Monday, April 14, 2014

Two weekends, two champions

85 years.

That's how long it's been since Union College in Schenectady last had a national championship----in lacrosse. I'm not even sure if the Dutchmen still field a lacrosse team these days, since all the attention is focused on the University at Albany's team when it comes to lacrosse around here.

On Saturday night, Union pulled off their own "Miracle on Ice", nearly 35 years after the US Olympic Hockey team upset the Russians en route to the gold medal. The Dutchmen battered Minnesota, one of the major powers in college hockey, 7-4, to win their first NCAA hockey title, and just the 2nd NCAA title in school history. Oh, sure, ESPN, which carried the game, had a little fun with the match-up on SportsCenter, using computer trickery to alter the sizes of their anchors to illustrate how Union, a "David" in that its enrollment is barely over 2,000, conquered a "Goliath" in Minnesota, which plays most of its sports in the Big 10, one of the power conferences of football & basketball.

But it wasn't all fun & games afterward. As has become predictable in similar cases across the country in past years, overzealous----and overinebriated--students threw bottles at cars, and eventually at police. Five people were arrested. Tame compared to other incidents, I know, but then.......!

In sharp contrast,  no one expected Siena College to still be playing deep into the first weekend in April. The Saints cashed in an invitation to the College Basketball Insiders tournament by winning the championship series, 2 games to 1, over Fresno State of the Mountain West conference on April 5. No one got rowdy after that, largely because the deciding game was played on campus at the Alumni Recreation Center, since the Times Union Center in downtown Albany was booked. After Siena was one-&-done in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament last month, the players all assumed, rightfully, that the season was over. Oh, were they in for a shock coming back from spring break. After the shock wore off, they virtually ran the table, a game 2 loss to Fresno State only postponing what suddenly became inevitable. Oh, and they beat a Big 10 team, too----Penn State---along the way.

Couple this with the NY-Penn League's Tri-City Valleycats winning their 2nd league title 7 months ago, and you wonder if all of a sudden, championship fever has swept through upstate New York. It's too bad the pros in Western NY and New Jersey didn't catch any of it........

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