By Matt Noonan
Last season, the Centre College men’s lacrosse team made history by winning their first-ever NCAA Division III Tournament game against Denison University.
The one goal (12-11) victory against the Big Red did not spark a deep postseason run but left an impression on many that Centre is indeed ready to compete for the ultimate prize: a national championship.
“I honestly believe that we put in the work necessary to win and it’s just an amazing feeling to actually see it come to fruition,” Coach Grant Zimmerman said shortly after his team beat Denison last May.
That hard work — and yes, effort, too — has translated into the Colonels securing the top spot in this year’s Southern Athletic Association (SAA) men’s lacrosse preseason poll, which was released last Friday. Centre collected four of seven first-place votes; Rhodes College garnered a pair of first-place nods while Berry College secured one tally.
Centre is deserving of four first-place votes — perhaps a few more, especially after an impressive 2021 campaign saw the squad win 12 of 14 contests while capturing its first SAA Tournament title since 2014.
But for the Colonels to duplicate their success this season, they will need to rely on some key members of last year’s squad, including Will Hubbs, a junior attack from Louisville, Kentucky, that led the SAA with 38 goals while registering eight hat tricks in 14 games.
Hubbs, who was named the SAA Offensive Player of the Year, is just one of a few players to watch on Centre this spring — fans of the Yellow and White should also keep their eyes on JR Brockman, Graham Robbins, and Will Morrison.
Centre will commence its 2022 campaign on Saturday, February 12 with a visit to Wittenberg University, a team that has won two of three meetings against the Colonels. Last March, the Yellow and White captured their first-ever win against the Tigers, thanks to Jack Shannon and Ridr Knowlton.
The victory over the Tigers was followed by seven consecutive league wins, including a pair of conference tournament victories against Berry and Rhodes.
Following their trip to Springfield, Ohio, Centre will conclude the first month with a pair of non-conference meetings with Elmhurst University and Ohio Wesleyan University. Both squads concluded their respective 2021 campaign with a winning record but did not qualify for the NCAA Division III Tournament.
As we know, every contest, both non-conference or conference, is important. And for Centre to continue its success from one year ago, scoring some early-season wins could help the squad to continue its yearly pursuit of winning a conference tournament title, along with a deep postseason run.