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Army men’s lax ranked No. 1 for first time

Photo by Mark Wellman

Army men’s lacrosse team hit the ultimate in-season pinnacle Monday. Now, comes the hard part. 

The Black Knights, who have rattled off six straight victories to open the 2024 campaign, were named the top-ranked team in both the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) and Inside Lacrosse men’s poll Monday, the first time that Army has been ranked this high in any lacrosse poll, which date back to the early 1970s. The Black Knights reached No. 2 on (USILA) poll during the 1982 season. 

But as Army coach Joe Alberici has been preaching since the start of preseason practice, Army is only as good as its next game and the Black Knights still have a long road to go to prove their worth within the tight-knit lacrosse community. 

“Like I told the guys, there is a great (UCLA basketball coach) John Wooden quote that says that publicity is like poison, it is only harmful if you swallow it,” said Alberici after Army’s 18-8 victory over Holy Cross at Michie Stadium on Saturday. “It is there and we don’t need to run away from it. We are proud to be ranked there and I think it is great and great for our alumni. 

“We don’t give it any attention in the locker room. We know that every game is a new lap and we don’t get to start with three goals because we are ranked here. It’s 0-0 for every game and we are expecting the best from Lehigh (this) weekend.”

Last season, little was expected from the Black Knights and they won the Patriot League championship and beat defending NCAA champion Maryland in the first round of the tournament in May before losing by one goal to Penn State. But, this year, Army has been receiving a lot of publicity and praise and Alberici is aware that puts a bullseye square on the team’s collective back. 

Army, which is one of four still undefeated squads (Harvard, NJIT and Quinnipiac are the others) has some big games ahead. As Alberici pointed out, the Black Knights play Lehigh on Saturday at noon at Michie Stadium and then go on the road for a Friday night game at Boston University, followed by a road trip to No. 16 North Carolina on March 30. April brings home contests against Colgate and Navy and road trips to Bucknell and Loyola before the Patriot League’s top six teams vie for the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament in early May. 

Army has had much success in college lacrosse over the years. Before the NCAA started its postseason tournament in 1971, the Black Knights won or shared the Wingate Trophy, given by the USILA to college lacrosse’s best team, nine times, the last being in 1969 when Army and Johns Hopkins were co-champions.

The last time a West Point team was ranked first in the nation in any NCAA-sanctioned sport was the Oct. 20, 1958 Associated Press football poll. The Black Knights ended the season with an 8-0-1 record (14-14 tie versus Pittsburgh) and Pete Dawkins was the last of three Army football players to win the Heisman Trophy.

Army finished the year ranked third, having declined to participate in a postseason bowl game that year as was its custom before the mid-1980s. 

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