Friday, January 30, 2015

Step to the Line

Every weekend is a big weekend when it comes to the ECAC. All of the points are crucial. The later in the season it gets, the more precious points become.

But sometimes, you reach a crossroads from which you know there's no going back if you fail, and the Engineers, men and women, face that kind of a crossroads this weekend, and especially tonight.

For the men, it's a one night stand in Hanover. One game, and the microscopes are out. Plenty of folks were declaring RPI "back" after sweeping Colgate and Cornell at home in impressive fashion. When you've got only one game in a weekend, things become more magnified, and the egg the Engineers laid against Union in the Mayor's Cup was disturbing enough to make us all wonder - who's the real RPI?

It's a one game microscope, and it's on the road tonight. To some extent, there's a slight added advantage for the Engineers in that they don't play Saturday - they can lay it all on the line tonight, Dartmouth has to still have gas in the tank for Union tomorrow. But the margin for error is slipping. No more non-conference games. No more mistakes you can brush off a little bit easier.

The women needed four points last weekend against Union. They got three. The difference between three and four is thin until you consider that they've only got seven for the season and are five points behind the Yale Bulldogs. That's what makes this afternoon's contest against Colgate crucial. The Raiders are one of only three teams behind RPI in the standings. If that gap is going to be closed, points against those teams are essential. That #8 seed seems pretty far away, but it's going to get a whole lot farther if victory isn't in store tonight. Cornell tomorrow represents bonus points if they can be had. Colgate today is do or die.

"The Line" is the story of Darius Washington, Jr., who as a freshman at Memphis in 2005 was given three foul shots with no time remaining on the clock in the conference championship game against Louisville with his team down by two - meaning that he could tie the game with two out of three, and win it by making all three. He made only the first one.

Been waiting for a good excuse to use this song for a pumpup, this seems to be the week for it. There are plenty of lines in sport from which one stands to await glory. The basketball player takes the foul line at a crucial moment. The football player approaches the line of scrimmage on 4th down. The jockey of a Triple Crown contender guides his mount into the starting gate at Belmont. A hockey team lines up on the blue line for the national anthems.

Both the men and the women step to the line tonight, a season hinging.

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