Men's lacrosse named Team of the Year
Another year of Villanova sports is just about in the books, and thus here I am writing about the team of the year. Unlike those who have had this honor in recent years, though, I am not chronicling a thrilling basketball season that culminated in a Final Four appearance, or a memorable run by the football squad deep into the FCS playoffs.
Instead, this year's Team of the Year award goes to the men's lacrosse team.
This was not the most obvious decision, as other Villanova athletic teams also merited serious consideration for the award. These include women's cross country and track and field, both of which competed remarkably well on numerous national stages, as well as women's basketball, which advanced into the third round of postseason play in the WNIT.
And while the lacrosse team's 8-6 record might not jump out at you and scream "Team of the Year," this title does not necessarily denote the team with the best winning percentage.
I believe that this designation accounts for many other factors, such as victories against top-ranked opponents, significant progress being made within the program and the notoriety that the team garners for the University.
These have been a few of the lacrosse team's most notable accomplishments this year.
Last year was the lacrosse team's most successful season in the 32-year history of the program. The team cruised to an 11-5 overall record and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for just the second time ever.
However, the 'Cats lost some important players to graduation-none more valuable than 2011 Lowe's Senior Class Award Winner and USILA First Team All-American Brian Karalunas.
The immediate future of the program seemed unclear without Karalunas' outstanding leadership and production.
But Villanova did not plummet into obscurity with the loss of its superstar-not even close.
Instead, Head Coach Michael Corrado and the 'Cats have put together an impressive 2012 campaign headlined by exciting victories over top-ranked teams.
The Wildcats, who at one point during the year ascended to the No. 8-ranked team in the nation, have taken down No. 18 Drexel, No. 9 Syracuse and No. 20 Georgetown.
The win against 10-time national champion and traditional lacrosse powerhouse Syracuse was even more special because it was the Orange's first Big East defeat since the league's inception in 2010.
Other notable victories against respectable opponents include the team's 17-7 opening day thrashing of Lehigh, an early-season overtime win against Bucknell and a last-second (literally-YouTube it) win over Penn.The Wildcats even dominated Notre Dame for the entire first half before eventually falling to the No. 5 -eam in the country.
Another indicator of the 'Cats' success and proof that they have embodied the term "team" in the true sense of the word can be found through a statistical analysis of the squad.
Look up the individual statistics in Division I lacrosse for the 2012 season and check out all the Villanova Wildcats in the Top 25 of any statistical category. You won't find any.
Well, except for sophomore Thomas Croonquist, who ranked 10th in the country in face-off win percentage. But you get the point.
Now, take a look at the team statistics.
The 'Cats rank in the top 20 in several statistical categories, including scoring offense, assists per game and fewest turnovers per game.
They're even ranked eighth in the nation in man-up offense, scoring 25 goals in 53 total opportunities. Clearly, the 'Cats have achieved their success through a tremendous team effort and have not relied on one or two players to carry them throughout the season.
So, what does all this mean, besides the fact that Villanova has earned a spot in the four-team Big East Championship and might receive its second consecutive berth into the NCAA tournament?
It means that this team has taken another huge step toward solidifying Villanova as a nationally recognized "lacrosse school." Villanova is, has been and always will be a basketball school, but its recent success in lacrosse has gained steady attention outside of Philadelphia.
When the 'Cats defeated No. 20 Georgetown earlier in the season I received multiple text messages from friends who weren't even aware that Villanova had a respectable lacrosse program.
I have to say, it was much better to receive these texts than the ones that came flowing in when Georgetown blew us out late in the basketball season.
Additionally, I had the chance to speak with an alumnus on campus a few weeks ago.
This man was from the New York area, and he raved about the emphatic local reaction to Villanova's victory over Syracuse.
He also pointed out that as the lacrosse team continues its rise to national prominence, more and more people will talk about the team, which will in turn garner more attention for the University and attract a growing number of prospective students.
Despite last weekend's loss to lowly Providence and regardless of how it fares in the postseason, the 2012 Villanova men's lacrosse team has beaten some of the top teams in the country, has sustained the program's incredible momentum, and has generated a great deal of national recognition for the Villanova brand.
Sounds like Team of the Year to me.
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