I have never been a big fan of polls and the latest Patriot League preseason polls demonstrates to me how worthless they can be. The best that can be said is that they are, in general an opinion of relative strength. The latest example is the league field hockey poll with the predicted order of finish of Boston University, American University, Bucknell, Lafayette, Colgate, Lehigh,and Holy Cross. Coaches and SID’s (sports information directors) do the voting. Basically, they vote based on last year’s finish and maybe a little tweak here and there. When Lafayette won two championships in a row, the Leopards were not picked first in either case. I sometimes wonder if new classes and graduations are seriously considered by SID’s who couldn’t tell you if there are offsides in college field hockey. (There isn’t).
What is obvious to me is how competitive the Patriot League has become. Anyone of the top five in the poll will be in the mix at the end. Only four teams will make the League tournament, that will decide who goes to the NCAA’s. In the League games last year that Lafayette lost, the Leopards lost by only one goal in each of those games. Colgate got in despite a losing record and a very weak schedule. I don’t agree with the premise, that it’s only the league games that count. Yes, you must win the league games to go on, but in the year when the Leopards won their last championship their RPI and number 10 national ranking got them a better seed, and past the play in game with Princeton ( who won the eventual national championship). The leopards then played a competive game with Maryland losing 2-0.
So what we are looking at are must win games in the league ( Colgate,Holy Cross and Lehigh) to get to the league tournament. Beating at least one of the other three guarantees a place and a good seed, and perhaps the home field. The leopards enter the season with a good freshman class which by all accounts will result in at least good minutes for its members.They will have large strength in their offense with multiple players capable of finding the back of the cage. The Lafayette goalie will be Kaitlyn Arnold, a high school all american now entering her junior year. The defensive line will be anchored by Hannah Millen entering her fourth year as a starter.
It is a long season and the belly of the season with Uconn, Albany, Temple and a very dangerous Liberty University team (who lost to UNC 2-1 in the NCAA’s) provide very tough out of conference competition. It will all start tomorrow with a scrimmage with an improving Rutgers team at 7pm at home. Beating up on each other for the last week of two a days can get boring and tomorrow we get a peek at the future.