LEWISTON, Maine -- Bates College men's lacrosse is ranked No. 3 in the Division III coaches' poll and Wesleyan University is ranked No. 4, yet Wednesday's NCAA Tournament Quarterfinal showdown between the New England Small College Athletic Conference rivals will be played on the natural grass of Wesleyan's Jackson Field.
Bates at Wesleyan
NCAA Division III Lacrosse Quarterfinal
Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Jackson Field, Middletown, Connecticut
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WATCH: '100 Million Goals': The Charlie Fay Story
Wesleyan's Harry Stanton has scored even more than Bates' living legend, senior captain Charlie Fay (Falmouth, Maine), yet Fay is the one who has snagged Player of the Year honors from both the NESCAC and the New England Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association.
Bates won the teams' only previous meeting and has taken three straight overall from Wesleyan, yet the Cardinals were placed ahead of the Bobcats in the NCAA's regional rankings (the reason behind the game's location).
Both the Bobcats (16-1) and Cardinals (19-1) have dismantled opponents thus far in the national tournament: Bates trounced Plattsburgh State and Amherst by a combined score of 49-26, while Wesleyan rolled past New England College and Tufts by an aggregate count of 42-14.
Both teams are the best ever assembled by their respective programs. Who's better? It could never have been settled any other way than on the field.
Wesleyan, of course, hasn't lost since its season opener, a 15-14 decision at Bates on March 5, played on Garcelon Field's synthetic surface in 26-degree heat. Wednesday will be a different venue, different surface and temperatures in the mid-80s.
Fay, today named New England Division III Player of the Year by the NEILA, thinks little of the fact Bates won the previous matchup.
"They've caught fire," Fay said in this week's installment of the Bates Bobcast podcast. "They recently figured out who their guys were on offense, and I think they've just started to mesh a lot better. They're definitely going to be a different team from when we saw them. But it'll be a good game, because we've changed a lot as well."
Head coach Peter Lasagna, whom the NEILA named Co-Coach of the Year today along with none other than Wesleyan's John Raba, foresaw a showdown with the Cardinals in the tournament -- probably around the time Wesleyan won the NESCAC title against Tufts on Garcelon Field two weekends ago.
"I think they're playing as well as anybody in the country right now, and we all sort of figured ahead of time that if we played as well as we could play and they played as well as they can play, that the two of us would meet again," he said.