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What The Three Independents Need To Do For Long-Term Success

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Each team has different sets of goals in order to be competitive in the future.

Copy of 'Washington Crossing the Delaware' by Emanuel Leutze, Abbot Hall, Marblehead, Massachusetts
This happened while the United States was trying to get their independence from Great Britain.
Photo By: Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images

The 2017 college lacrosse season will feature three independent teams. NJIT returns for their third year as a program, while Hampton begins their second year, as they slowly build up their schedule. Cleveland State begins their first year of Division I play with their inaugural game at home against Michigan.

With these independent teams, they’re all still works in progress of becoming top teams in Division I. So instead of highlighting just games for these three teams, I’ll be giving these teams one thing they need to do in order to gain success that Marquette and Boston University has earned over the past few years after starting up their D1 programs, as well as one game that will be important for the development of each program.

NJIT (3rd Year)
2016 Record: 1-14

One Thing To Do: Find a conference to join

Sure the Highlanders have just one win in two seasons of existence. They’ve were close in multiple games last year, and I hope that their slow but steady progress continues in 2017. But I think their biggest need is to find a conference. When the school joined the Atlantic Sun for Division I athletics last year, the thought was the school would join Jacksonville in being part of the Southern Conference. That hasn’t happened yet, and it should happen relatively soon. The SoCon is a great fit for the Highlanders to continue their development, which includes the construction of the school's Wellness and Events Center.

Big Game For The Program:
April 11 @ Lafayette

The Leopards finished 3-11 last season, and took last year’s meeting, 12-4. Lafayette hasn’t had success for a good amount of time, and it would be a great sign for the program to earn a win against a team that has been around for some time. They got their first ever win in program history over Dartmouth last year, but Lafayette would be a small improvement.

Hampton (2nd Year)
2016 Record: 0-5

One Thing To Do: Continue to bring in talent

Hampton will take some time to fully become a Division I squad. They added three more games to their second varsity schedule, and will continue to build their strength of schedule in the next few years, replacing Division II and III schools with more Division I teams. They brought in some transfers from St. John’s this season, and their program looks like they’ll continue to bring in some quality players in the near future. To quote the legend Sam Hinkie, “trust the process.”

Big Game For The Program:
All of them

This team is still far away from seriously competing in any games, so there’s not one single game that I think could be the turning point for this program. If they get a win against any of their eight opponents this year, it would be a huge accomplishment for the school, as well as the sport. Hopefully other schools join in, like maybe a Morgan State return.

Cleveland State (1st Year)
2016 Record: What part of “1st Year” did you not understand?

One Thing To Do: Be competitive

Cleveland State’s schedule is STACKED. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a schedule for a first-year team that tough in my few years in the lacrosse world. Dylan Sheridan and company have an experienced coaching staff and have done a great job recruiting players for the present as well as the future. There will be first-year pains for everyone for sure, but I hope that this team is competitive in many of their games, and even win a game or two against a Division I opponent. With the things the coaching staff and administrators have done in the past two years to get this program ready for play this year, I wouldn’t be shocked if they crack the Top 20 by 2020.

Big Game For The Program:
February 4 vs. Michigan

The first ever game for the team after they scrimmage Bellarmine the week before. It will surely be an excited crowd, and the opponent couldn’t have been better. A midwest team that hasn’t fared well since moving up from the club level. With the majority of the team freshmen, expect a former JUCO defenseman who’s a junior as well as a sophomore, there probably will be mistakes made. But this year, it’ll be how the team responds to their mistakes and fixes them in time for the future, just like what the Eagles are doing with Carson Wentz.