Syracuse Orange fans won’t have to look far for a new rival: one just popped up 10 minutes to the east.
LeMoyne College announced that all of its 21 sports will be elevated from Division II to Division I status before the fall 2023 season begins. The ‘Phins will join the Northeast Conference across the board.
Plenty of Dolphin teams overlap with the Orange, giving the two schools the opportunity to face one another in the #SaltCityDerby (merch pending). Here’s a look at when we can expect these programs to meet:
Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams have faced their LeMoyne counterparts in exhibition games. Just last season, the Dolphins played new ‘Cuse coach Felisha Legette-Jack tight in their only tune-up game, a 73-70 Orange win. Jim Boeheim’s teams were 6-0 against LeMoyne in the regular season, but they did shockingly lose a 2009 exhibition against them 82-79.
In both cases, look for Legette-Jack and new MBB head coach Adrian Autry to schedule early season non-conference games with their new D1 neighbors. LeMoyne’s men’s team finished 15-15 last season, while women’s basketball went 21-7 and qualified for the DII playoffs.
This is the sport that should get very interesting. It’s no secret that lacrosse is HUGE in Central New York, with the Orange men’s program still holding an NCAA record 11 National Championships. The Dolphins meanwhile are one of the nation's best Division 2 programs - they’re undefeated so far at 17-0 and are in search of their seventh crown.
The women’s programs have some overdue history of their own to make. The Orange are vying for that ever-elusive first title as a 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament - they host the Quarterfinals in the Dome this Thursday. LeMoyne meanwhile was the No. 4 team at the DII level before getting bounced in the first round of their postseason. These teams clashed once before in 2009, back when Dolphin WLAX (and baseball) competed in DI.
Johns Hopkins and Loyola have an incredible rivalry down in Baltimore, and done right, we could see a similar level of intensity develop right here in Syracuse.
Another set of early-season matches are likely here. The SU women’s team completely backloads their conference schedule, so the ‘Phins would be a late-August or early-September opponent. Meanwhile, Mac mixes up the rotation a bit, but still has most of the ACC matches lined up later in the campaign. There’s also the option of some friendlies instead. Both Dolphin teams had pedestrian seasons in 2022.
LeMoyne deals with the lake-effect weather just the same as SU, so they also don’t play home games until late March/early April. With the Orange cramming in all of their home ACC games on the weekends, this would probably have to be a mid-week doubleheader - though you could make it more interesting with a home & home format. Like SU, LeMoyne’s softball finished around .500 the last two years.
This is the one major adjustment the Dolphin teams will have to make - the NE10 played its tennis season in the fall, but they will now compete with the rest of the NEC in the spring. The lady ‘Phins haven’t had a losing record since 2014-15. They don’t, however, have a dedicated home facility and have used both Drumlins and the Skytop tennis courts on SU’s South Campus for previous matches. It wouldn’t exactly be unfamiliar territory to play the ‘Cuse women’s tennis program at the former.
The Orange don’t really host individual matchups outside of the conference, so the best bet here is for LeMoyne to take part in a Syracuse-hosted tournament. Their team did not play in 2020 and has struggled since returning to the court.
The Dolphins will participate in NCAA Regionals during both seasons, and they should also compete alongside the Orange during invitationals at Cornell and Colgate.
Which LeMoyne team(s) are you most excited to see Syracuse play against?