When traditionalists think of the hotbed of men's college lacrosse many will rattle off schools near or around the city of Baltimore, MD. -- Johns Hopkins (Baltimore), University of Maryland (College Park), Princeton University (Princeton, N.J.), University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA.), North Carolina (Chapel Hill, N.C.).
There's a good reason for this way of thinking: In the 1980's, Hopkins won four national titles, while UNC earned three championships; the '90s featured Princeton winning five crowns and Virginia snagging its second overall title; the '00s featured Virginia, Hopkins and Princeton each winning a championship. Not only has those "Baltimore" area squads -- yeah, I know that UNC is about 300 miles from the Inner Harbor -- earned multiple titles, but the NCAA Final Four had been held at Maryland's Byrd Stadium for years, while three of the last six Final Fours has been played at Baltimore's M&T Bank.
There's a huge Mid-Atlantic east coast bias in the sport of lacrosse, but New York sports fans need to start paying attention because the tides are, and have been for years, shifting in the direction of New York. Syracuse, the No. 1 seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, not only has 11 National Championships to its name, but its has won two of the last three Division I National Titles; Le Moyne College (Syracuse) has attended the Division II National Championship game for five strait years, winning in '06 and '07; while SUNY Cortland (a 20 minute drive from SU and the New York Jets home for their training camp for the past two seasons) has participated in five of the last six Division III finals, winning in '06 and '09 -- also, it's tough not to mention Onondaga Community College's dominance at the Junior College level.
And yet, another CNY college, Cornell University, has been slowly sneaking its way into the lacrosse spotlight. The No. 2-seeded Big Red (13-2), who defeated Hartford, 13-5, Saturday to move onto the second round, are trying to earn their third straight appearance in the Final Four. In '09, Cornell lost in overtime to SU, 10-9, in an epic NCAA Tournament Finale. Last year, the Big Red were bounced by Notre Dame, this year's No. 4 seed, in the semifinals.
Entering this year's tournament, Cornell (13-2) has arguably the best player in the nation, attackman Rob Parnell, and has the postseason experience to win its first national title since 1977. (Click here for a complete SB Nation College Crosse breakdown of the Big Red.)
The Orange (14-1) host another New York-biased program, Siena College (13-4), on Sunday (7;30 p.m. on ESPNU). The Saints, who won a school record number of games and earned the MAAC title, will be playing in their second NCAA Tournament. (Here are the College Crosse previews of the Orange and Saints.) On Saturday, the Hofstra Pride lost to Johns Hopkins, 12-5. The Pride finished the season 13-3.
For college lacrosse fans, the road to a National Championship may need to go through Baltimore, again, but two of the best squads in the nation come from the Empire State. The odds of the state bringing home a National Title are in its favor, and that's something to be proud of.