2014 was an exciting year for the Midwest Conference in both Division 1 & 2 as it not only saw growth in both divisions but also post-season production. The strength of the Midwest Conference led to 7 teams reaching the post-season with Bowling Green advancing to the Elite 8 as the only other team since Cincinnati to do so from the Midwest. The conference finished 3rd in the power rankings in 2014 and is poised to be a strong contender in 2015. Below are the pre-season rankings of the Midwest North division in my opinion. These are not the Official NCLL Rankings, just my belief on how the north division will shape out.
Now, before we get started, Saginaw Valley, who had a tremendous year last year but fell to Bowling Green in the first round of the tournament, would have been my clear front-runner to take this division…but they have left the NCLL and moved to the MCLA which is a big loss for the Midwest North. An extremely well run program and strong team…they will be missed.
With that being said…let’s get started.
If you we’re to look at a graph chart of Bowling Green’s program since 2010 it would only continue to go up…no valleys just peaks across the board and last year they reached their highest peak by advancing to the Elite 8 of the National Tournament. Their offense can hang with the best of em’, having a line of shooters and athleticism that can tire your defense out…but their defense is where they can be exploited. If you can get the adjust on them before they get it on you, then it is anyone’s game. Nonetheless, with Saginaw Valley out of the mix, expect Bowling Green to secure the top spot in the North and face challenges from Akron and Michigan Flint.
This is a tough spot because with Saginaw Valley still in the mix, Akron would not be here, and most likely in the 3 spot. But SVSU is no longer, and the 2 spot is only Akron’s to lose not claim. A now veteran team in the Midwest North, Akron has been battle tested up and down the board and the experience in the league gives them a leg up on the other team’s chasing the 2 spot. After back-back appearances in the National Tournament and knocking off the #1 seed Eastern Kentucky in the first round, the Zips look to reload with a whole new cast of personal to take them further than they have ever been. Playing to their opponents level remains a blessing and a curse for Akron, but trust that if Akron vs. Bowling Green is the next game on the schedule…that will be one you want to make your way too as both teams have gone toe-to-toe since 2010 having each game decided by 1 goal or overtime.
Now this spot is where it get’s tougher, while Cleveland State and Kent State both bring talent to the table, Flint closed out the year falling to SVSU 13-15 in the first round of the tournament in a game no one expected to be that close. It set the stage for their 2015 season.Now look for them to bring their end of season fire power right to the forefront of the 2015 season. They have strong face-off personal and a well balanced midfield that can play both ends of the field without hesitation. Expect them to handle the lower tier and separate themselves from the middle tier of talent this season.
There is always a wildcard time each season. An unknown newcomer who has the potential to run the table and leave the rest of the division fearing an upset when they come to town. In this situation, Kent State is not an unknown, they’ve been around for as long as you can remember lacrosse in Ohio. They have a history of winning and bringing great talent to the table. After a few years of regression and finding for the right direction of their program…Kent State is back in the NCLL and looks to bring it’s former winning ways with them. I normally don’t believe in early on success of new teams simply because the talent in NCLL affiliated programs are far greater than one usually expects when coming from playing unaffiliated schools…and also that the schedule becomes harder to commit to when weather begins playing a factor and players begin to get hurt. Regardless, I believe they will stand strong in the middle tier and have an edge over Cleveland State, but struggle with Flint, Akron, and Bowling Green.
The most talked about program in Ohio lacrosse this summer & fall as articles circulated about CSU adding Men’s D1 NCAA Lacrosse to their athletics program. While everyone’s looking into the future, we are going to look at the present and Cleveland State looks good to have a solid .500 year. There program is growing exponentially, but the finishing touches just aren’t quite there yet. They opened the season last year strong against Akron, falling 14 13, but as I talked about with Kent State and the schedule became hard to commit to… and they dropped 2 games against Ball State and SVSU in forfeits. Don’t look for the same this year as they now have 2 years in the league under there belt and have a feel for each program and what they bring to the table. CSU has great athletes on offense and a good midfield, but the defense will be the deciding factor in games for them.
A Michigan program with Michigan talent. EMU got a taste of the talent in the NCLL as a first year team last season, struggling to match the fire power of programs such as Flint, BGSU, Michigan, and Cincinnatti. As far as the lower tier of the Midwest North goes, they swung 2 wins against another newcomer Case Western University and the University of Findlay last season and committed to their schedule…but if the commitment to the schedule doesn’t get you, then the talent of the NCLL does. With some experience under their belts now, I project them finishing in the lower end of the middle pack and competing with Cleveland State.
If you take away the 2 forfeits to Akron and SVSU…Case went 3-1 competing against NCLL teams. Now 2 of those wins came from Cleveland State and the other from Findlay. 4 games however just isn’t enough to go off of, and get a feel for how they match-up to the variety the Midwest North offers. If they can stay committed to the schedule, expect a good showing of lacrosse ahead wherever they compete at. An advantage they gain alongside Akron, Cleveland State and Kent State is that all the schools are within 45 minutes of one another, so the plague of traveling is almost a none factor.
Findlay is a veteran program that is 3-4 players away from having an above .500 season in the books. The issue here is that with B0wling Green such a short distance away, much of the talent filters there, and you can clearly see the results as BGSU sits a top and Findlay below. There is strong leadership within the program and the acquisition of the 2 Toledo transfers gave Findlay a force to reckon with…but 2 players can’t win you a team game…they can make a difference and do so much…but theres only so much you can do. Recording no wins against NCLL affiliated teams and 3 wins against independent teams, I see Findlay struggling again this year to keep up with the rapidly growing Midwest North.
If you enjoyed reading or have a different outlook on the North, please feel free to comment below. I will be releasing the Midwest South and Division 1 rankings here shortly.