Boston College sponsors 27 Division I athletic sports: 11 for the men, 14 for the women, and two considered coed. The three biggest sports at BC are, arguably, football, basketball, and hockey. They're the three most public, and they're the ones people best associate with the Eagles.
That doesn't mean there aren't other accomplishments warranting mentions, though. The Baldwin divisions attempt to put mention on those sports, and while it may seem at first glance that they pale in comparison to the so-called "Big Three," it's entirely possible one of these moments ranks as the most memorable at The Heights last year.
Think of this bracket as the one that's completely wide open. Anything can happen here, and this is the bracket where a #7 seed conceivably could make it through. So let's sit back and have some fun here.
1) Women's lacrosse makes deep tourney run vs. 8) Jessica Wacnik's Championship Runs.
You probably have never heard of Jessica Wacnik, so here's an introduction. In October, she won the ITA/USTA Northeast Regional Championship. That qualified her for the 32-player draw in the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in Flushing, NY in November. Playing Miami's Stephanie Wagner, the senior fell in three sets (6-4, 3-6, 6-4) before falling in the Consolation Bracket to Blair Shankle from Baylor (4-6, 6-4, 7-5). She also played in the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships with doubles partner Lexi Borr back in the spring, seeding third in the Qualification Bracket. Although they lost twice, they were one of the 20 best teams over the course of the season.
This goes up against another national title contender. Starting the season unranked, the Eagles slowly worked their way up to a #4 ranking by the end of March. They only lost to #2-ranked Maryland by one goal and beat eighth-ranked Duke by two. Sarah Manelly found herself with Covie Stanwick and Mikaela Rix on the Tewaaraton Award Watch List. Hosting the ACC Tournament at Alumni Stadium, they lost to North Carolina in the ACC Tournament but still found themselves with a favorable draw in the NCAA bracket. They advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinals by beating both Bryant and Loyola, but they lost to Syracuse, 11-9.
Two solid national runs make their mark on the bracket that warrant mentioning, but I think in the grand scheme of the year, you have to consider this: you probably didn't know who Jessica Wacnik was before you read this, and you probably knew women's lacrosse was doing something, even if you weren't sure what. Winner: Women's lacrosse
2) Women's hockey's Hockey East Championship, NCAA Defeats vs. 7) Erika Reinke's third sailing championship.
Another accomplishment from 2014 you probably never heard of, junior Erika Reinke won her third NEISA Women's Singlehanded Championship. This made her only the fourth person in NCAA history to win a three-peat, and she became the first to do it in her first three years. She helped lead the sailing team to a second place finish at the ACC Championships this year, and she's likely on her way to a career representing the United States in Olympic competition.
That's impressive, and it absolutely warrants a berth in this bracket. But that women's hockey team is becoming a complete force on the national radar. This year, they're undefeated, and their only non-win came on October 11th when they tied St. Lawrence. They've scored 10 goals three times, including once against perennial power Harvard. Halfway through this season, it's all but assured they'll have a run at the national championship, something they lost last year when Clarkson defeated them in the first game of the NCAA's.
Let's rewind last year for women's hockey and illustrate how big of a year it was. The team went 27-5-3 and lost only once in the 2014 portion of the regular season. They did it without Alex Carpenter, who left BC to play with the United States national team in Sochi (more on that later). Though they lost the last two games of the season, they steamrolled through teams and only got better when they returned for the '14-'15 season.
Through 18 games this season, Carpenter, now rejoined with the Eagles, has 19 goals and 26 assists. Haley Skarupa has 17 goals and 21 assists. Ten other Eagles have 10 points. Freshman Katie Burt has a .946 save percentage and a 1.04 goals against average.
As solid as 2014 was, 2015 could be even better, with a possible star on the Eagle uniform in the future. They move on here. Winner: Women's hockey
3) #FireEdKelly vs. 6) Alex Carpenter's Sochi Domination
This is where this bracket starts getting funky with a really tough matchup. Alex Carpenter didn't play for Boston College last year, taking the season off to prepare for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The daughter of former American phenom Bobby Carpenter, she made an immediate impact in Russia by scoring on the power play in USA's first game, a 3-1 win over Finland. She later scored an assist as USA jumped out to a 1-0 lead in group play against archrival Canada.
In the medal round, receiving a bye to the semifinals, Carpenter scored again against Sweden and again against Canada, helping the US to a 2-0 lead against the neighbors to the north before ultimately falling in overtime. She finished the tournament with five points, but her four goals were second only to Finland's Michelle Karvinen (who had five). She hasn't missed a beat since coming back to BC, and is primed to be a force on the national radar for years to come. Now if only America could ever get over that Canadian hump.
Then there's Ed Kelly. Since 1988, he's been the leader of the Boston College men's soccer team. He's led the Eagles to ten national tournaments and two conference championships (one Big East, one ACC). Under his watch, BC became a national power and he became a soccer institution. But the last two years have been tough for anyone who's a fan of the Eagles on the pitch, and BC followed up a 7-9-2 season in 2013 with a 5-8-3 record this year. Even tougher still, BC went 1-6-1 in ACC play, only beating Notre Dame and only tying NC State.
