Duke spent the last decade as college lacrosse’s version of the 90’s Houston Oilers. They always seemed to be among the best teams all season, they always seemed to be a top seed in the playoffs and yet they never won anything.
Still, it’s not as though they were the only team to fit that bill over the years. Considering only seven schools has ever won a National Title in NCAA lacrosse (Virginia, Syracuse, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, North Carolina, Maryland and Cornell), that makes for a lot of good-but-not-great lax programs left in the dust. So many have tried to take their place among the elite and so many have failed.
Now, Duke has broken through.
They did so by beating a Notre Dame team that was in the same boat, looking for a win to propel their program to a new echelon. Some could probably point to this as a sign that the sport is finally ready to let go of it’s old-guard mentality and expand. Then again, those people should remember that the aforementioned former champions were all in the playoffs this year and many of them were top seeds.
In that sense, the pressure is actually on Duke and Notre Dame even more so now. They have laid down the gauntlet that both are deserving of a spot among the elite ranks. Now they have to prove it. Elite lacrosse programs don’t just win a title. They win multiple titles. They dominate. They get to the point where we only notice them when they’re NOT playing for the national title.
Duke’s win represents a bit of a crossroads for the game. The Blue Devils have officially put the events of 2006 behind them and they’ve broken through the glass ceiling of a very exclusive sport. Then again, because the usual suspects weren’t playing for the championship, the crowd for today’s title game was the smallest since 2003.
We’re eager to see where the Blue Devils, and the sport, go from here.