Denver and Notre Dame Rivalry, Crazy Rankings Testament to Lacrosse’s New Age

Shock continues to set in over this past weekend’s game results and rankings impacts. The Denver hosting of Notre Dame was nothing short of remarkable; in front of a sellout crowd the two teams continued their rivalry in Hollywood fashion.

Though this game did not go into overtime, it came down to a buzzer beater goal by Connor Cannizzaro of the Pios who took the game 11-10. How that ball made it in with such precise timing as to the game clock expiring still baffles me, and what’s even crazier is that it was not the only miraculous play of the game.

Back in the mix is Tyler Pace who snagged an assist off of Connor Donahue for a behind-the-back dump past Shane Doss in the second half, and on the other side of the field Sergio Perkovic sent a punishing sniper past Alex Ready. Both teams were checking audibly and causing scrappy ground ball battles.

The first half of the game was a low-scoring tightrope and the scoreboard was tied at halftime 6-6. The third quarter saw few goals – only one per team, and then the fourth quarter lit up the cages. Denver outscored Notre Dame four goals to three in the final period of play capped off with the spotlight headliner buzzer beater from Cannizzaro.

I’ve contemplated for two days now what the newest rankings can translate into. Quint Kessenich says to “embrace the chaos” that are the weekly rankings this year. Though they are undoubtedly chaotic, I can’t help but recognize a modern shift for lacrosse – one that every lacrosse outlet loves writing about – the sport’s growth.

In the LaxMagazine Rankings, Penn State is No. 1 of all teams, and No. 2 right behind Denver in the Media Poll. Rutgers is Top 5 in all major polls, and all six BigTen schools are currently ranked/in the spotlight. The ACC and Ivy League schools are seeing declines in the modern weekly successes, and Hofstra and Richmond are popping into sight this week.

The west has risen into phenomenal lacrosse. Air Force and DU represent Colorado, and there’s of course Notre Dame in Indiana. Marquette has become a prominent program away from the east coast, and MCLA action is stronger than ever. DU has had more sellout crowds than most other teams on the east coast, let alone teams throughout the sport.

More and more mentions of the sport are made, such as the 2016 all-acclaimed “Penn State Lacrosse” introduction from Chris Hogan of the New England Patriots prior to a regular season game. SportsCenter is continuing to pick up more Top 10 plays from the game and ESPN each year increases its game coverage. New sport-specific channels are accessible (such as LSN).

I think it’s time to say that lacrosse has become so publicly accessible in modern days that prep schools and Ivy leaguers are being outcompeted by more well-rounded athletes. The traditional stereotype of “lacrosse is for rich, privileged children” is subsiding to the hype behind programs like Rutgers and Penn state, Richmond and Towson, and Albany and Ohio State who can boast all of their successful athletic programs, their large and diverse student bodies, and the resources to market the sport well beyond any means up until now.

Not many sports will compare to the big four – college and professional football are powerhouses of modern marketing and business. College basketball continues to dominate the TV sets, especially in March Madness. However, lacrosse has risen – more and more people are overheard saying baseball is slow and boring, while the MLB tries to find ways to improve the quality and speed of the game. NBA basketball continues to struggle along with NHL for game attendances, and the NFL still sees declines in ratings. While “underdog” sports in America such as soccer and rugby continue to see increases in popularity, lacrosse is also riding that wave.

The hype around the Denver/Notre Dame game in the west and the constant shifts in the weekly rankings are key indicators that lacrosse is turning the page for the better – paving a new path of competition and rivalries leading to the west coast and, of course, the National Championship.