As BC's dropped off the table, there's been a slight discomfort with the 66-year old's results. He's an institution, but the world of college sports, as we've found out so many times before, is more about the present and future than it is the past. It's tough and confusing, and we're not really sure if Kelly should stay or go at this point. That said, I don't think he's going anywhere, and I also don't think firing him fixes the issues with BC soccer at this point. I think he stays, but if it's not turned around in a couple of years, the questions start becoming rampant. Still—that's for 2016 or 2017, not for 2014. Winner: Alex Carpenter
4) #AddLacrosse vs. 5) #DropBaseball
In non-revenue sports, the national tournament usually slots some teams together in order to boost ticket sales. That's why Ohio State played Akron in this year's College Cup, why BC played Bryant in women's lacrosse. I put these two together because it's a clear rivalry that needs to be played out, one more time, for 2014.
The baseball vs. lacrosse argument is one that brings out some of the most passionate, irrational feelings of the BC fandom. It feels like, at times, you have to be on one side or the other and virulently hate the other side. People who propose dropping baseball feel the program is beyond fixing, while people who defend baseball have a plethora of reasons why lacrosse won't work. Both sides go back and forth; last season, covering baseball felt more like a defense of the program than it did analysis. Meanwhile, it got tiresome having to explain about the struggles the lacrosse program would likely face if it came back to The Heights.
So they have to go after one another. They have to meet in this bracket for no other reason other than that they're totally intertwined. But as of this writing, there's still a baseball team and no lacrosse team. The argument might be there, but there's still no resolution. Therefore, #DropBaseball wins 2014 over #AddLacrosse. Because until there's a commitment one way or the other on the program, the argument will rage on for another year.
As an aside, I'm all for fixing this baseball program. It can succeed, and I promise you, it will, whether that's sooner or later. Winner: #DropBaseball
1) Women's Lacrosse vs. 5) #DropBaseball
Again, I come back to the topic of conversation generating the strongest feelings of our readership in 2014. Women's lacrosse, while highly successful, didn't draw nearly the passion of the baseball argument. Call this one for baseball again, since the discussion is clearly a hotter button topic among our readers. Winner: #DropBaseball
2) Women's Hockey's 2014 vs. 6) Alex Carpenter in Sochi
When you ask yourself which discussion point had a larger impact on 2014, you have to look at how much we discussed one versus the other. Carpenter had a tremendous showing in Sochi, but ultimately that was for a performance off The Heights. The end of the women's hockey season and the start of 2014-2015 is generating a much larger buzz in the way we remember this year. Ultimately, I think it comes down to answering this question: if I mention Alex Carpenter's 2014 versus mentioning women's hockey's 2014, you're probably more likely to remember women's hockey's 2014, especially with the way the year is ending. Winner: Women's Hockey 2014
2) Women's Hockey 2014 vs. 5) #DropBaseball
If you started a conversation with a Boston College Superfan about either of these topics, which one do you think would generate more water cooler talk? It's a lot tougher of a thing to think about.
People at BC know women's hockey is solid right now. They know the team is bearing down on a historic national run, and they conceivably could be in line for a run at a banner. They could end 2015 with a star on the uniform. They're a very good program, very well coached, and the players on the team, while maybe not as high profile, are recognizable names to those who casually follow the program.
Conversely, baseball is a tough thing to talk about. People who follow BC talk several times over about how they sometimes don't pay attention to the program, that they rarely go to games. The discussion centers primarily on the lack of attention to the program and how that, in turn, makes this an albatross program.
But the people talking about dropping baseball know enough about the program's struggles to want to dump it. Regardless how you feel about the current coaching staff, the lack of success over the last few years, or even if you can name four or five players on the team, you know baseball's struggled enough to warrant a discussion about the future of the program. So that puts it on even footing with women's hockey—you might have a different opinion of the direction of the two programs, but there's at least discussion about it.
I might be biased here, but I have the feeling that if you polled 50 Boston College fans about the sport they would want to see turned around, baseball would rank in the first few positions. They would want the new baseball stadium built over in the old St. John's Seminary. They want the program to have the commitment to play along the ACC schools. They don't want to watch it play with worse results than UMass or Harvard. They don't want the program to be relegated to playing home games over at Rhode Island. And if they can't have that commitment, they want the program axed. At least that's my assumption.
For that reason, and I think I'll be accused of showing favoritism, I'm calling the Baldwin Division for #DropBaseball. It's really a hot button topic of the spring, at least until National Signing Day and Spring Practice for football lands at our feet. When baseball coverage kicks up, I'm bracing for the argument all over again. That said, I don't think baseball beats women's hockey in 2015, not if they make a national title run. But in 2014, the edge goes to the baseball discussion. Winner: #DropBaseball