With their 7-6 victory over Amherst on Wednesday, March 27, Wesleyan claimed the outright Little Three mens lacrosse title for 2013. Wesleyan had previously defeated Williams, also by a 7-6 tally, to open the season on March 9.
The Little Three an affiliation comprised of Division III institutions Amherst, Wesleyan and Williams is believed to be the oldest continuous intercollegiate athletic conference without a member change in the United States (a refreshing albeit unscientific statistic amid todays ubiquitous conference realignment).
While the schools are officially part of the NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference), the competition among the three rivals is steeped in tradition. Games between the Lord Jeffs, Cardinals and Ephs carry with them not only NESCAC implications (and odd mascots), but bragging rights that extend well beyond graduation.
First formed in 1899 as the Triangular League, the origins of the Little Three trace back to a similar league formed in 1882, when Dartmouth College was also a member (before leaving in 1899). The conference at that point was known as the New England Intercollegiate Triangular League.
After a series of disputes led to the disbanding of the league Williams and Amherst did not meet from 1902-1904 while Amherst and Wesleyan did not meet from 1902-1909 the league resumed as we know it today in 1910. In virtually all varsity sports (indoor track and crew being exceptions), Little Three champions are declared each season.
In mens lacrosse, recent action has favored Wesleyan. 2013 marks the seventh outright title (and second consecutive) in the past 13 years for the Cardinals, while they have claimed at least a share in 11 of those 13. This includes a run of three consecutive outright crowns from 2003-2005, featuring SportsRecruits.com Co-Founders Chris Meade and Matt Wheeler (above – as of this writing, they swear they don’t live in the past).
Prior to Wesleyans recent run, Williams was the team to beat. From 1989 to 1999, the Ephs won the title outright in every year but one, when Amherst took the crown in 1998.
In mens lacrosse (since 1961), Williams has 23 Little Three titles, most recently winning in 2009. Amherst owns 11 outright Little Three crowns, the last coming in 2011. This seasons champion Wesleyan now has 10, including consecutive titles the past two years.
There have been seven seasons with three-way ties since 1961, most recently in 2010. In a testament to the recent competitive balance the sport has seen, five of those seven shared titles have come since 2000.
Congratulations to Coach John Raba and Wesleyan for winning the 2013 title!