Shock. Disbelief. Anger. Definitely some of the emotions going through the women’s hockey locker room on Monday afternoon after the NCAA Division III Tournament field was announced without the Tigers in the mix, despite being the top-ranked team in the East region during the previous three weeks.
Middlebury, Elmira, Norwich, Gustavus Adolphus and Wisconsin-River Falls all received automatic bids by winning their respective conference tournaments. In the end, it came down to Plattsburgh, RIT and Amherst for two of the three at-large berths.
The question was why Amherst in and RIT out of the Division III Women’s Ice Hockey NCAA Tournament, despite a 4-1 Tiger victory over the Lord Jeffs on Feb. 7? In addition, RIT finished 21-3-2, Amherst, 21-5-0 and played just as, if not a more demanding schedule. Amherst played seven games against teams in the tournament and RIT, going 3-4-0. RIT played seven games as well, finishing 3-3-1. There are a lot of confused women’s hockey fans and supporters, not to mention players and coaching staff.
In addition, there has yet to be an explanation from the NCAA committee on why RIT is out and Amherst is in. If you are Head Coach Scott McDonald, what do you tell your team? How do you explain that you are out of the tournament and a team you handily defeated a month ago is in? I don’t know. I don’t think McDonald knows. The kicker is two-fold. Not only did Amherst get in over RIT, but also Plattsburgh, who soundly defeated the Lord Jeffs this season. Plattsburgh is in the tournament, but has to travel to Amherst, which is also a farce. In addition, Gustavus Adolphus, the unquestioned number one team in the nation, has to fly east and play at Middlebury if they win their first round game. The NCAA didn’t want to fly two teams west for the championship, which with the economy the way it is, could be understandable, but unfortunate with thw way things turned out. Middlebury was an afterthought to get into the tournament, but an upset win over Amherst in the NESCAC final game them home ice and a first round bye in the NCAA Tournament? Huh? This is the same Middlebury who RIT defeated 4-2 on Feb. 8.
That being said, the Tigers could have made it a lot easier on themselves by beating Plattsburgh last Saturday in the ECAC West semifinal. A win there and things would have been completely different and I would be talking about this weekend’s opponent in the NCAA’s. Unfortunately for them, a bad day may have sealed their fate. It should not have, but it did.
I am not afraid to say that I believe that the NCAA got it wrong here and left the wrong team home. In this scenario and the NCAA’s complicated formula, they forgot common sense. If all numbers are considered equal, head-to-head should be the deciding factor and normally is, anywhere but the NCAA. Why play the games against the top opponnents then, if in the end they do not mean anything? Are you listening NCAA?
This will not be the first team a deserving team gets snubbed, nor will it be the last. In 2007, the RIT men’s lacrosse team was overlooked by the committee after finishing 12-3 to a Cortland squad who lost six games in region. This was the same Cortland team who won the national title the year prior and actually advanced to the championship game in 2007, but it still stung. I am sure RIT has earned tournament berths in past years over more deserving at-large teams as well. There will be national debates this weekend after the Division I men’s basketball field of 65 is released. There always is, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Unfortunately for the RIT women’s hockey team, they will have to wait until October to prove the NCAA wrong.
The men begin their quest in the Atlantic Hockey Association postseason this weekend, as they host Holy Cross in the quarterfinals. The series is a best-of-three format, first to win two games advances to the semifinals next weekend at Blue Cross Arena. Play begins on Friday at 7:05 p.m. Saturday’s game will be at the same time and if neccesary, Sunday’s contest will start at 7:05 p.m.
Seniors Mike Hardbarger and Tim Wesley of the track and field squad will compete in the NCAA Tournament this weekend. Both men have a shot to garner All-American honors in their respective events. Hardbarger was an outdoor track All-American last year, while this is Wesley’s first appearance.
Kudos to Mike McInally and Luke Baum, who became RIT’s first wrestling All-Americans since 2003. McInally earned runner-up honors at 125 lbs., just missing becoming RIT’s first national champion since 1999.