How they earned the ranking and the team’s future outlook
~Matthew Morhiser, Sports Editor~
From the get-go, Christopher Newport University’s (CNU) Men’s Lacrosse team has an expectation to perform. Of course, that assigned expectation is not unfounded. Based on the team’s play from the previous shortened season, the Captains have been ranked the eighteenth best National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III (D-III) men’s lacrosse squad in the nation for this upcoming season. The rankings were released directly from US Lacrosse Magazine on 21 Jan. Coming in at no. 18 out of 20 is no small feat for the men of CNU, as the magazine’s ranking, which is officially presented by Nike, is compiled by a combination of staff contributors and college coaches.
CNU is, of course, now representing the Coast-to-Coast Athletic Conference (C2C), formerly known as the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC), beginning at the start of this season. The Captains’ placement on the list is a fantastic way to both showcase the strength and outlook of the team as well as the arrival of the freshly rebranded conference to D-III’s main stage. CNU is leading the charge along with no. one ranked Salisbury University. Though the two parties will meet for the first of two times this season on Apr. 3 in MD, the Captains and the Sea Gulls are the only C2C representatives on the list. However, the lacrosse team will not only be rubbing shoulders with no. 1 ranked Salisbury from the list. They will also compete against the no. 13 ranked University of Lynchburg on Mar. 20 and 26, and no. 19 ranked Washington and Lee University on Apr. 21. The Mar. 20 game against Lynchburg will be at Jennings Family Stadium here in Newport News, but the other two games will be road games for the Captains. Additionally, CNU will square-off against Salisbury at home on Apr. 14. It should also be noted the schedule is subject to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As mentioned above, CNU’s positioning on the list is not random or surprising. Although the 2020 campaign was abbreviated, it saw major improvement and success for the Captains. After only six games, the season was cancelled, but before calling it quits to protect the safety of all students and coaches, CNU claimed a near perfect record of 5-1. Their sole loss came in an away game against then no. 9 ranked Ursinus College in Collegeville, PA. The Captains, who coming into the game were no. 20 in the country, lost by a final score of 13 to 9. Then freshman and returning sophomore Coby Auslander scored three times during the second half.
In spite of the Captains’ shortened season, more triumph than heartbreak occurred. Yes, everyone in the CNU community would have liked to see the team finish up regular season and conference play to watch how the Captains fared in the postseason conference and NCAA tournaments, but ultimately, the correct decision to put things on hold was made by the D-III governing bodies. The dominant 12-point-deficit victories over Salem, VA’s Roanoke College and St. Davids, PA’s Eastern University were just a taste of how competitive the team will be this year. Not to mention the narrow 14 to 13 win against then no. 16 ranked Stevenson University. Despite the late fourth period run by Stevenson’s Will Smith and Jacob Tatum, returning senior and All-American Dylan Rice held strong for the Captains to escape at home with a win.
Historically, the optimistic outlook for the CNU Men’s Lacrosse team should come as no shock. Since its official inaugural season in 2007, the team has posted an overall total record of 125-93. That is a winning percentage of .573. The Captains have not had a losing season since 2013. Out of 14 total seasons, only five have seen the Captains’ winning percentage dip below .500. For the first seven seasons, CNU competed as an independent outside of any conference. Once joining the CAC in 2014, the Captains have only had a losing conference record once. Prior to the cancelled 2020 season, CNU finished third in the conference for five consecutive years. They have reached the NCAA tournament twice, and their deepest appearance concluded with a third round exit in 2018 by a final score of 12 to 11 against pesky Salisbury.
Looking to the future, CNU’s men should have no trouble translating their fortune from 2020 into some tangible trophies never seen by the university in 2021. According to CNU Sports, 16 of the 19 players who scored at least one goal during the six games are returning for this season. That includes seniors Rice and Will Stockhausen, juniors Campbell Pozin and Thomas Mark and sophomores Auslander and 2020 National Freshman of the Year Alex Brendes. Those are only a handful of the guys coming back to lead the squad to a championship this year. CNU is on the cusp of men’s lacrosse greatness. The past can be a good indicator of the future, so expect the Captains to make major waves beyond the C2C and into the NCAA this year.
All stats retrieved from CNUSports.com: Christopher Newport University Athletics – Official Athletics Website (cnusports.com)
Information on the ranking obtained from: