Limestone's Perfect Saints
These must be fun days in Gaffney, South Carolina.
As fans and followers of Division II lacrosse have undoubtedly noticed, the men's and women's teams at Limestone College are a combined 22-0 heading into the second weekend of April. The Saints are the last undefeated team remaining in the men's D-2 ranks, and one of just five remaining on the women's side.
This may come as a surprise to those that are unfamiliar with this private, liberal arts college of approximately 3,200 students, but lacrosse success is not a new development at Limestone.
The men's program has two national championships to its credit (2000 & 2002) and made six straight trips to the NCAA final from 2000-2005. The Saints are on pace for their 12th straight NCAA Tournament berth this spring.
The women's team has won the Carolinas Conference regular season seven straight times, and claimed the league's tournament championship on four occasions. Limestone has made three straight and five overall appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
Two weeks ago, Limestone claimed the number one spot in the USILA men's poll for the first time since 2004. The program is enjoying the limelight, even while first year coach J.B. Clarke keeps his players focused on the future.
"The ranking's nice," junior Shayne Jackson recently said in an interview with the NCAA.com, "but we know it doesn't mean anything right now. We've just got to keep going into the playoffs."
Led by Jackson (19g-40a) and sophomore attacker Riley Loewen (40g-16a), the Saints have one of the top offenses in the country and average 20 goals per game. Meanwhile, the defense is allowing less than six goals per contest. Other than their 11-9 win over No. 2 ranked Le Moyne and another two-goal victory over Mars Hill, they have not been tested.
The women have had a few more close calls, including three one-goal victories, but keep marching on. The Saints are ranked fourth in this week's IWLCA poll after spending the previous three weeks at number three and peaking as high as second in early March.
Of course, like the men, they will tell you that ultimately it's the final poll that they really care about. But let's be honest. When you live outside the traditional footprint of the college lacrosse world, the attention is always welcome, whether it's the second week of April or the last week in May.