The New England Small College Athletic Conference, better known as the NESCAC, is top to bottom, the most competitive conference in D3 mens lacrosse. With weekly upsets within the conference that shake national rankings, to a total of four NCAA bids in 2015, the NESCAC continuously proves itself to be a force to be reckoned with in D3. Many out of conference teams cherish the opportunity to play a NESCAC team, with hopes to boost their tournament hopes, and overall national standing due to the conferences prestige, but the question of why the NESCAC maintains this level of excellence still lingers.
As a proud player of a NESCAC school, I can say that lacrosse is not the only thing that creates this exceptional reputation. All 11 schools in the conference have incredibly competitive academics, sometimes referred to as the “Little Ivy’s” and they attract that kind of recruit. An academically focused student athlete, who has the ability to play at the Division One level but maybe wanted a balanced college experience, or did not get looks from a top academic Division One institution. The NESCAC is full of Division One talent, and accounted for 28 All-Americans in 2015 along with current and soon to be Major League Lacrosse players, something that is becoming even more common.
Most D3 programs have a structured fall ball season that involves coaches along with fall ball scrimmages against other schools. The NESCAC does not have this luxury but this also can be seen as an advantage. Due to the conferences commitment to academics and a well rounded college experience, mens lacrosse is not officially allowed to have practices led by a coach until February 15th. Games usually start two weeks later and sometimes other schools would have already played three or four games. I personally think that this gives NESCAC schools a leg up, because of its long term affects. Teams want to be playing their best lacrosse in May, and it is easy to get burnt out, something non-NESCAC schools may experience. This late start allows teams to be able to sustain a high level of play throughout the months that matter, and the NESCAC’s impeccable attendance of the NCAA tournament is a testament to that.
Unpredictability is another a factor that not only makes it the most competitive but the most interesting conference as well. It did not take long for me to realize the lack of importance that weekly scores have. Any NESCAC player will say that, “scores don’t matter” solely because of the fact that every team has immense talent, it just depends on who shows up to play on that given day. Williams, a NESCAC tournament contender last year lost to Bowdoin by 6 last week, a team that did not even make the NESCAC tournament last year. Some may call this an upset, but I have come to realize that it is just the reality of this conference.
As I was getting recruited by NESCAC schools and, throughout my short time playing in college thus far, I have heard various coaches say that they don’t want to recruit just lacrosse players, but student athletes who strive to excel both in the classroom and on the field. This combination has attracted exceptional talent from all over the country, particularly the Northeast that has created a conference that has dominated the top 20 rankings and continues to grow. This has also created the mindset amongst recruits that, “going NESCAC” is better than going to a mid-low tier D1. I do not see this influx of talent slowing down anytime soon, and until then, the NESCAC will be on top.
This article was written by Ben Perens. Perens is a sophomore, face-off midfielder for Connecticut College. Check back all season for his insights on the NESCAC and college lacrosse.