 stretch that started midway through the third period and ended with 1:06 remaining in regulation, turningn a 9-3 deficit into a 12-11 lead; and (2) Notre Dame responded to the Orange's goal with 66 second left on the clock with a hammer seven seconds later to knot the game at 12 and force overtime. The officiating at the end of the game earned some gruff from both sides, but what Syracuse and Notre Dame combined for remains a beautiful spaceship blowing through wormholes all over the galaxy.