Where does Matt Ward & Co. stack up?
Inside Lacrosse is running an interesting opinion piece on its website. The piece, penned by Syracuse alum John Jiloty, poses a very simple question: whether this year's edition of the Virginia Cavaliers is the strongest collegiate lacrosse outfit ever.
Jiloty notes, in pertinent part:
“I think it’s going to be hard to run a table like this,” said Virginia assistant Marc Van Arsdale. “Kevin Corrigan said to me recently that he thought we had the most dominant regular season that he could remember and that goes back 12-15 years. I would probably concur on that. It’s going to be harder to separate yourself from the pack.”From a personal perspective, I am not sure where the 2006 Cavaliers fall in the conversation. Off the top of my head, I would definitely put the 1990 Syracuse Orange ahead of Starsia's bunch and probably the 1997 edition of the Princeton Tigers and the 1988 Syracuse Orange. As for some of the older Cornell and Johns Hopkins clubs that dismantled their opponents, they too may be ahead of the 2006 Virginia Cavaliers.
In looking at the NCAA’s all-time margin of victory stats, Virginia’s 8.24 goals a game ranks 14th. Syracuse’s 11.31 during 1990’s undefeated run to the national title tops the list and makes that Orange squad most everyone’s pick for the NCAA’s greatest lacrosse team ever. But among the top 20 teams on the list, just one (the 1996 Princeton championship squad) has come since 1991.
Correspondingly, Virginia becomes the NCAA’s 12th undefeated national champ, but just its third since 1991. Princeton in 1997 and Hopkins in 2005 are the others. (Hopkins had to win five one-goal games last year to emerge as national champs and doesn’t often pop up among discussions of the sport’s historically great teams.)
Obviously, some serious research needs to take place before any kind of list may be made. However, it appears clear that Virginia has etched itself into at least the top ten and, possibly, into the top five. There are only so many teams that can become dominant in an age of parity, and the fact that the Cavaliers were able to do that this season is a testament to Virginia's greatness.