Guest Post: Top 10 Teams in JMU History
Chase won last week’s prediction contest and earned the right to guest post. He wrote a great one. Read all about his Top 10 JMU Sports Teams and let the debate begin.
So I had a stupid prepared line about how I’m going to Morgantown this weekend for a top-10 game between Oklahoma and West Virginia, and the whole Top-10 thing got me thinking… but honestly, that’s not remotely true. The truth is that this is a project I’ve had bubbling around in my purple-toned brainstem for a while now, so I’m excited to finally bring it to fruition.
Here goes. JMU — the little athletic department that could, in some ways — has put out some really stellar teams over the years. But if you could figure out a way to compare teams across individuals sports, which one is actually the best?
Obviously, this is incredibly subjective, and way more people are going to read this and be pissed off about my ordering than actually agree with anything I say. But here was the criteria I came up with for my own particular grading standards, in no particular order:
-Tangibles: what kinds of weird, crazy, or impressive stats did your team produce? What championships did you win? What was your record?
–Record vs ranked opponents: all of these teams have good records, but were they manufactured against a high level of competition?
–Performance relative to other Division 1 conferences: CAA football and CAA women’s lacrosse are not remotely the same.
–How good’s your good? I’ve stolen this from Scott Van Pelt, but I think it’s one of the best qualifiers for measuring a sports team. On your best day, what are you capable of?
One last note — for a variety of reasons, I’ve opted not include any sports that are currently played on the club level. That means I’m leaving off the ‘95 Archery national championship.
I’m also leaving off this year’s football team, which could merit some consideration before it’s all said and done. But since the season isn’t over yet, we can’t really rank them accurately.
Okay. No pressure. This definitely won’t earn me hate mail. Let’s go.
- ‘08 Women’s Soccer (14-7-2)
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Dave Lombardo is my favorite coach at JMU, and he doesn’t get nearly enough love. This particular year, his team made it to the second weekend of the NCAA tourney before losing to Portland, 3-2.
- 2000 Women’s Lacrosse (13-5)
If you follow the Lax team here at JMU, you know it can be a little difficult to figure out what to do with all the semiotics and fanfare surrounding the team. JMU is almost always ranked, and they’re almost always playing other ranked teams. Part of it is because the program is aggressive in scheduling marquee matchups early and often; part of it is because there’s just not that many Division 1 lacrosse programs.
Either way, 2000 was a dope year for Lacrosse at JMU. The Dukes opened the season with ten consecutive ranked matches, including a 24-15 loss in Harrisonburg to No. 1 Maryland.
JMU played four other top-10 teams during that stretch. The Dukes were 4-0 in those games.
At the end of the season, JMU topped UVA in the NCAA tournament before losing to No. 2 Princeton 15-9 in the second round. JMU beat UVA twice that season.
- Men’s Soccer ‘94 (20-3-2)
JMU has had some memorable moments on the soccer pitch. This particular team won 20 games, beat out William & Mary for the CAA tournament title in Williamsburg, and then knocked off North Carolina and Duke in the NCAA tournament. Clearly, 1994 was a good year in the Burg. More on that later.
- 2013-14 Women’s Basketball (29-6)
Tarik Hislop might end up being my favorite women’s basketball player of all time, but it’s the team that came right after her graduation that might be Kenny Brooks’ magnum opus. Kirby Burkholder, Nikki Newman, Precious Hall, Jazmon Gwathmey, Lauren Okafor, not to mention Toia Giggetts and Angela Mickens, who always seem overlooked. That team was stacked, and they rode the star power to an upset of No. 6 seed Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament. I remember, because I watched the entire game in a corner of Ruby’s Lounge in downtown Harrisonburg, yelling pretty loudly at the TV for two hours, while everyone else in the building wondered, “Who’s the crazy guy that thinks this is a sports bar?”
- 1981-82 Men’s Basketball (24-6)
Parsing the differences between Campanelli’s Electric Zoo teams from the early 80s is tough, but I elected to choose this one for inclusion here. This particular squad didn’t actually win the CAA tournament, but they did earn an at-large berth, upset Ohio State in the first round, and took Michael Jordan’s Tarheels to the wire in a 52-50 loss. Later on, Jordan and some lesser-known teammates named Sam Perkins and James Worthy won the national championship over Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown team. And JMU lost 52-50. Oh, what could have been.
- ‘04 Football (13-2)
Hot take alert: the ‘04 Football team is overrated. Should we celebrate the hell out of them for winning a national championship? Absolutely. Are they the best team in JMU athletics history? Bro, I’m not even convinced they’re the best football team in JMU history.
- ‘08 Football (12-2)
Somewhere on Earth 2, which is an alternate universe where JMU is the Alabama of college football and has won 39 national championships dating back to 1887, the 2004 national championship team scrimmaged the 2008 national semifinalist team for Cancer Research. (On Earth 2, JMU has 37,000 enrollment, James Madison is a national treasure who is reanimated every 27 years to provide a State of the Union address, and JMU’s endowment is just north of $40 billion. I.E., a JMU football charity game produces a lot of money.)
Anyway, back to football. Guess what? Rodney Landers outdueled Justin Rascati in that charity game. Do you know why? Because the 2008 team was better. Come @me.
- ‘83 Baseball (37-13)
Only JMU team to ever make the College World Series. Being inducted into JMU’s own Athletics Hall of Fame this year. They were really, really good. Nothing to see here. Move along.
- ‘94 Field Hockey (20-3-1)
Dude, they won a freaking national championship. And, no disrespect to the 2004 football team, but they did it at the highest level of Division 1, too. For those that don’t know the history of this game, JMU beat North Carolina after a scoreless overtime period in penalty strokes. As in, the field hockey equivalent of PKs or a shootout. I’m thankful I was three years old and not a Dukes fan when this happened. My heart would not have survived.
- ‘16 Softball (50-6)
Call it recency bias if you want, but I sincerely suspect that last spring’s softball run was the single greatest thing that Madison has produced since the damn Bill of Rights, full stop. I mean, some of the stuff that happened with this team was just detached from reality. Did you know that, after the CAA tournament, ex-DNR reporter Matt Jones dug up a stat that Jailyn Ford and Megan Good had generated almost as many extra-base hits between the two of them as they had allowed from the circle all season? THAT IS INSANE. Imagine if Max Scherzer, who allowed 31 home runs last season, hit 27 home runs himself. That would almost be analogous to what we’re talking about here.
Plus, it gave us The Hill. Long live The Hill.
Yeah, they lost to LSU in the super regional, and it was partially because Jailyn had a bad series. But even in the loss, you got to see Megan go all Madison Bumgarner and practically pitch the entire series by herself.
This team had two draft picks on it, in a sport with a pretty shallow draft. Yeah, JMU didn’t make the WCWS… but in a marathon postseason that Field Hockey just doesn’t have, there’s nothing anyone can really say that’ll convince me that this isn’t the best JMU team of all time, even without the big hardware.
Honorable Mention: 2004 WLax, 1982-83 Men’s Basketball, 2015 Softball, 2008 Baseball, 2015-16 Swim & Dive, 2009-10 Women’s Basketball, 2011 WLax.
On Rob and Todd’s behalf, I will graciously open up the comment section for polite, civil discussion and/or alternate suggestions. Can’t way to see all of you agree with me and compliment my rational, obvious selections.
Until next time.