As we all know, college lacrosse is really all about four schools (at least for now). Syracuse, Princeton, Virginia and Johns Hopkins. No one else wins national titles and no one else permeates the lacrosse culture like they do (except Duke for the wrong reasons).
When discussing the the other three teams amongst this group, it can be hard to pin down exactly which one we should hate the most. I think we can consider all three of them natural enemies and nemeses. But which one is truly our arch-enemy? Who is the one that stands above the other two. Virginia, our opponent this weekend, seems to be in a statistical dead-heat with us over the past 15 years. But does that make them the Lex Luthor to our Superman?
Tell me, Wikipedia, how will I know my archenemy when I see him?
The reason why the particular antagonist stands out more than the rest of the protagonist's rogues gallery varies; they may be the greatest threat to the hero, have strong connections with the hero's past, caused the hero a great deal of personal pain, has the most personal grudge against the hero, may be the most recurring enemy, the villain and the hero may be the respective leaders of two opposing factions or it may even be all these things. In certain cases, it is possible for a hero to possess more than one archenemy, as in the case of Spider-Man with Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, and Venom where all three villains have established themselves, at various times, as the most recurring and the most iconic of Spider-Man's rogues gallery.
Well, I guess we better break it down:
They may be the greatest threat to the hero
It seems like year in and year out, Syracuse and Virginia are battling for the No. 1 ranking more than anyone else. We've even played each other as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams multiple times over the last fifteen years. SU and Virginia have won 8 of the last 11 National Titles. (Point: Virginia)
They have strong connections with the hero's past
Go back to when SU lacrosse really took off and the first team that really jumps out at you is Johns Hopkins. Syracuse beat then in '83 to win their first modern-era title. The Jays returned the favor the next two years, beating SU both times to win their own titles. The two would tangle one more time in '89, a win by Syracuse. The storied SU-Princeton Finals rivalry didn't get started until '92. By then the Orange and Blue Jays had five National Title showdowns under their belt. (Point: Johns Hopkins)
They have caused the hero a great deal of personal pain.
Syracuse has lost to Hopkins twice in the NCAA Finals, including a 11-4 thrashing in '85. The Tigers have also beaten the Orange twice in the finals, both times overtime heart-crushing losses ('92, '01). Virginia took down the Orange once, in a '99 classic. The Orange have more than avenged Hopkins, beating them on three separate occasions. This one's a toss-up to be honest. Lots of pain doled out on all sides. (Point: Princeton, Virginia)
They have the most personal grudge against the hero
Interesting question. Is it Johns Hopkins, who was NCAA Lacrosse's golden boy (4 NCAA titles between '74 and '80) until the Orange took that mantle from them? Is it Princeton, named Team of the Decade in the 90's for their five titles but who hasn't won one since '01 while the Orange continue to dominate in the '00's? Is it Virginia, who has put together a program with a regular-season record on par with the Orange over the last decade but hasn't been able to translate it into titles or recognition quite as often we have? Me thinks it's all three. (Point: Hopkins, Princeton, Virginia)
They may be the most recurring enemy
This one might be a write-off. We play each time every season at least once and then depending on how the NCAA Tournament shakes out we might see them again. In recent years I think you have to give the nod to Hopkins, though. We've played the Jays in the Tournament four times this decade (3-1 adv). That's slightly more than the Wahoos and Le Tigres. (Point: Hopkins)
The villain and the hero may be the respective leaders of two opposing factions
I'm not going to award a point on this one but it's something that will come into play moving forward. SU didn't even have their own faction until now (Big East), let alone a faction to oppose another one. Princeton is having issues with the Ivy League leadership thanks to Cornell and Virginia always has a tough slate with Duke, NC and Maryland. It remains to be seen if this develops into a conference rivalry, not just a team one.
And so, it's a tie! Like Spider-man, Syracuse has two arch-enemies to deal with on a regular basis. Virginia and Hopkins. Though Princeton is a nemesis lurking in the shadows, plotting their chance to become part of the action. So when No. 1 and No. 2 do battle this weekend in Virginia, two sworn enemies will continue the fight of good vs. evil. I think we know who always wins that battle in the end.